Katherine Keenum

A blog about how paintings, photographs, and prints have helped me visualize my fiction—both Where the Light Falls and works-in-progress—with a hope that they will stimulate other writers and readers, too.

A small sample of the images that inspired me appears below. Click on these or any images in the posts to see enlargements. In the text, click on colored words to activate links.

Selected Works

An American woman art student meets a Civil War veteran in Belle Époque Paris.


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Picturing a World

Gertrude Fiske

September 28, 2018

Tags: women artists

Blog tip: It's almost too late to catch a show of Gertrude Fiske's work at the Portsmouth (N.H.) Historical Society, but James' Gurney's blog post at least introduced me to this accomplished painter. Doesn't this image invite musing on what the story might be?

For more of Fiske's work, click here.

What makes this book so happy (5): Love

September 27, 2018

Tags: Nourse

The categories of friendship and love inevitably blend into each other: we love our friends and hope our lovers will be our soul mates. But they can also be considered separately; and so although women’s friendships were very much a conscious motif for me while I was writing Where the Light Falls, so was the nature of love. Late in the novel, Cousin Effie says, “We are made to love and be loved, lots of different ways.” (more…)

What makes this book so happy (4): Friendship

September 26, 2018

“When I see girls of seventeen, it makes me think once I, too, was a maiden in Grenelle.” So goes the first verse of the lyrics to Aristide Bruant’s song “A Grenelle.” Jeanette is nineteen at the start of Where the Light Falls, but she walks to the Académie Julian with friends every morning, so I loved coming across this picture by Steinlen. While I was writing, I very much wanted my art students’ friendship to be central to the story because I have loved reading books about girls’ and women’s friendships ever since I was in second grade reading Betsy-Tacy to myself. (more…)

What makes this book so happy (3): Skill

September 24, 2018

Tags: Morisot, women artists

West with the Night by Beryl Markham is the first title on Prevention’s list of 55 Happy Books Proven to Boost Your Mood. What a pleasure to be reminded of that (more…)

What makes this book so happy (2): Place

September 21, 2018

Tags: Paris landmark

One way a book can make you happy is to transport you from your armchair to someplace else altogether. It helps, of course, for the place to be somewhere you’d like to visit (exposés need not apply). From Prevention’s list of 55 happy books, I’ll point to Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence and Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon as books that make you adore being in France. (more…)

What makes this book so happy (1): Food

September 19, 2018

Tags: cafés and restaurants

In response to the appearance of Where the Light Falls on Prevention Magazine’s list of 55 Happy Books Proven To Boost Your Mood, I was invited to speak at my local public library on September 27th. It seemed a good idea to talk about the book in relation to the list—but that raised the question, just what is a happy book? I decided to tease out common threads among some of the titles and examine the extent to which I was conscious of each factor as I wrote. First topic: Food. (more…)

Upcoming library talk

September 17, 2018

It is a great honor to be invited to speak in the Lively World Series that honors the memory of the extraordinary Milton Bass. Naturally, I've been giving a lot of thought to the topic and will be blogging (more…)

Who knew?

September 13, 2018

Tags: illustration

Blog post tip: I’m speechless. Who knew? William Faulkner drew? Read more at Maria Popova’s Brainpickings post, William Faulkner’s Little-Known Jazz Age Drawings, with a Side of Literary Derision.

Vibert’s cardinal

September 10, 2018

For those who think Norman Rockwell invented the naturalistic cartoon and for those who think hypocritical priests are a new phenomenon, voilà, one of Jehan Georges Vibert’s ecclesiastical comedies. I suppose as a writing exercise, one could devise a story about what’s (more…)

Typists' strike

September 3, 2018

Tags: illustration

This 1919 poster, which shows typists as New Women who are voicing demands by striking is, in fact, an advertising poster for Labor brand typewriters (see Ruth E. Iskin, “Popularising New Women in Belle Epoque Advertising Posters,” in A Belle Epoque?: Women and Feminism in French Society and Culture, 1890–1914 (2006). But, heck!, it’s a great image. And if we have to resist the Lords of Creation, we might as well do it handsomely. Sisters, solidarity—and happy Labor Day!

Note of Explanation

September 1, 2018

Tags: illustration

Lovely serendipity: Face-out at a local independent bookstore this week, I found A Note of Explanation by Vita Sackville-West. As if a previously unpublished jeu d’esprit by Sackville-West were not enough, there were the ravishingly elegant, Art Deco illustrations by Kate Baylay who is, for me, a real discovery. I do love illustrated books, especially those that are handsomely made, as this one is. And it’s about Queen Mary’s dollhouse! Not only that, it was originally written to be one of the tiny volumes in the dollhouse library. (more…)