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Today, I retire my old, beaten up copy of Oil and Marble. I’ve carried this copy all over the world, asking fans, friends, and family to sign it. “If I sign yours, you sign mine.” (The idea was given to me by my friend and fellow writer, Craig Tomashoff. His book, The Can’t-idates came out at the same time as Oil and Marble).
Some have said it’s “like a yearbook,” and although I understand that comparison, it’s never felt quite right.
Yes, like a yearbook, it’s a record of people who have gone on this journey with me: family (see my nieces and nephews signatures below!), friends, former teachers, fans… and yes, it’s full of well-wishes.
But for me, it’s not about memorializing some journey, like a yearbook. No, for me it acts as a reminder of why I do what I do. I dream up characters and plots and write them down for myself… but I write and publish novels — and venture out of my cave to go out in the world and promote them — for other people. To hopefully inspire other people to connect with the great art of our history and to see themselves as artists, too.
Too often we put artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo up on pedestals, treating them as though they are untouchable, un-relatable creatures. I could never do what THEY do, we tell ourselves. THEY were geniuses. (Not like me.)
It’s such rubbish.
Michelangelo. Leonardo. Raphael. Monet. Renoir. Picasso. Van Gogh. O’Keeffe.
THEY WERE PEOPLE. Just like me. Just like you.
Nothing special. No “divine talents.” No untouchable genius.
They were people. Just like all of us.
They had the same struggles. They had the same fears. They wore the same self-defeating psychological handcuffs. They fought the same battles with money and bosses and family and life.
There have been countless days during this “promotions period” when I didn’t want to do it anymore. I’m naturally a shy person (“introvert” is the vogue way of saying it now). I’d much prefer hide in my cave and never talk to anyone. Ever.
Whenever I think I’m too exhausted to do another event, I’ve opened up this book and read an entry or two. Sometimes the entry is from my dad or my mom or my brother or my nephews. Sometimes the entry is from some random fan or some aspiring writer or some painter or sculptor or some third grader from some class I taught. And I tell myself: if I can just inspire ONE of these people to reach beyond what they think is possible for themselves… well, then, that’s worth leaving my cave again.
So, thank you to everyone who has signed this old, beaten up copy. You can’t know how much you’ve inspired me.
Today, I took this copy to my last event in Syracuse; today, it got its last signature. Today, I put it on the shelf because my journey with Oil and Marble the novel is done. It’s time to move onto other stories…
But I will always carry everyone in this book with me.
And when my next novel rolls around, I will begin again with a new set of signatures to help remind all of us that maybe — hopefully — we can reach beyond what we think is possible.