Tales From A Hungry Life

May 21, 2014

The Pursuit of Art

by Maria Schulz

The other day, I was sitting at my desk when I overheard a conversation between two co-workers. They were discussing the author, Stephanie Meyer, and her Twilight series.

Are you a vampire?

Are you a vampire?

Neither of them were big fans, so they were talking about what a stupid story line the books had, how ridiculous they seemed, the fact that all that glitters is not vampires, and more. This lead one of them to finally ask:

“If you could write a series of novels that made you MILLIONS, but they would be ridiculed and mocked by many…WOULD YOU DO IT?”

I immediately jumped out of my chair and said, “I’M IN!”

Another writer chimed in, “Me too. I’m too old for art!”

The fact is, I’ve lived in penniless obscurity for way too long. Bring on the book tours! Bring on the movie offers! Let me hold GIANT royalty checks in my hot little hands!


A great thinker

A great thinker

Please, please dear God, let me argue with the movie producers over casting choices. George Clooney or Jon Hamm? Sandra Bullock or Cate Blanchett? If Robert Pattinson says he absolutely refuses to play the lead in my movie if Kristin Stewart is cast as the leading lady, sorry babe—but you’re out. Oh, I can’t wait until all of Hollywood is fighting to get a part in my book-turned-movie.

Just wait until the Academy Awards! I’ll get my own stylist and wear a stunning red dress by Prada that makes me look 100 pounds lighter as I sashay down the red carpet. Joan Rivers will try to make fun of me and I will come back with a witty remark on the spot (instead of the next day, while I’m crying in my Chunky Monkey ice cream) that will simultaneously cut her to bits and make her my BFF. Every reporter there will say things like: “Writers don’t usually get invited to these things, but that’s MARIA SCHULZ!”

Take me home

Take me home

Oh, but there I go again. Dreamers gonna dream.

The writer’s life can be frustrating. You spend years in college learning how to write, reading the classics, and contemplating the world’s beauty and all of its compelling ideas. Then you graduate…and you learn that the workplace doesn’t care about the classics (Homer? You mean Homer Simpson?), or that you were President of the Great Reads Society. So what if you are a creative problem solver and big thinker? What were your grades in Math and Science?

You go out there and search, search, search for any job that will let you write. In the process, you get a lot of jobs that teach you the joys of filing and typing.



When you go to cocktail parties, people first ask, “What did you major in?’ and later the question will change to, “What do you do?” When you answer, “English,” or “I’m a writer,” they look like they’ve got GI distress. Most people will let it just pass, like gas pains. But some people will ultimately say:

“What? Why be a writer? You’ll never get a decent job!”

But to a writer like me, you might as well say: “Why do you keep breathing?”

This kind of interaction happens early and often, until you can’t imagine writing like Dorothy Parker or Ernest Hemingway. Why not settle for Stephanie Meyer or E.L. James (Fifty Shades of Grey)? Why not take the BIG money, trips to Cannes, share cocktails with Robert Redford at the Sundance Film Festival, and score millions of dollars when your characters become immortalized as Barbie dolls?

I can see myself now: absorbing all the criticism, playing with my new Barbie dolls, and happily cashing the checks.

Let's play

Let’s play

I did learn a long time ago that “success” as defined by others isn’t really what drives me. It’s the need to create that drives artistic types forward, even when criticism is probably waiting on the other side. That fundamental need is something I live with, and something I noticed in my mother when she was afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

To keep Mom busy, we signed her up for an Alzheimer’s program that let her pal around with others who were in the same boat. They sat in a circle and: talked about current events (always heartbreaking, since these once bright, intelligent people couldn’t remember any president past Ronald Reagan), their favorite TV shows (The Golden Girls was always the right answer), and ate a snack of cookies and milk. The day was long but enjoyable, in my mother’s words, because no one would get angry with her for forgetting anything since they were just like her.


By far, my mother’s favorite activity was arts and crafts. Most of the projects that she attempted were not good. It takes a certain amount of skill to throw a vase, pitcher, or statue, fire it up, and then paint it.

But somehow, even though my mother couldn’t remember who we were all the time, or who she was some times, she always remembered the artistic streak that lived inside of her. That streak drove her to create little treasures that she would bring home for us.

photo 2

I still have the blue vase she made, as well as the white milk jug with the blue and green polka dots. My daughter has a blue glass slipper and some statues of a little boy and a little girl who, when placed right next to each other, look like they’re kissing.

When Mom first brought those treasures home, I hated them. At that moment, I looked at them as examples of how far she had fallen. But my mother, in her Alzheimer’s wisdom, saw it as an expression of what she could still do, and not an expression of all that she never would.

photo 1

I can still learn a lot from her.


Pasta Primavera





Spring is a time of hope, and this recipe is just the fuel you need to keep those creative juices flowing.

So Hungry Lifers…is cashing in on your dreams a sell-out? Would you be IN? What’s your favorite springtime recipe? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks.



  1. I think red would be great for you. I’m actually picturing it halter style with a criss cross in the back. I know it’s your dream but I’m going to jump in it and design it for you. Prada will just have to design the next one. When my mother died I was overwhelmed with the amount of things she had. I took all the ceramic Christmas things she made and serving platters. It’s very special to know that you have things your mom made and that the girls can pass them on too.

    Comment by Suzanne — May 21, 2014 @ 7:40 am | Reply

    • All right, Suzanne. I told Prada I’m going with you. Better get started on my dress! I do not have a million things from my mom, so the few things that I do have certainly are treasures. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I want to see the Christmas things your mom made!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — May 21, 2014 @ 8:42 pm | Reply

  2. Spot on, Maria, and brava to all the artists who have the fire in their belly to constantly make this world a better place with their uniqueness. How easy it is to forget the passion that sparks joy within. Your piece should be required reading for every English major grad!

    Comment by Emmi — May 21, 2014 @ 8:58 am | Reply

  3. Beautiful, hilarious, and poignant, Maria!

    Comment by Francine LaSala's Clippings In The Shed — May 21, 2014 @ 9:21 am | Reply

  4. A beautiful posting. Of course your mother was always very creative and her genes were passed on, the creative ones of course. There are many forms of art, and of course what is produced is art in the eye of the beholder. More important, music, expression of ideas, emoting all of it is a release of the spirit within us. The artists is able to express the spirit’s thoughts and we who are exposed to the art and allow ourselves to be affected by it allow our spirit to be released from the prison of our bodies to soar into and over the heavens if only for a short while. Sometimes though the affect lasts a lifetime.

    Comment by Bglou — May 21, 2014 @ 10:19 am | Reply

    • Like someone we both knew and loved would have said, “Que profundo” and “Es verdad.” Mom’s art took her away from her problems, if only for a little while.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — May 21, 2014 @ 8:46 pm | Reply

  5. I would love to star in your next movie!! Move over Kristen Stuart!!!! Hahaha

    Comment by Paula — May 21, 2014 @ 10:24 am | Reply

  6. Easy peasy … Jon Hamm in EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by thedailypeeve — May 21, 2014 @ 6:49 pm | Reply

    • I can always count on two things: 1) that you will read my posts and 2) if I mention Jon Hamm, you will comment!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — May 21, 2014 @ 8:48 pm | Reply

  7. What you do, Maria, is much better than a transient experience like a movie (unless that movie is “On the Waterfront” which I could watch every day for the rest of my life) or a short flare like a commercial bestseller. You connect us, you make us smile and shed a tear, you share the best of yourself.

    My favorite spring recipe is deviled eggs: that after-Easter perennial!

    Comment by Beth Goehring — May 21, 2014 @ 8:11 pm | Reply

    • Thank you so much, Beth. Coming from you that is truly a compliment. When I’m doubting myself, I will come back and read this! PS I love deviled eggs!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — May 21, 2014 @ 8:49 pm | Reply

  8. Maria, is cashing in on dreams a sell out? No, its a way to make dreams come true. Give the masses what they want and reap the rewards so you can become more of who you are. Why not write a book or series that affords someone the luxury of pursuing your dreams? Happiness is what’s important and if you can have both fame and fortune with a facet of your talent that maybe you don’t think is the most valued doesn’t mean the things you hold as being most important aren’t still there. I liked how you saw mom and her ability to always see the glass half filled. This was part of who she was, and if you remember she had a great talent for art. This brought her great pleasure. Who knows but maybe her creations when she had Alzheimer’s, although they didn’t show her previous talents, they allowed her to get close to who she was and is something that made her happy. Mom was good that way. Anyone that can enjoy what they do and bring happiness to others by doing it (now aren’t you glad you didn’t break that craft when you first saw it) is not selling out, they are using what they have at the time to be creative.

    Comment by Tony Lagalante — May 22, 2014 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

    • My initial reaction to Mom’s crafts was anger and sadness. But when I realized that it made her happy, it made me happy too. I am glad I kept them. And if making millions selling my work makes me a traitor to art, who cares? Even Shakespeare may have been considered a hack or a sell-out in his day.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — May 23, 2014 @ 10:52 am | Reply

      • Shakespeare? Who is he?

        Comment by Bglou — May 23, 2014 @ 12:39 pm

  9. This was truly witty and beautiful. Love your mom’s blue vase. And now I’m hungry…

    Comment by Elaina R. — May 27, 2014 @ 4:51 pm | Reply

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