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Life in the studio
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Life in the studio

Since August 26, I’ve been ensconced in an office in my husband’s new studio. Sabin and his team are sculpting the National WWI Memorial.

I have a life in the studio.

I’m the project manager. I’m also Human Resources and CFO of Sabin Howard Sculpture LLC.

There are plenty of non-glamorous, essential tasks in this job for which I roll up my sleeves and apply the grease of my elbows. I’m not just talking about sweeping the floor, emptying trash, and lugging around bronze sculptures, though I’ve done that, too.

I mean things like running payroll, signing checks, tracking hours spent on each figure… Project management is a first cousin to juggling. You know, 1000 balls in the air, and they’d all better stay afloat.

Along the way, I engage in more pleasurable activities–like writing articles. Here’s my latest on Medium, entitled, “The Many Faces of Sabin Howard’s National WWI Memorial.”

Given our interest in WWI, a friend took me to the DGA to see 1917 when it came out. Great movie! Highly recommended!  I wrote a review.

I take photographs almost every day; our daughter put together a video for us. Her YouTube video shows us getting back to work after the holiday break.

And here’s a video that I put together. It’s a little rough but fun–it shows Sabin and his crew taking the memorial relief outside into daylight to see it out doors, the way visitors will see it once it’s installed in Pershing Park, Washington DC.

So I do find ways to exercise my own creativity on this journey alongside my husband.

My Article in Quillette Magazine: Art, Commerce, and Vision
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My Article in Quillette Magazine: Art, Commerce, and Vision

Quillette Magazine published my article on why artists aren’t necessarily leftist: “Art, Commerce, and Vision.”

If you don’t know Quillette, check it out! It’s an online platform for free speech.

Here’s what I wrote my friends:

I am delighted to send you my article on Quillette Magazine. It’s about why artists aren’t necessarily Left-wing. I write about Sabin and his work and broach, yes, the question of what real art is. Hint: “Real art is the product of the personal, human vision of the artist… Beauty, excellence, and the artist’s skill matter.”
If you don’t know Quillette Magazine, I recommend it. Quillette is a platform for free-thinking. It’s one of the very few places taking on current controversies in a thoughtful way. Please consider becoming a Patron of this extraordinary venue.
One note. If you follow my twitter feed, @tracilslatton, you will see that I follow, like, and retweet some Twitter users who are much further to the Right than I am, personally. I do this to preserve their voices. Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, is hell-bent on silencing Conservative voices. I see this as antithetical to free speech, which is the foundation of democracy. We the people need lively, and civil, discussions between people of different viewpoints. We the people need the opportunity to consider all viewpoints of an issue. Technocrat fascism must be resisted.
This article, “Art, Commerce, and Vision” came out of my deep feeling that artists must embrace the business of art.
I hope you enjoy this article. I always enjoy the thought-provoking articles in Quillette.
Quillette Magazine
Colette, A Review
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Colette, A Review

On a recent Saturday, my husband and I enjoyed date night at the Paris Theater. We watched the film Colette.

I’m a novelist and so the film held a special resonance for me. It’s always intriguing for me to see how other women do it–how other women wrestle with the great fanged beast of their need to write–how other women embrace the struggle of creativity and storytelling alongside the demands of partnership and self-actualization.

For me, there is no self without writing. If I’m not writing, it’s because I’m in a no-self space. That’s not a wholesome place for me.

Colette is turned on to writing by her husband Willy, who calls himself, in the film, a “writing entrepreneur.” He cheats on her and tells her to pen her thoughts and then proclaims her work to be worthless. Then he re-reads it and loves it. He pores over her prose with her and teaches her to edit and revise. At least in the film, he is instrumental to her discovering her talent.

Willy publishes her book under his own name. When it becomes successful beyond his wildest dreams, he locks her in a room to write another book.

Colette slowly wakes up to her own worth. Her self-awareness grows as she uncovers her individual sexuality. Her husband cheats but she begins to sleep with women–which he permits, as long as she doesn’t sleep with other men.

It’s comical when the husband beds her paramour and they both carry on with the libidinous lady in question.

There’s a kind of leftist-liberal-proselytizing fabric to this movie; the husband is an exploitative patriarchal scumbag and noble, victimized Colette naturally finds a supportive woman partner/lover. So many films these days are taken over by the need to preach leftist liberal values. I wish more films would focus on good storytelling and leave preaching propaganda to the politicians. It’s boring.

When a story delves deeply into the human condition, the spectrum of left-right, liberal-conservative falls away. What is left is meaning. That meaning is far more moving, far more convincing, than even the best propaganda.

In this case, the film transcends the current Hollywood piety. After all, Colette was a French novelist. She’s an archetypal French woman novelist. She actually lived the life and she did so before it was appropriated by a certain tiresome sector of post-modernist feminists–as if being a traveling mime with a woman lover is the only way to be a woman novelist.

I admire Colette but her choices wouldn’t work for me. I would never have been happy or fulfilled without children and a husband. Being a mother and wife contributes to, and enhances, my fruitfulness.

As painful as my situation is with one of my beloved daughters and with a dearly loved husband who took off for the antipodes, putting his own art before the family who needs him–despite everything–I was always supposed to be a wife and mother. And a novelist. And lately a screenwriter.

Willy exceeds his role, too, I think. Yes, he’s selfish, self-indulgent, egotistical, and riddled with vices. He’s also the fulcrum on which Colette’s own writing turns. He’s a catalyst for her. I find that real life is like this, that people are like this: marbled through with light and dark. Variegated. Bittersweet.

People are complex. They enter our lives bearing gifts, some laced with poison, some with nectar. Often the most difficult characters in our stories are our best teachers.

And beyond the propaganda is the story of a woman coming to own her own voice.

This is the essential struggle for a woman novelist: owning her own voice. Even for women who come across as strong, as I seem to, there’s vulnerability at the root. How do we embrace, own, and integrate that vulnerability with our creative talent?

film Colette

 

 

 

Factual Error in The New Yorker: Is this how fake news starts?
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Factual Error in The New Yorker: Is this how fake news starts?

Factual error in the New Yorker: I write this post not just for myself, but for all women whose ideas were misattributed to a man, and who were told to leave it be and not to rock the boat.

New Yorker Factual Error

My husband Sabin Howard is making a national memorial, the National World War I Memorial.

He began with drawings. He drafted several iterations of a relief that would tell the story of the Great War.

One morning over breakfast, he was talking about the design and showing it to me.

“My goodness,” I said. “You’ve got Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey there.”

Sabin said, “Explain that?”

So I did. As a novelist, I’ve worked with Campbell’s ideas for years. For the purposes of storytelling, the beats of the hero’s journey are useful and important. I’ve been so entranced by Campbell’s work that I’ve talked about getting a PhD in it.

And so, with my explanation over coffee and scrambled eggs, began a critical and oft-repeated piece of the story around the WWI Memorial. The Hero’s Journey connection has been publicly broadcast, by Sabin and by others associated with the Memorial, including PR people.

This is my contribution to this worthy endeavor and I’m proud of it.

Sabin is an honorable man. He consistently credits me with telling him about Joseph Campbell. He says, “My wife told me about the Hero’s Journey…” in every public venue where he’s spoken–including at a meeting of the Commission on Fine Arts in Washington DC.

In the worlds of literature and academia, claiming credit for someone else’s work is called plagiarism. Sabin is well aware of that. He is extraordinarily brilliant, but I was the one who came up with the Hero’s Journey.

The idea is to give credit where credit is due. As a matter of integrity–don’t take credit for other people’s work. Sabin doesn’t. He’s honorable.

Then came a big opportunity: The New Yorker magazine decided to do a Talk of the Town piece on Sabin and his sculpture at the New York Academy of Art.

The publicist for the NYAA was happy and excited. She had done a great job! This piece would add luster to the NYAA, to Sabin, who was showing the WWI Memorial Maquette at the NYAA, and to the Memorial itself. This was a coup!

Sabin was happy. Despite the extraordinary–unparalleled–quality of his work, he has struggled for acceptance here in the New York art world.

“A prophet is not recognized in his home town,” I tell him.

The Talk of the Town piece went live online yesterday.

It contained a factual error:

“I realized, Oh, my God, this is like Joseph Campbell’s ‘the hero’s journey,’ ” Howard said. “It’s a very simple story that everybody in every single culture has experienced.”

Sabin was out when I texted him about the error. He stepped away from a meeting to contact the publicist at the NYAA and ask for the article to be corrected for factual accuracy.

Here’s where the story gets interesting.

The NYAA publicist was less than enthusiastic about the update. She forwarded the request to the writer at The New Yorker.

Then she emailed back, “Anna…consulted with the fact-checking department on the request, and they feel since the piece doesn’t go into “how” the realization was made, it should stay as is.”

This is disingenuous. Sabin was directly misquoted and asked for his words to be represented correctly. He always says, “My wife said, “This is Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey.”

The New Yorker‘s misquote creates a factual error in the piece.

Sabin and I continued to push for accuracy. Sabin felt it was an injustice that his words were manipulated and that he was misquoted.

The NYAA publicist responded with increasing unpleasantness. She even told Sabin, “The story wasn’t pitched to The New Yorker as a piece about you and Traci.”

I emailed her,

Adding the words, “My wife remarked…” certainly does not make it a story about me and Sabin. Three words could not do that in a piece of this length. It does, however, become factually correct. It gives the piece an integrity that it currently lacks. Whether or not the magazine is attempting to be vindictive, they are acting in a way that has become a sore point with the parties involved. The magazine has been informed of a misquote and has chosen, this far, not to correct the piece.

The publicist was so appalled that I would continue to stand up for myself and my ideas that she got the head of the New York Academy of Art to email Sabin to tell me to back down.

Is that how the NYAA chooses to behave: by attempting to bully women who are standing up for their contributions? By attempting to get an authority to squelch the quest for accuracy and integrity? Women applying to the New York Academy of Art: BEWARE!

Regarding The New Yorker, here are my questions:

Is this how fake news starts: with journalists twisting subjects’ words any way that pleases them, and being unwilling to correct their piece when told about the error?

If The New Yorker makes a mistake and doesn’t correct that error because of specious and disingenuous reasoning, how is this publication any different from the fake news outlets they descry?

It’s disappointing that a venue that lauds its own integrity isn’t showing its integrity.

And there’s one more wrinkle in this sordid story. That is, there’s a concern about vindictiveness. The NYAA publicist and the head of the NYAA wanted us to stand down for fear that we would alienate people who had “been on our side.”

The NYAA publicist wrote us,

No press will be inclined to write on Sabin again, because it appears that he goes and attacks press who cover him. In addition, “fake news” is very inflammatory language to use and the New Yorker takes accusations like that extremely seriously – they have to, because of their political journalism. Claiming that the New Yorker is publishing fake news will attract a lot of unpleasant attention to you.

It’s a craven concern, but a real one. In today’s world, with its emphasis on expedience, the press might just step away from a subject who insists that his words be accurately represented.

Sabin said to me, “The New York Academy of Art will never work with me again because of this.” In order to uphold his personal integrity, he himself has to make a personal sacrifice that directly affects his career.

And so…I write this blog post for myself, for all women whose ideas have been misattributed to a man and were told to leave it be and not to rock the boat, and–come to think about it–for all the wives who are the unsung heroes supporting their husband.

Sabin Howard and Traci Slatton

Sabin Howard WWI Memorial relief drawing

Returning to Source and Writing Again
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Returning to Source and Writing Again

Write again, they are telling me. You must write, Traci. 

It’s the new theme: writing again.

The past twelve months have been excruciating. I am struggling.

It’s been a year of comings and goings from my life; intermittency like a suddenly thrown grenade blew up my peace of mind. It has been a year of travel, loss, loneliness, bad advice, uncertainty, sadness, emptiness, tough choices, betrayal, humiliation.

It has also been a year of joy: the birth of my beautiful grandson, deepening friendships, richer closeness with my sweet middle daughter. A lot of yoga! Books newly cherished. A beautiful place that has come into my consciousness as a home.

Change is afoot.

Write again, my husband says, as if that will erase everything that has passed between us. His eyes are soft and his voice is loving as he counsels me. Write again. He holds me often throughout the day.

His hands on my shoulders, my arms, my breasts, my belly help me. He is kind. And I am still struggling.

In every moment brims the fullness of the spiritual imperative: We are here to love, to learn, to work, and to play. We are here to choose love over fear.

Why then this heart ache?

For what reason did I come here? I’ve asked myself a thousand times over the last span of time.

What is the imperative that I am mindful of it?

How have I betrayed myself?

I suspect it’s the effort to answer these questions that will heal me. It’s the journey itself that will return me to Source–whatever the destination may be.

 

 

Great New Video for THE YEAR OF LOVING
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Great New Video for THE YEAR OF LOVING

There’s a great new video for THE YEAR OF LOVING.

Book trailers are a thing. They’re supposed to tease and intrigue the viewer, so the viewer wants to buy the book. They should also entertain and perhaps explain a little bit.

I made this one, and I had a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Art gallerist Sarah Paige’s world is crumbling. One daughter barely speaks to her and the other is off the rails. Sarah is struggling to keep her gallery afloat in a tough market when she learns that her most beloved friend has cancer. In the midst of her second divorce, two men come into her life: an older man who offers companionship and stability and an exciting younger man whose life is as chaotic as hers.

Sarah’s courage, humor, and spirit strengthen her, but how much can she bear, and what sustains her when all else falls away?

THE YEAR OF LOVING

Reviews

“…A lively, fun romp through life that carries readers through the options and choices of a heady year in which everything changes and Sarah learns how to live the life she chooses not just in response to, but in spite of, the swirl of relationships around her. Women will find it the perfect leisure or beach read.” – Donovan’s Bookshelf

“The Year of Loving is a wonderful read for those who adore romance, intelligent women’s fiction, and steamy scenes. And as always, Slatton manages to turn any story into a literary piece…” – The Portsmouth Review