My Columbia Hint Fiction Art Show Trip

Early in the morning last week I arrived to the Philadelphia International Airport for my 10:15 a.m. flight to Columbia, Missouri only to find out that it was delayed. Thanks a lot, Southwest! Anyway, on my way to my departing gate I happened to pass this sad sight.

So what was behind the curtain? One of the CEOs getting a personal body massage from Carrot Top. Okay, I'm kidding. What was actually behind the curtain was one of the CEOs slowly and methodically ripping out pages from every single book they had like Balki Bartokomous in The Langoliers.


(Note: that's not a true scene from the movie, at least not really, but still you get the idea.)

Finally my flight arrived and I lined up because that's the way Southwest works -- no assigned seating, so it's like a free-for-all once you get on the plane. During my flight I read Stephen King's latest ebook Mile 81, which I found pretty disappointing for several reasons but that's not what this post is about so let's move on, shall we?

I landed in St. Louis, got my rental car, and drove the two hours or so to Columbia. I was well prepared and brought along an audiobook for the drive -- Live Wire by Harlan Coben, read by Steven Weber. I wasn't scheduled to speak until 5:00 and arrived to the art gallery with a few hours to spare. Here's what I saw when I first arrived.

I met with Diana Moxon, the director of the Columbia Art League who really put this entire thing together and made it possible to bring me out to Columbia for the opening reception, as well as several other people at the art league. In fact, I met a slew of people during my short time in Columba and wish I could mention each and every name here but there were just so many! Anyway, we chatted for a bit and I took some pictures and then 5:00 rolled around and Diana introduced me to a room packed with people in the lobby past the art gallery (you can sort of see it through the open doors in the picture above) and I did my usual spiel about Hint Fiction and read some of the stories from the book and answered some questions. Then it was 6:00 and the opening reception was in full force and the place was packed.

From what Diana later said, this was a tough exhibit for many artists. They only had 70 pieces in the show total when they usually have closer to 100. Many of the artists would come in after having read the book and say something to the extent that they enjoyed the book but were afraid they just couldn't come up with anything good enough for the show. And it was interesting, Diana said, that it seemed many of the artists were trying to take a more literal approach to the art. And while there was certainly many literal approaches, there were also just as many abstract works as well. Take the piece that won first place, for instance.

This piece is based on "A Dignified Purpose" by Ty Miller, which was actually the most popular story used at the show (there were four other pieces in the show also based on the story). Here's the story:

She loved to steal spoons. She didn't need them; she just enjoyed having a hundred tiny silver mirrors to see what no one else could.

And you may be asking yourself, So where are the spoons? 

Again, this is an abstract piece that uses the idea of "a hundred tiny silver mirrors" to show a hundred tiny different images of a life that's kept in a presumably locked box. There's actually a very sweet but sad story behind the inspiration for this piece, about a death in the artist's family, that brings to it even more meaning.

I was asked to pick my favorite piece in the show, which was impossible because they were all so great. I did, however, keep coming back to one piece in particular and which I chose as the "Editor's Choice." This one is based on "Knock Knock Joke" by Nick Arvin, and while the piece isn't a direct representation of the story, it still does a great job relating the same mood (I especially love the drop of blood in the final panel as the flower bleeds).

The very awesome Scott Garson came out for the reading and stayed through the entire two hours of the opening reception so we could hang out afterward. He ended up taking me to a bar called Booches, which is so renowned it even has its own Wikipedia page, and we had beer and their famous cheeseburgers and just talked about the normal stuff writers talk about. Then it was getting late so we parted ways and I managed to get myself to my hotel which, to my amazement, contained a jacuzzi.

I did not, however, use the jacuzzi for fear that it might somehow send me back to 1986, which would have been difficult to navigate because I would have only been five at the time.

The next morning was quite a full day. First Diana picked me up and drove me to our radio interview which was at KFRU for David Lile's morning show. Then it was off to a quick breakfast at a renowned greasy spoon called Ernie's before we headed to the Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School where the fifth grade class had written and illustrated their very own Hint Fiction stories. I talked with the kids briefly about Hint Fiction and then stood back and watched as they each got up and presented their own stories. It was very awesome! You can check out an article written about my visit there (beware that the picture of me is quite unflattering). After that we then went over to the University of Missouri campus bookstore to do a little reading, then, after that, went to the town's public library to do a talk about Hint Fiction. As you can imagine, it was a very busy and Hint Fiction filled two days.

My deepest thanks and gratitude to Diana Moxon for not just listening to my NPR interview last year but having the wonderful foresight in thinking the concept might make a great art show. Everyone I talked to said that Diana continuously comes up with great exhibit ideas and I'm proud that Hint Fiction could be a part of it. My thanks too to Scott Garson and to the artists who produced works and everyone who came out and said hello and the Lee students who wrote their stories and just everybody I met. It was a great trip.

The Columbia Art League's Hint Fiction show is currently open until November 5th, so if you happen to get a chance, definitely check it out.