Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bevan Encourages Writers to Use Their Gifts

Last night's impassioned guest was literary artist, musician and author Jan Atchley Bevan. 

DSC06827 - Jan Bevan

Knowing that the gift of writing is from God, Jan finds it a natural mission to be a mentor for writers with and without disabilities.  As a blessed writer and one who overcame her own challenges with low vision she knows her role to inspire writers comes in the telling of the story of her own work. By second grade her imagination was in overtime and hasn't stopped since. Her imagination has taken her life on a unique journey as a literary artist, musician, composer author and poet.  Her passions are too many to count.  She fondly recalls the eight years she spent at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens as Author in Residence and Museum Educator.  She worked with hundreds of children through Art Connections a "hands on" art experience, which is award winning from numerous sources in Art Education. Jan’s literary art education program encouraged many children in the Duval County Public School System to be better writers through the “joy of reading”.

Jan started off as a psychiatric social worker however she would often say "I'm a social worker who thinks she is an author."  One day this closet author met Christine Yovanovic a nurse who thought she was an illustrator and so Corky The Bathtub Who Couldn't Swallow was created.  After her book was published she learned "authors shouldn't give up their day job." In search of a new career Jan was hired as a staff member of Art Connections in the education department of the Cummer Museum. Prior to the literary Art opening of this, her first children’s book, Jan was given the honorarium of the Author in Residence.

Jan is an ambassador for VSA Arts (Very Special Arts). Founded by Jean Kennedy Smith, VSA Arts, an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., is an international organization that brings the art world to performing, visual and literary artists who just happen to have disabilities. Jan continues to be a teaching artist for VSA Arts of Florida.

Jan credits her imagination with her love of music.  Although she can not read music she has no trouble composing music.  She ascribes music with gifting her with discipline and imagination.  She uses music to assist her when she writes her books or works on the many projects she is involved in. Music is a gift for the soul. Jan told a story of a brilliant plastic surgeon who was struck by lighting while on the phone.  Prior to the lighting strike he could not read music, yet a month after the incident he could play Bach.

Her passion for music is evident yet the reward was even greater when her C.D. Heartstrings was produced by Museum Music of N.Y. a CD that includes the chamber music of Ensemble Encore Berkeley, California, the visual art of Susanne Schuenke, the photography of Ingrid Domiani, prose poetry of Jan Atchley Bevan and narrated by the beautiful voice of Penny Mitton Hamilton, Ontario. This all was made possible through a ten thousand dollar grant from the Able Trust Foundation in Tallahassee, Florida. This was Jan’s last produced work as Author in Residence of the Cummer Museum. You can buy the C.D. through the Cummer Museum or Museum Music of N.Y.

This was Museum Music’s first production of spoken word with chamber music, visual art and photography all set around prose poetry.

Providence continued to direct Jan’s life when a graphic artist and add agency Executive formally from Buffalo, New York found photos of World War II Japanese Soldiers tucked away in a tutored photograph album seemingly brought over to America by an unknown Solider of World War 11.  It is from this discovery that her lasted passion took root.  Jan and her co-author Ron Ferster have completed an historical fiction book titled Letters of the Lost Children World War 11.

They wanted to create fictional letters and stories from the point of view of the people in the photographs.  In order to do this Jan and Ron researched Ancient Japanese culture as well as the age of Imperial Japan which ended when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This extensive research allowed Jan and Ron to immerse themselves in the characters.  What resulted is a stunning work of art. Their book was previewed during the Exhibit of Japan in Jacksonville at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. It was well received and opened conversation to new views through old windows broken by War and World devastation. 

There are high hopes for this latest venture yet sadly the Japanese people do not have vast national memorials for their World War II soldiers, the war is viewed as a national shame and is not talked about nor was the history even taught in schools.  (Our prayers are that this work of art will give a voice to the lost children of that generation and heal a nation from the outside in.)

The research Jan completed for this project is par for course in any of her undertakings.  She attributes research, dedication to truth and integrity as the grit to accomplish her writing dreams.

She researched publishers, and prairie dogs and anything else she poured into her books.  After 9/11 Jan wanted to reassure children that the world was still a safe place.  Zachary Cooks Up Some Fun resulted, Ocean Publishing.  The main character was a prairie dog, true to form illustrated by Danna Kleiman Garfinkel a visual artist, educator, illustrator and graduate of the University of Texas. Jan takes on her responsibility to protect the innocents of children and have morals for her stories.  She also enjoys the props she accumulates that match the themes of her books.

DSC06847 - Jan Bevan speaking at FCCW

Her latest prop, uh!m I mean co-author is "Fluffy" a big white bunny, one of her characters in her next children's book Lemon-aid Summers, to be illustrated by Susanne Schuenke.

Jan reminded us "you are only as good as your last book."  Fluffy is there to remind her to sit down write, and to help her get into her new characters.  Props are also important for book signings as a marketing tool.  A remark about book signings; she once had someone ask her if the rolling pin she used as a prop was for sale? Often times at book signings some people even ask her "so what do you do?"  She truly enjoys the events but reading out loud to a group of children is even more rewarding.

Last May she had the opportunity to read her book Corky the Bathtub who Couldn’t Swallow to a group of primary students in Great Tew Oxfordshire England.  It was a delightful experience for her complete with the traditional cup of tea!

Life has literally been a journey of extraordinary pieces all coming together in Jan’s puzzle of life. Her end thoughts; “We all have gifts, which I see as the promises of God for our inner selves which allows us to bring our creativity into this world.”

Jan has always felt that she has seen life from the inside out, not from the outside in!”  She uses her publishing rejections as mementos of her attempts to see her work come to fruition.

By Tracy Redman, FCCW Treasurer

1 comment:

CBB said...

This is a truly inspiring and and an enlightening post. People should indeed use their gifts and share it to others.

- CBB Christian Bookstore