Preteen heroine tries to solve Gardner heist
By Will Broaddus, Staff writer, The Salem News
Here’s a tip for the FBI: If you want to find the 13 works of art that were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990, talk to Moxie Fleece.
That’s because 13-year-old Moxie, the protagonist of Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne, has discovered that the missing masterpieces are connected to her grandfather’s criminal past.
The timing between the July publication date for Dionne’s novel and the FBI’s recent disclosures — that they know who stole the paintings, but have lost track of the artworks themselves — is coincidental.
Dionne, who has taught composition and creative writing at Montserrat College of Art for 10 years, has wanted to write about the stolen paintings since she first visited the Gardner as an undergraduate.
“It made me angry that somebody would take something of such beauty,” she said.
But first, Dionne, who has published three previous books for “tweens,” or youths ages 8 to 12, had to create Moxie.
“My books usually launch from a character that I can build a narrative around,” she said. “It’s a story about family and the truth. (Moxie’s) grandfather has been honest, she knows he’s a criminal. But she has to confront, how much truth does she know, and what will she do to recover the paintings?”
Moxie was worth waiting for because she has turned out to be Dionne’s first repeating character and will return in two future novels, also set in Boston.
Dionne, who lives in Framingham and attended Boston College, studied creative writing at Emerson.
“When I first started pursuing my MFA, I was writing what I thought was serious fiction. It was terrible,” she said. “Then I took a writing-for-children class, and I found I had so many more interesting stories to tell.”
The preteen period of junior high school offers rich material for fiction, Dionne said.
“It’s such a period of turmoil and change for all of us,” she said. “There’s a lot of potential for drama, between friends issues, family issues, figuring out who you are. It’s ripe for that.”
On Saturday June 1, Dionne will be holding a Creative Writing Retreat at Montserrat College of Art. The day will consist of morning writing from prompts, an afternoon receiving a critique of their work and an evening in lively discussion with a panel of writers who publish poetry, memoir, fiction and biography. The retreat will be led by the core faculty of creative writers at Montserrat including Dionne, Colleen Michaels and Dawn Paul.
Whether participants are novelists looking to jump start a summer goal of finishing those last—or first—chapters, poets hoping to find inspiration in a new setting or visual artists eager to test the medium of text, Montserrat’s Saturday retreat is designed to help writers of all levels move forward in their work. This course makes a wonderful companion to Shockingly Good Book Arts Course, during the week of June 24. There will also be classes focused in metal sculpture, knitting, film, acrylic, collage, portraiture, performance art, woodblock printing, comics and mixed media.
For more information about Dionne’s Summer Immersive workshop and others, visit montserrat.edu or contact Montserrat’s Continuing Education Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978.921.4242 x1202.