Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Broken Pencils: Toledo author debuts new novels

Victoria Arendt has lived in Montenegro, San Francisco, Atlanta and Washington D.C., yet she’s always been called back to her native Toledo. She describes her Northwest Ohio upbringing as peaceful, loving and uneventful— which is precisely why she has always returned here. “I think that’s what’s given me a deep anchor to this place and allowed me to go explore the world. I had an anchor– a solid foundational anchor in Toledo with my people here,” Arendt said. 

Traveling spirit

As a young woman, Arendt left Toledo to do what young people do when leaving their hometowns, discover who she was and what she wanted to do with her life. And thus began Arendt’s journey as an author, painter and even a corporate businesswoman.  “I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew I wanted to explore and see what was out there,” she said. “I have a wandering spirit at heart and that’s what makes me want to explore different places— to live in different places— to do different things and experience different cultures.”

Arendt quit her corporate job in 2008, which she called a “stupid” move due to the economic crisis at the time. But she was no longer able to stifle her artistic calling. She describes her early paintings as stiff-like.  “I was still in the corporate mindset of a regular job,” she said. “I wanted to find out what my true life was, deep down within who I am; what I wanted to leave as a legacy when I’m gone.”  Fast forward to 2021, when Arendt’s painting series won “Best in Show” at the University of Toledo’s Art on the Mall. 

The cover of Arendt’s new novel, Broken Pencils.

Makings of a Legacy

Now, Arendt is experimenting with a new medium. She wrote the manuscript for her first novel, Broken Pencils, while living in Montenegro, a Balkan country on the Adriatic Sea. The book follows a young housewife who struggles to keep her severely handicapped son out of the abusive conditions of a 1940s insane asylum.

The premise of the novel was inspired by Arendt’s own grandmother’s struggles raising her mentally handicapped son. Arendt inherited her grandmother’s personal letters and felt she was “screaming at the top of her lungs about her son and no one was listening.” It was time for her grandmother’s  story to be heard. 

While writing the manuscript, Arendt studied vintage family photos to “keep her mind in the bygone era.”  Then, she started to paint based on those photos.  The resulting 8-piece oil paint series, It was Dusk, was derived from her complete immersion into her family’s history by way of their personal photographs.  “The ‘real’ photograph is painted into each piece as a way of connecting me to the hallowed past and offering, if only for a heartbeat, something I can never truly have,” she explained.

Strength in Numbers

While doing research for Broken Pencils, Arendt uncovered what would become her second novel, Champlain Street, which follows the events of the Toledo Auto-Lite strike of 1934, when Toledo was battling an unemployment rate of roughly 80%.  “It’s a David and Goliath story if there ever was one. I don’t want the story to be forgotten because I have a huge appreciation for Toledo. And the people of those times were amazing– not that they aren’t now,Arendt added.

To learn more about Broken Pencils, Champlain Street and It was Dusk, visit victoriaarendt.com.

Recent Articles