Art In Fiction

9. Finding Joy in Provence: An Interview with Patricia Sands, Author of Drawing Lessons

August 03, 2020 Carol Cram Season 1 Episode 9
Art In Fiction
9. Finding Joy in Provence: An Interview with Patricia Sands, Author of Drawing Lessons
Chapters
00:01:50
Summary of Drawing Lessons
00:07:19
Arianna's journey in Drawing Lessons
00:07:57
Role of dementia in Drawing Lessons
00:09:08
Theme of renewal and change
00:11:14
Art and van Gogh
00:14:12
Food and the French landscape
00:16:29
Advertisment: ProWriting Aid
00:17:41
Reading from Drawing Lessons
00:21:34
How Patricia Sands became an author
00:25:31
The benefits of hybrid publishing
00:26:18
Patricia Sands's teaching background
00:27:43
It's never too late to get started as an author
00:28:57
On Writing by Stephen King
00:30:13
Tours to Provence led by Patricia Sands
Art In Fiction
9. Finding Joy in Provence: An Interview with Patricia Sands, Author of Drawing Lessons
Aug 03, 2020 Season 1 Episode 9
Carol Cram

Explore how author Patricia Sands celebrates the power of renewal and finding purpose in her compelling novel Drawing Lessons set in beautiful Provence. In my lively conversation with Patricia, we find much in common, both as authors and in our lives' journeys.

Highlights of the interview:

  • Summary of Drawing Lessons
  • Arianna's journey and the role of dementia in Drawing Lessons
  • Theme of renewal and change 
  • Art and van Gogh  
  • Food and the French landscape
  • Reading from Drawing Lessons
  • How Patricia Sands became an author
  • The benefits of hybrid publishing
  • It's never too late to get started as an author
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Tours to Provence led by Patricia Sands

With a focus on her love of the south of France, women’s issues and aging, Patricia Sands's novels celebrate the feminine spirit and the power of friendship. When Patricia isn’t working on a new novel, she leads tours based on her Love in Provence series and on Drawing Lessons to the French Riviera and the countryside around Arles in Provence. 

A fellow Canadian, Patricia Sands lives in Toronto.  

Press Play right now and don't forget to check out Drawing Lessons by Patricia Sands on Art In Fiction.

Patricia Sands's Website: https://patriciasandsauthor.com/
Link to 20% Off for ProWritingAid 

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Explore how author Patricia Sands celebrates the power of renewal and finding purpose in her compelling novel Drawing Lessons set in beautiful Provence. In my lively conversation with Patricia, we find much in common, both as authors and in our lives' journeys.

Highlights of the interview:

  • Summary of Drawing Lessons
  • Arianna's journey and the role of dementia in Drawing Lessons
  • Theme of renewal and change 
  • Art and van Gogh  
  • Food and the French landscape
  • Reading from Drawing Lessons
  • How Patricia Sands became an author
  • The benefits of hybrid publishing
  • It's never too late to get started as an author
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Tours to Provence led by Patricia Sands

With a focus on her love of the south of France, women’s issues and aging, Patricia Sands's novels celebrate the feminine spirit and the power of friendship. When Patricia isn’t working on a new novel, she leads tours based on her Love in Provence series and on Drawing Lessons to the French Riviera and the countryside around Arles in Provence. 

A fellow Canadian, Patricia Sands lives in Toronto.  

Press Play right now and don't forget to check out Drawing Lessons by Patricia Sands on Art In Fiction.

Patricia Sands's Website: https://patriciasandsauthor.com/
Link to 20% Off for ProWritingAid 

Links Mentioned in This Episode

Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you.

Art In Fiction

Novels by Patricia Sands  Listed on Art In Fiction
Drawing Lessons

Other Novels by Patricia Sands
Love in Provence Series
The Bridge Club
Villa des Violettes Series

Link to 20% Off for ProWritingAid

Best book on how to write:
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Carol Cram:

Hello and welcome. I’m Carol Cram, host of the Art In Fiction Podcast. This episode is called Finding Joy in Provence and features my conversation with Patricia Sands, author of Drawing Lessons, listed in the Visual Arts category on Art In Fiction, along with several other novels set in Provence.

With a focus on her love of the south of France, women’s issues and aging, Patricia’s novels celebrate the feminine spirit and the power of friendship. When Patricia isn’t working on a new novel, she leads tours based on her Love in Provence series and Drawing Lessons to the French Riviera and the countryside around Arles in Provence. 

A fellow Canadian, Patricia Sands lives in Toronto. 

Welcome to the Art In Fiction Podcast, Patricia.

Patricia Sands:

I'm delighted to be here, Carol. Thanks for the invitation.

Carol Cram:

You're welcome. I'm really excited to chat with you today about your novel Drawing Lessons and some of your other novels set in Provence. I absolutely adore Provence. And I have to tell you, before you tell us a little bit about the novel, that my mother, who has just come up to stay with us for the very first time since the pandemic hit, just finished your novel. And she wanted me to tell you she absolutely loved it.

Patricia Sands:

Oh, that's lovely. Thank you.

Carol Cram:

You're welcome. She's out in the living room right now drawing because she loves art. She's 93, but she's amazing.

Patricia Sands:

Oh, wonderful. I love that. I love women who are in their nineties and still going strong.

Carol Cram:

Oh, she's incredible. Believe me, I can't keep up. So to me, Drawing Lessons was the perfect novel for Art In Fiction because of course it's about art, but it's also about the power of art to heal, which is something very close to my heart personally. Can you give us a summary of the novel?

Patricia Sands:

Well, the novel begins in Toronto, which is where I am when I'm not in the South of France. The South of France is where I should be this very day starting one of the tours that I do, they're based on my books, but that's another story. 

So Arianna Papadopoulos Webster lives in Toronto and she and her husband had been happily married. They had a Greek restaurant on the Danforth for many, many years. Her father had started it and then they took it over, and their children are grown. And Ben, her husband, begins to exhibit signs of something not being quite right health-wise, and to make a long story short, it turns out that he has frontal lobe dementia and he fairly quickly is just consumed by this terrible disease. And Arianna takes care of him as much as she can at home, but as his illness progresses, that becomes very difficult. And she is finally convinced that he needs to go into full-time care, but she nevertheless goes and visits him every single day, even though each visit is incredibly heartbreaking because, along with his dementia— and by this point he is not aware of anything or anyone. And so he doesn't know that she's there and he reacts very violently to touch. So she can't even hold his hand when she goes to visit him. She can't hug him.

Carol Cram:

It's so heartbreaking, I have to say.

Patricia Sands:

It is, it is heartbreaking. And I did a lot of research before deciding on what exactly was going to happen to Ben. And I knew a woman at our golf club who had gone through this exact experience and she was absolutely wonderful and spent a day talking me through her experience and sharing a lot of information.

So I felt when I wrote the story that it was very real, but Arianna continues to go to visit him. And she just helps out as much as she can at the hospital where he is. And eventually not just her family but also the doctors convince her that she needs to keep living her life. And, you know, initially she's reluctant.

Carol Cram:

Yes.

Patricia Sands

He's my husband, I'm still married to him. And they said, yes, you are. But his life has stopped here and it's not going anywhere. You know, hard words to listen to.

Carol Cram:

Very much so.

Patricia Sands

But your life is going to continue and you owe it not just to yourself but also to him to make sure that your life does continue. So she had been an artist originally, she had gone to the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, and she had worked in a wonderful position at the Art Gallery of Ontario for many years before they had to take over the family restaurant. And so she decided that she would go to an artists' retreat in the South of France. 

Now, she and Ben had been to Greece many times, their family history is there. And so she wanted to go somewhere that she had not been with him, for starters. So she takes a deep breath and gets herself organized and off she goes to the Mas des Artistes which is just outside Arles. It's a fictional Provençal farmhouse in the countryside around Arles, which of course is where van Gogh lived for the last two years of his life before he went to stay in the town where his brother was living and had his, you know, most prolific period in Arles and also at the monastery of Saint-Paul  after he left Arles for a year. So it was an area that really called to her because she had loved his work forever and even as a young girl had a large poster on her bedroom wall of his sunflowers. 

So there were going to be eight guests at the retreat and they turned out to be very interesting characters, and she was very nervous and shy and also had lost some confidence in her ability as an artist. So she was looking for a lot of, a lot of nourishment into her soul again and into who she was. 

And so she bonds very quickly with everyone else that's there, as does happen, and has the two-week experience. And while she is there, a guest artist comes to lecture to the group. And he's a very well-known French artist who lives in the Camargue, which is a very interesting area just south of Arles, it's on the Rhone delta, where the Rhone River flows into the Mediterranean. And it's a really unusual area. It's very scrubby with lots of rice paddies and these semi-wild white horses that have lived there free forever. 

But now with encroaching urbanization, they're not exactly free, but they do get to roam a lot on large tracts of land. And there are French cowboys called the guardians and these cowboys work with the black bulls that are raised in the Camargue and the bulls and the horses have this wonderful connection where they work together. It's very interesting to see.

Carol Cram:

Yes, I visited the Camargue.

Patricia Sands

Oh, you did, great.

Carol Cram:

I'm a huge Provence fan. We spend as much time as we can there, which was why it was so wonderful to read your novel. So Arianna in the course of the novel comes out of herself, doesn't she.

Patricia Sands

Yes, yes, she does. And in fact, she's invited to go down to the Camargue to spend a day with Jacques and that friendship turns into something more, and her life evolves in different ways because he teaches her other aspects of art that she was not familiar with.

Carol Cram:

Well, yes, and her journey really is what the book is, in addition to being all your wonderful descriptions of Provence, et cetera, which we'll talk about in a second, but I just wanted to back up to your opening and your description of her relationship with Ben and his illness, because I have to compliment you how wonderfully you did that. I actually thought you must have had personal experience. 

I and my mother, unfortunately, have had very close, personal experience, having lost both my brother and my father to dementia and Alzheimer's so to read those first few chapters was wonderful because you really portrayed it very honestly and very well because it's, it's our lived experience not all that long ago.

Patricia Sands:

Ah, yes.

Carol Cram:

It was quite bittersweet for both my mother and I to read that. And then when she goes to Provence and you know, you don't do it right away, she slowly starts to come alive again.

Patricia Sands:

Yes.

Carol Cram:

It's so beautifully done. I really, really enjoyed your novel. It was wonderful.

Patricia Sands:

Thank you. That's very rewarding for me to hear, because, you know, as an author, we try to convey with our words certain situations. Sometimes we never know for sure, you know, whether we struck the right chord, but the book has been very well received.

Carol Cram:

What would you say the theme of Drawing Lessons is?

Patricia Sands:

I would say the theme is kind of what all of my books carry as a theme. And that is that unexpected things happen in life. And we're never too old to make changes, to open ourselves to new experiences and to begin again, in a way. So it's something that's very dear to my heart as I age.

Carol Cram:

I'm with you there! We're probably in similar ages.

Patricia Sands:

Well, I'm probably older than you.

Carol Cram:

But yes, that idea of regeneration and renewal is all the way through the book. You have that wonderful character, Barbara, who's 82.

Patricia Sands:

Yes.

Carol Cram:

And as they say, age is just a number, and she's so vibrant and she's just wonderful. I loved Barbara. I loved all your characters. You got to know them.

Patricia Sands:

Well, thank you.

Carol Cram:

Particularly Bertie, the sort of upper-crust British guy. He was excellent.

Patricia Sands:

Yes. And who most people really didn't like at the beginning, you know, he was really kind of annoying and you just wish he'd go away, but I can tell you this one little story because as an author, you'll appreciate it. 

When we were still in the editing process with Lake Union and I was in Naples, Florida, and I was out with a very good friend of mine from Toronto who was also down there then. And she wanted me to go to this art studio and meet a woman who's a very well known Everglades painter in the area. 

So I just got talking to her a little bit about my book and asked her if she would mind just having a conversation with me, you know, on the phone at another time, just about some of the terminology that I was using about paints and brushes and this sort of thing, because I am absolutely not an artist. Why I had Arianna go to an artist retreat I will never know, like she could have gone to a cooking school or a hiking group or something that I could relate to. I just, I thought, why did I do this?

Carol Cram:

Why did you, actually, because I thought you must have an art background.

Patricia Sands:

No, I don't at all. But when I'm in that part of the world, and I'm sure you can relate to this, I'm consumed by the art.

Carol Cram:

Oh, absolutely.

Patricia Sands:

All of the art that has come out of that area through the centuries is so delicious. I mean, it's wonderful. And I mean, when you're in Arles, for me anyway, I just live the van Gogh experience. Some people think it's very touristy and yes, it is. But I don't have a problem with that, you know, because I think the more people who become familiar with his work, the better.

Carol Cram:

Absolutely. Well, my husband is a painter. So we go to the South of France as much as we possibly can. We were there last summer and he had a show in a small town, not all that far from Arles.

Patricia Sands:

Oh, how wonderful.

Carol Cram:

So I totally get what you're saying. He spends hours sitting outside, wherever we're staying, and drawing and sketching.

Patricia Sands:

And I envy artists, people who have that talent. I would love to. My closest thing to that is I am a photographer and have been all my life.

Carol Cram:

So you have a visual sense of the world.

Patricia Sands:

Yes. But what I wanted to tell you about this woman in Naples, this artist is that, so she said, yes, she'd be happy to have a chat with me. And so she called me about a week later. I said, let me just give you a quick rundown of the story. And I said, you know, Arianna is 62 and her husband has frontal lobe dementia and he has to be institutionalized. And she is persuaded to go to an artists' retreat in the South of France. 

And I realized that the woman on the other end of the phone is crying.

Carol Cram:

Oh, dear.

Patricia Sands:

She's sobbing. And she said, Oh, Patricia, you're telling my story.

Carol Cram:

Wow.

Patricia Sands:

And then she quickly pulled herself together. And she told me that five or six years previous, her husband had passed away from a type of dementia, not frontal lobe. It was another variation. And she had nursed him at home for four years before he passed away. And then she was completely at a loss as to what she was going to do with the rest of her life. 

A couple of months after that, just out of the blue, a flyer arrived in her mailbox about an artists' retreat in the South of France, over near Carcassonne, actually. A wonderful woman I now follow online, Dreama Tolle Perry, ran this retreat every year. And so Joanne went and, just like Arianna, it changed her life.

Carol Cram:

That's so wonderful. Don't you love that as an author? It's that serendipity that occurs and it really does make this way of life worthwhile.

Patricia Sands:

Exactly. So that was really nice and we've become, Joanne and I've become very good friends. In fact, she just did the artwork for a boxed set that I just published two weeks ago.

Carol Cram:

Oh, that's wonderful.

Patricia Sands:

Another story.

Carol Cram:

Well, of course, food plays a huge role in the novel. It is France. So can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Patricia Sands:

Well, yes. I mean, how can you write about France without including a lot of food and different types of food? As you know, I mean, eating anything in France is an all-encompassing experience. You don't just go and have a burger or something because, I mean, there's usually history involved and you know, where, where did that recipe come from and why do you eat it at this time of year? Because this is what is seasonal in the farmer's fields. And it's always fun to write about. And my readers expect that now. There's going to be lots of food.

Carol Cram:

It made me very nostalgic for France. Oh my goodness. I absolutely loved that part of the novel - well, that and your descriptions of Provence and of the various places that she goes, the Camargue and Arles and the Calanques near Marseille - so much that just brings it all back. 

And if you've never been to Provence, this is a great book to read while we're not able to go. And then if you have been, you'll enjoy it because you'll recognize so much.

Patricia Sands:

Yeah, exactly. I mean, that's what I hope that, I mean, location does play a big part in all of my books and there are people who love that and people who don't, but to me, it's very, very important to have a real sense of place. I just love when I get emails from people saying, I just felt like I was there.

Carol Cram:

It was funny. That's exactly what my mother said after she finished your novel. She said "I just felt like I was there".

Patricia Sands:

Oh, that's wonderful. Well, I'm sure you have the same experience writing about Italy, right?

Carol Cram:

People do enjoy the Tuscany one. And it's funny because I have a novel that's not quite finished that is about an art school in Tuscany, but more written from the point of view of the person running it.

Patricia Sands:

Uh huh. That sounds good.

Carol Cram:

Yeah, not all that dissimilar, in a way, from what you've done - different, but there are some similarities, so I've found reading your novel when I haven't quite finished my novel very inspiring.

Patricia Sands:

Oh, good!

Carol Cram:

Because it gave me some ideas, even though they're very different, but the core is similar. Mind you, this is what I've been finding over and over with Art In Fiction is I'm discovering so many amazing authors in all different genres. The tie-in of course is art, but within that, there's been such a variety. 

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Carol Cram:

So, I'm wondering if you'd like to do a short reading for us.

Patricia Sands:

Sure. This is one of the first mornings.

Drawing Lessons by Patricia Sands

In the front salon she saw "On y va" painted on a piece of wood with an arrow pointing to the front terrace. 

Everyone converged about the same time. Enthusiastic greetings were exchanged. Wicker baskets brimmed with warm croissants, pain au chocolat, and pain au raisin, accompanied by bowls of locally produced fruit preserves. 

While Maurice tended to espressos, cappuccinos, and assorted teas, Juliet spoke about the atmosphere they hoped for that morning. 

"Our desire is to introduce the influences that inspired earlier Masters. The unique light that changes throughout the day is key, but the history and culture, the scenery and architecture, must also be considered. Tomorrow, we're excited and honored to welcome Monsieur Jacques de Villeneuve, an artist and guardian of the Camargue. On Thursday, we will spend a day at the Fondation Vincent van Gogh, and be treated to the expertise of several of their staff." 

At the mention of van Gogh's name, Arianna's entire body tingled with excitement. She smiled inwardly, thinking how close she was to realizing a dream.

Juliette motioned to a stack of folding canvas chairs and stools leaning against a thick stone wall, which was partially covered by a lush vine with delicate leaves and soft blue blossoms that resembled morning glory. About three feet high, the wall separated the garden and olive grove from the breakfast area. 

It was difficult for Arianna to take her eyes off the time-worn wall, which Juliette commented was about 300 years old. She was startled to see colour calling to her from the stones that at first glance appeared dull and achromatic. The longer she held them in her gaze, the stronger the attraction became. She locked in the memory, determined to come back to the power that these stones seemed to hold for her.

"Please pick up a chair or a stool. The early artists in this area would fashion a leather strap so they could sling a chair like this over their shoulder and carry it to their chosen spot to work", Juliette told them. "They're surprisingly comfy. If you did not bring your own easel, you will also find some there." 

After collecting their seats, everyone followed Juliette into the olive grove and set up in a semi-circle shaded by a large gauzy beige canopy. Maximus led the way, his long tail waving proudly as he skirted around the plants and clumps of grasses, Maximus being the cat. 

Maurice had placed a flat screen on an easel under an umbrella to control any glare. He proceeded to click through a slide show of paintings as Juliette led the group through a retrospective of work by Cézanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Signac, Matisse, Seurat, Durand, Dufy, and so many other revered names.

"These artists, amongst many others, all spent time in Provence. They love this land that is so generous in a multitude of ways to the artist's soul - color, light, subject, history, and culture combine in endless variations in all of their work." 

Juliette paused and looked around with a luminescent smile, her deep affection for her surroundings clear. 

"These Masters found their inspiration in many different ways and from a variety of sources. We will investigate those factors. Of course, we must always consider how emotional stability or instability also impacted their work. Please stop me when you want to spend time with a painting so we can discuss one aspect or another."

Carol Cram :

Thank you, Patricia. That was wonderful to listen to and that gives a good flavor of the novel and how you weave in not only Arianna's personal emotional journey, but also the food, the surroundings, the history, the culture, van Gogh, et cetera. It's kind of the whole package.

Patricia Sands:

I hope so.

Carol Cram:

I also wanted to talk a little bit about the writing process itself, because I know, as an author myself, I love getting tips from other authors, and I think many other authors want to as well. So, can you describe the process you go through to write a novel? Difficult question!

Patricia Sands:

It's an interesting question because I mean, I published my first book 10 years ago and that was The Bridge Club and I had no idea I was going to publish that book. I just wrote it for my real-life bridge club because my husband had retired. He's a physician and then he couldn't play golf or tennis as much as he used to because of health issues. So I had more time on my hands. 

So I just started writing The Bridge Club for my real-life bridge club group of women who've been together for, at that time, over 40 years. And I'm actually just working on a 10th anniversary edition of the book now, 10 years later. So it was, I kind of fell into writing by accident and, but I had been a teacher. So a lot of the process was sort of familiar to me, you know, I mean, I had done a lot of writing in my life. I had done a lot of speaking and I had this ease with people. 

So anyway, I wrote The Bridge Club. As more of my friends in the bridge club read bits and pieces, they encouraged me to think about publishing it. They said it's telling women's stories and it's a great book club book, that kind of thing. So, and I won't go into the long story of, you know, how I came to publish, but I eventually, I just published it myself. 

I self-published mainly because I read two articles by authors, one being Lisa Genova who had just self-published Still Alice.

Carol Cram:

I didn't know that she had self-published.

Patricia Sands:

She did, yes. Originally. And then immediately had a publisher and an agent and all that. I self-published The Bridge Club and you know, it was 10 years ago. So it was just at the time that self-publishing was coming into its own, didn't have kind of that stigma attached to it that it did at first. And I had a good experience and I found very good editors and then I started getting emails saying, so what else have you written and I'm like, well, nothing so I thought, oh, you know, I really enjoy this process. 

And also I heard from a lot of women who said it's so nice to read about more mature women, women who aren't in their thirties. I thought, okay, well, yeah, I'd like to keep writing to my demographic and I want to set a story in the South of France. So that's how that started. 

So I self-published The Promise of Provence and then got these emails saying what happened? So then I wrote the second book and published it. And then one day I opened my email and there was a message that said, Hello, Patricia, I'm a senior acquisitions editor with Amazon's Lake Union Publishing. And we'd like to talk to you. That was from Danielle Marshall.

Carol Cram:

And you and I share that because I got the same email from Danielle Marshall. We are Lake Union sisters.

Patricia Sands:

Yes, we are and very fortunate to have that experience too.

Carol Cram:

So Drawing Lessons was published by Lake Union Publishing.

Patricia Sands:

Yes.

Carol Cram:

What's your latest one?

Patricia Sands:

Before that, after I received the famous email, they purchased the rights to the first two Provence books and relaunched them, to my great pleasure. There was very little change in editing, which was nice. And in fact, even though they, at first they said they were going to change the covers, but they ended up keeping my covers, which really pleased me because I had an artist in Toronto do those covers for me. 

So, and then they published I Promise You This, which is the third book of the Love in Provence trilogy.

Carol Cram:

Okay, so you have four novels with Lake Union then.

Patricia Sands:

Yes.

Carol Cram :

Fantastic.

Patricia Sands:

And then, doing the 10th anniversary edition of The Bridge Club, which will be out in November, but I'm doing that on my own. And then I have two novels sort of underway and one of those will go to Lake Union and hopefully they'll pick it up.

Carol Cram:

Yes. We never know.

Patricia Sands:

That's right. And you know, I mean, things have really changed, as you, I'm sure would agree, in the last five or six years. I mean, there are twice as many authors with Lake Union as there were when we started.

Carol Cram :

Sounds like you are similar to me in that I would call us hybrid authors.

Patricia Sands:

Yes.

Carol Cram :

Some are traditionally published. Some are self-publishing, which I see as a very viable way to go for authors.

Patricia Sands:

Absolutely.

Carol Cram :

That it doesn't have to be all or nothing.

Patricia Sands:

No, that's right. For instance, these three novellas, I popped them out as novellas so that I could do it right away. I knew if I wrote them as a novel and Lake Union did pick it up, they still wouldn't be published yet.

Carol Cram :

No, they wouldn't. That's the wonderful thing about self-publishing is that you can get it out quickly. You know, you still need to do all the editing and everything, but you don't have to wait that year to get it into the world.

Patricia Sands:

Exactly.

Carol Cram :

I'm in the process of indie publishing my fourth novel. I've decided just to go for it rather than wait. 

It's interesting you mentioned that you were a teacher. We share that as well. I was a teacher for many years. What did you teach?

Patricia Sands:

Well, I was only a teacher for a few years. When my first husband died and I was 43. So two years after that, I went back to university and became a elementary school teacher. So I taught grade one, grade two, and grade three.

Carol Cram:

Oh, lovely!

Patricia Sands:

I loved it. Probably should have been doing it all my life, but starting right out from university, but I didn't and I really loved it. But then I met my second husband and life changed again. I went from having two kids to having seven.

Carol Cram:

Oh, my goodness. Lucky you!

Patricia Sands:

Now, some of them were grown. It's not as overwhelming as it sounds, but yeah, life did change. I was able to still work in education for a few more years. I had been living in the country, outside Toronto. I moved back into the city. My two boys were off to university and there were still two younger boys at home with us and three daughters who were out on their own. 

So I did work for a while with intellectually challenged adults, high functioning Down Syndrome, and young adults who'd been in a car accident and those types of personalities. And that was really wonderful.

Carol Cram :

It would be, very rewarding.

Patricia Sands:

Such an education for me. And I just always looked back on a couple of years that I did that as a real privilege.

Carol Cram:

And I think the key for people who have aspirations to be authors, particularly if they're a little bit older, is that A) it's never too late and B) all this lived experience that you've had, you know, as a teacher because you mentioned earlier how that experience helped you write. But we can take all of that and put it into our books. 

I used to think, Oh, this is too late for me to start because I didn't publish my first novel until six years ago, even though I've written many, many other books.

Patricia Sands:

And what were you doing?

Carol Cram :

Oh, I wrote textbooks on computers for decades. And I also was a teacher, but I had this little voice in your head that says, Oh, you're too old to start this. And I was only in my fifties at the time, which now seems young, and I tell people, no, you're not. You can publish your first novel at 60 or at 70. It really doesn't matter. And the thing about novel writing, of course, is it probably gets better as you get older, you have so much to bring to it.

Patricia Sands:

Well, that's it. I really didn't have a lot of writing experience except for, you know, university papers and that sort of thing, when I went back to university in my forties. 

But when I decided yes, maybe I will publish The Bridge Club, I took a number of writing courses and attended a lot of writing workshops. And of course, this will sound familiar to you. Every single writing instructor recommended reading Stephen King's book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Carol Cram:

Oh, yes. I have read that book. It is a wonderful book.

Patricia Sands:

I love that book and I'd never read anything by Stephen King before. That genre just, you know, didn't appeal to me, but I loved reading his life story as he told it. And I loved everything that he had to say and the most important thing, and I always share this when I'm speaking with an individual or with a writing group, he said, if you feel so strongly that you have a story to tell, then tell it, you don't have to have an MFA. You don't have to go back to school to learn how to describe the dark and stormy night or, you know, the angst-filled relationships, sit down and tell your story, just write it. 

And don't worry about grammar. Don't worry about anything except the story. And somewhere in that process, you'll find your voice. And then when you think you have it all down, then you find a professional editor.

Carol Cram:

And it's excellent advice. And I need to remind myself of it over and over again because it doesn't actually get any easier even after you've written a few novels, I find.

Patricia Sands:

That's right. I can spend a whole day just trying to find one particular word.

Carol Cram:

Oh, yes. We've had many of those days. So before I let you go, I wanted to just ask you a little bit about your tours to Provence. Well, obviously you're not doing it this year, but are you still doing that, because they sound fascinating.

Patricia Sands:

Yes. That's such an unexpected pleasure, but this would have been the seventh year that I've done it. Another friend, a Toronto author who writes nonfiction, she and I did a presentation at a women's conference in London, Ontario, and a travel agent approached us and said, do you know have you ever thought about having a tour built around your stories? 

And I hadn't, but travel's always been a big part of my life. I've helped many, many friends organize their vacations. So anyway, it happened, you know, I quickly was able to pull together a tour. Most of the people who come on it, on the tours, have read my books. And so they can't wait to get to Antibes to see if they can find Phillipe the fromagier

And it started out at first, we would do one week in Nice, six days in Nice, and then six days in the Saint Rémy area, Avignon, going to all the different little towns - day trips every day and all the meals are included. And on the one travel day, we stop at Aix-en-Provence and we make sure it's market day so they have an interesting experience there. We do a Cézanne walking tour and then back on the bus.

Carol Cram:

So you work with a travel agent, I presume, to organize all this.

Patricia Sands:

Yes, first it was a travel agent in Toronto, but then we parted company after three tours and I was introduced to a travel agent who lives in Sète actually, but she's Canadian. So she's lived there for 30 years and I have a good, very good friend, Deborah Bine, who's a blogger, the Barefoot Blogger, she's American, but she lives in Uzès most of the year. 

And Deborah said to me, when she knew I was changing travel agencies, she said she would love to do the tour with me. And that's exactly what I wanted because I don't want to do it on my own. It's more fun when there are two of you and if something happens, you know, you have that backup.

Carol Cram:

It's nice to have a partner. Yes.

Patricia Sands:

So now, once I published Drawing Lessons, we changed. For the second week, we stay in Arles. So six days in Nice, six days in Arles, and it's 16 women. And most of them, well, I would say, all of them are over 50. The eldest we had with us was 78. 

The best part, apart from sharing our passion and our love for that part of the world, is watching the friendship that develops every single year. This group of women becomes so connected. It's wonderful. Nobody wants to go home at the end of the trip. And in fact, the tour I should be doing right now is a group of women who came with us in 2018, who absolutely wouldn't stop bugging us until we agreed to create another tour for them. And they all were coming back this week, you know, a second tour of the area, but totally different.

Carol Cram :

What fun. I'm very inspired by that because I've actually considered doing something like that in Tuscany.

Patricia Sands:

Oh, do it.

Carol Cram :

Yes. I need to find a partner myself because often people say, Oh, I went to Tuscany after I read your book. And I went to all the places that you mentioned. And I said, well, of course I love to travel. So yeah. I find your story very inspiring.

Patricia Sands:

You can relate to it. Exactly. I mean, it's just so much fun.

Carol Cram:

Thank you so much, Patricia. This has been really entertaining to chat with you. We have a lot in common.

Patricia Sands:

We do.

Carol Cram :

And of course, your book Drawing Lessons is just such a treat.

Patricia Sands:

Well, thank you. Lovely of you to invite me to chat.

Carol Cram:

Absolutely. My pleasure.

My guest has been Patricia Sands, author of the delightful and heartfelt novel Drawing Lessons that resonated with me on many levels. You’ll find it listed in the Visual Arts category on Art In Fiction at www.artinfiction.com

Be sure to check the show notes for the link to a 20% discount on a subscription to ProWritingAid, a fantastic editing tool for writers.

Please follow Art In Fiction on Twitter and Facebook, and don’t forget to give the Art In Fiction Podcast a positive review or rating wherever you get your podcasts.

Thanks so much for joining me!

 









Summary of Drawing Lessons
Arianna's journey in Drawing Lessons
Role of dementia in Drawing Lessons
Theme of renewal and change
Art and van Gogh
Food and the French landscape
Advertisment: ProWriting Aid
Reading from Drawing Lessons
How Patricia Sands became an author
The benefits of hybrid publishing
Patricia Sands's teaching background
It's never too late to get started as an author
On Writing by Stephen King
Tours to Provence led by Patricia Sands