Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester had a fun and haunting event a few weeks ago by the artist and author team behind Abandoned Asylums of Massachusetts. We featured artist Tammy Rebello a few weeks ago, now get to meet the author, L.F. Blanchard! She is a Worcester native, growing up not far from our very own bookstore on 65 James Street. She is a writer and an artist who shows frequently throughout the area, including Arts Worcester, Massasoit Art Guild, Hopkinton Arts Counsel, the Worcester Public Library, Worcester Center for Crafts, and Cormier Jewelers in Spencer (to name a few).
Thank you very much for joining us, Lynn! What can you tell us about yourself?
I’ve been a story teller from as long as I can remember. I have some of my earliest works, which were little more than the scribblings of a toddler, including when I was a little older, a series on “popcorn people” which told the story of a distant planet, and the adventures of a salty popcorn society. I am the youngest of 7 kids and I grew up in the same house my dad had been raised in. 9 people in the house, and only 1 bathroom!!! For many years, we only had one phone too, a rotary phone with a loooonnggg cord, so we could sit at the top of the stairs and talk “privately”.
When it had gotten down to just 3 or 4 of us kids in the house, I shared a room with my older sister. I would tell her a story every night before we went to sleep. After we got tucked in, I’d ask her what kind of story she would like to hear. We did that for a long time, until there were just two of us kids left in the house, and she was a teen and wanted her own room.
When I got a bit older, just after finishing high school, I got stuck in my writing. I think it was more to do with so much changing in my life, but my mom suggested I write my life, only in fiction. This way I could work from a familiar subject, but bring it anywhere I wanted. That spurned my writing, and I haven’t stopped since.
I’ve written just about everything, from obituaries to sermons, and lyrics to full length movies; fiction; non-fiction; editorial; advise; spiritual; mystery; suspense; horror; comedy… you get the idea. I even put together a cookbook. The kicker is, I never thought I’d be writing history!! Yet, here I am, and I LOVE it!! It’s funny how life works out. All these things I have done, and experiences I’ve had, have led me to where I am right now. I guess you could call this my “ah ha” moment. Now it all makes sense.
What was something that you learned in writing Abandoned Asylums?
I seek to learn and grow from each experience. The people I have been privileged to meet and speak with throughout this process have been so special to me. It is my hope to help alleviate the stigma associated with issues of mental health, and to perhaps help someone find the courage to speak up and find help for themselves or support the journey of someone they love.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
READ!!! My mom, who was an amazing influence in my life, always told me, “If you want to write read, read everything.”
Beyond that, what I found helped tremendously is I took a college writing course outside my comfort zone. For me it was screenwriting, which I had no idea of how to do, but because it is very focused on what you see, rather than things like inner dialogue, helped me to hone my descriptive skills.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
We are contracted, and currently working on book #2: Abandoned Asylums of Connecticut. We are often asked how this will differ from the Massachusetts book. For me, it was important that I tell the whole story of these places. While several of the asylums in book 1 are quite similar in that they are the same state, often opened for the same reason, built and closed around the same time, they are unique in their individual story. I like to think of them, almost like people. We may look similar, live in proximity, maybe went to the same school and worked similar jobs…. But no two of us are the same.
So in book #2 CT, and subsequent books (#3 NY and #4 PA), it will be these distinctive locations and the history that brought us to where we are today, and where we are headed in the field of mental health, and the way in which we treat one another.
What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?
I believe creativity breeds creativity. So when I am not writing, I enjoy several different type of art. I am graduating this spring from Worcester State University with a degree in Psychology. I plan to continue on to graduate school for Art Therapy. Though I took my first art class just three years ago after a promise I made my mom, literally on her death bed, I knew after that first class (not the first semester, but the 1st class of the first semester) it was where I belong.
Being the field of which I plan to pursue, it is important that I be versed in different ways of making art. I love trying new things, combining techniques, and pushing myself to the next level, but what I love, dare I say, even more, is the people I meet, and hearing their stories. Learning how they accomplished a particular effect, or even being introduced to a type of art I hadn’t previously known of.
Art is great in how it is a wonderful ice breaker, and how no matter what type of art you make, or even if you just enjoy other’s creations, it gives you a sense of belonging in the world. For me, it’s an extension of my writing, as in, it tells a story where words may fail.
Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?
I most certainly do. I have three dogs (with an extra pup, who has been with us for the past couple months while her mom heals from a very bad fall). They are essential to my writing process. They are very good at being sure I have pup to pet, and they are sure that all my papers are well wrinkled, and occasionally drool covered. I guess that’s what I get for putting papers in “their” spot. They are also wonderful sounding boards for when I’m working out how to phrase something or trying to decipher the words on the aforementioned “enhanced” papers.
I have a black mini-lab mix, Bella Ann. She’s 12, and has slowed down a bit, but is the biggest love bug. She loves snuggles, and tummy rubs, and she’ll do just about anything for a cookie. We often call her “Little Bear” because if you rub her butt and her tummy in just the right way, she growls like a bear cub.
I also have two 3 year old boys, “twins” (from the same litter). Rocky and Tango are Rat Terrier/ Chihuahua mixes who tend to be the life of the party. They have been great for Bella, as they get her up and playing, even if it is in shorter spurts, as she, like me, has bad knees. Our dog sitter calls them her rock stars, because whenever she has them, all the other dogs want to play with them. They are VERY snuggly, and even love to snuggle with their big sister and their adopted sister too (our “guest” and their best dog friend).
Patsy is our current guest. She loves to get everyone riled up and playing. She only has a very small tail, but that doesn’t keep her from wagging her entire little butt when she’s happy, which is often. She and Bella have been adopted sisters from way before the boys were born, but Bella is a good sport and doesn’t mind her playing with the boys too. I think she likes the break. She’s more of a “sit in the sun and snooze the afternoon away” kind of pup. Usually when Pasty is out walking with her mom, she’ll pull them up our driveway for a visit.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
Our website for the book: http://abandonedma.wix.com/abandonedma
or my personal website: http://www.lfblanchard.com/
We also sell both the book and prints from the book at many of our book signings – although, when we are at bookstores, as you know, the bookstore has it available. Our list of talks is updated often, and can be found on either of the above sites.
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
We have a Facebook page for the book: https://www.facebook.com/abandonedne
Or my page: https://www.facebook.com/LFBlanchardcom