When visual artist Tina Martel was diagnosed with Stage Two breast cancer she decided to document everything. Throughout her treatment she created a stream of sketchbooks, photographs, paintings and video, in response to and frequently in spite of what was happening to her. Not in the Pink is a “graphic narrative” of the pain, frustration and frequent hilarity of her day-to-day dealing with the eccentricities and bureaucracy of the medical system. It is also a candid and moving exploration of the expectations often placed on you once you are diagnosed with cancer: by the people around you, by society and ultimately by yourself.
Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about author Tina Martel whose book Not in the Pink moved me from beginning to end. I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love memoirs and inspirational stories but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight for Tina, a biography of the author and an interview between me and Tina will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful Tina Martel!
Martel is a Canadian artist/author born and raised in Saskatchewan. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Art (with honours) in the painting department of the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, and a Master of Fine Art, also in painting, at the University of Calgary. She is a mixed media artist, painter, paper maker, author, and videographer. She is also a tenured faculty member in the Fine Arts Department of Grande Prairie Regional College. Throughout her career she has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards and exhibited across Canada and internationally in Germany, New York, Korea, Omaha, and Tel Aviv. The multi award winning Not in the Pink is her first book.
Now, how wonderful does Tina sound?! Tina is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of Tina’s work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between me and Tina, I hope that you enjoy Tina’s answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!
Could you please tell us readers about your book and what inspired you to write your book?
I always tell people that I am an artist who accidently wrote a book. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and the bottom fell out of my world. I knew I would be out of my studio for a long period of time but I thought I could create sketchbooks while I was in treatment. They became a depository for my thoughts, experiences and emotions. Simultaneously I was writing emails to my family and friends about what was happening. I chose to write because telling the same stories over and over again was exhausting. When the dust settled and I was finished treatment an author friend of mine suggested that I consolidate them and write/illustrate a book. My initial response was “No. I am not a writer”. Then it occurred to me that I write constantly – I am an academic: I write lectures, artist statements, curatorial statements, even grocery lists… It’s worth noting that I also come from a long line of story tellers, starting with my grandfather. To this day I don’t know how many of them were true, but as a child I hung on every word.
What would your advice be for aspiring writers?
I tell my art students that any artistic discipline requires massive amounts of practice. Practice. Practice. Practice. Take every class/workshop you can. Then put it all aside and write. Be authentic. Find your own unique voice and use it.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing about a book?
For me books have different faces. Some I read for knowledge. I teach post-secondary and I read an inordinate number of academic books for my classes. Some I read for pure unadulterated pleasure. I love a good story and how it draws you in to another place, makes you cry, laugh out loud, feel something.
What is your writing process like?
When I was writing this book, I wrote every day. I was suffering a great deal from insomnia at the time. I would wake at 4:00 a.m. and write for a few hours then go back to sleep. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in small increments if you keep at it. After treatment I returned to my studio to paint and continued to add more images to my sketchbooks. Somedays it was a challenge to decide which to do: write or paint. We are continuously told as cancer patients we have to find some good in everything that has happened to us. I don’t want to go down that particular road of terribly flawed reasoning, but if you subscribe to that logic insomnia was the root of creating this book.
Ultimately I discovered I write like I paint. Throw everything on the canvas and then edit. The largest difference is that I edit myself when I paint. Do not edit yourself when you write. Find a professional editor and pay them. They are worth their weight in gold.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
For me it wasn’t as much about research as it was my narrative, which is a very different beast. However, I conducted a lot of on-line research and reading about cancer treatment. I also collected every medical record/image that had my name on it. It took a massive amount of dedication. We are entitled to a copy of all our records but accessing them was not always easy. I would be sent from one end of the hospital to the other after being informed “No. I think you need this department”. I snapped photographs and took video whenever I could. My oncologist learned to routinely bring a copy of the reports for me every time I met with him.
Initially I bought every book I could about breast cancer. It started out because I wanted the information but later it became the impetus for the type of book I wanted to write. It seemed to me that the books fell into two categories:
Inspirational: This is the best thing that ever happened to me. Cancer is a gift. Find your path during this downtime. All the clichés: stay positive, you will come out a better person, find the rainbow…blah, blah, blah… Personally, I was too busy throwing up to search for a path.
Informational: These were the one that told you how to have cancer. Although filled with wonderful tips they were dry and didn’t make the most fascinating reading. And I was not going to step forward as some kind of expert. I had, after all, only done it once…OK now twice… I decided I simply wanted to tell the story: the good, the bad, the truly awful.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
I read voraciously. The art theory, content, technical books I must read for work and then everything else. My eclectic mix of authors runs the gamut from Stephen King, George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman to Nietzsche. My favorite? That’s like asking your mother who her favorite child is… I can’t…or maybe won’t…
Lastly, when can we readers expect to read more wonderful books from you?
Well, I was asked if I would write another book around my second diagnosis. I rather blithely said that although my first diagnosis was immortalized through the book that the subsequent one only deserved a
bumper sticker. It says “Been there. Done that.” On a serious note I do have the text for a children’s book and am trying to find the time to do the illustrations. As I work full time, have a career as a professional artist and am still in recovery it is a challenge to find the time right now. But I will.
Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with Tina! If you have liked what you have read about Tina and are interested in learning more about Tina and reading Tina’s work, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the preview too! You will not regret it.
Goodbye for now book lovers,