Lost Roses: Barbs and Beauty

lost roses

I had the pleasure of meeting another Eliza this week whom I think my Eliza would relate to as another independent minded woman of the early 1900s who works to help other women. Eliza Ferriday is one of the three main characters of Martha Hall Kelly’s newest historical fiction, Lost Roses, set during the build-up and ensuing years of WWI in New York, St. Petersburg and Paris, 1914 – 1921.

Kelly has employed an interesting timeline for her novels by taking us back in time with each release as a prequel, rather than moving forward with sequels. It’s an interesting approach and so far, it works well. I read Kelly’s NYT bestseller, Lilac Girls last summer where she first introduces the socially conscious women of the Ferriday family beginning with actress and philanthropist, Caroline Ferriday who is committed to helping Holocaust survivors. In Lost Roses, we learn the origins of Caroline’s commitment to helping others when we meet her mother, Eliza. Eliza works on behalf of the elite Russian families who fled Tsarist, imperial Russia while she also searches for her boarding-school friend, Sofya, a cousin to Tsar Nicholas II, who has also been forced to flee her home in Petrogard and slowly makes her way to Paris.

Once again, Kelly shares her characters with us in vivid detail. From Sofya’s angst and despair of living with her family as captives of the Red Army in their own home, to the delights and heartbreak Eliza endures at her homes in New York, Southampton and Connecticut, to the struggles the third character, a peasant girl,  Varinka shares with her Mamak in their small country izba cabin, we understand each woman’s desire to live for themselves, and for the others around them. Despite the contrast in their backgrounds, the three women’s story becomes intertwined like a mass of rose bushes, complete with the stabbing pains of a thorn prick and the beauty found in the bloom of a multi-petaled flower.

Similar to Lilac Girls, Kelly also presents the ugly side of these historical events, especially the torture and killing at the hands of the Red Army. While these scenes can be difficult to read, they are part of history and Kelly doesn’t shy away from those realities. Those scenes are what makes her a talented storyteller.

I was fortunate to meet Martha Hall Kelly at an author event in May. She was comfortable in speaking and shared many details of her next book, which will be another prequel to travel back to the Civil War era and will present another Woolsey / Mitchell  woman (Eliza’s maiden name) which includes Sunflowers in the title. Knowing this tidbit before I read Lost Roses allowed me to tune in to the additional hints dropped around the work of the Woolsey / Mitchell women throughout the pages of Lost Roses. I can’t recall if the same hints were dropped in Lilac Girls for Lost Roses – guess I need to re-read it now! Martha signed my copy and after telling her a quick overview of my Eliza’s story, she inscribed the front page for me.

Lost Roses inscribe A

Lilac Girls was Martha’s first novel. Prior to its publication, she had minimal writing experience which means she is a huge inspiration for me. Somehow she found an agent who “plucked her from the slush pile and insisted these stories needed to be told, and made it happen.” I hope this inscription is a good luck charm which will help me find an agent like Alexandra Machinist who will pluck my query from her inbox and decide the story of my Eliza and her friends needs to be told, too.

RATING: *****

Thank you for reading this post. I invite you to follow my blog and join me on my journey toward writing my first historical fiction.  More information in the Novel Synopsis. You can sign up from this page with the pop-up, or send me a note through the CONTACT page and I can email you an invitation to follow.

 

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Queries & Quests

JRD Aug weekend

A satisfying weekend on many fronts is in the books. Beginning on Thursday and running through Saturday night, I attended several sessions of the Cape Cod Writers Center’s 57th Annual Conference. Super convenient location in Hyannis at the Resort & Conference Center, 4.5 miles away, made for easy back and forth travel in between sessions. For me, it was also a trip down memory lane. The Center is the former Hyannis Sheraton. What a laugh I had with the bartender in the current hotel bar when I asked him if he knew what the bar used to be called. “Yeah, it was a disco.” A disco, called Tingles, where in 1981 as the disco era waned and punk was rising, I met a guy whom I ended up dating for 5 years. In two weeks, we’ll celebrate our 33rd anniversary.  Hey, and thanks go out to my friend, Stephanie, who luckily knew the bouncer that night to admit two under-age girls, and the rest is history.

No disco balls hang from the ceiling anymore, but there were plenty of lights shining on the faces of eager writers like myself looking to learn more ways to hone our craft, pitch an agent and dream of publishing. I’m using the word dream in the loosest sense. One of the key takeaways I learned is the nightmarish road ahead to publication.

First, my “query letter” needs more work as I was told during a one-on-one critique of my query which is the initial outreach to an agent. In a one, single-spaced page, I need to acknowledge why I chose to contact a particular agent, who is the audience for my book, outline a short synopsis, my experience as a writer and details on my social media platform. Once you’ve written a succinct query letter, customize it for each agent, and send it out to 100 of them – individually. UGH. UGH. And, UGH. Further harsh reality hit when one of the agents who presented shared he receives over 500 queries every month, and he works for a small literary agency in CA. From those 6,000 queries a year, he’ll sign on 10-12 authors. From there, the expected “close rate” to secure a publishing contract is around 80%. From 6,000 to 8. The odds are daunting and dismal.

The bright spot of the Conference came at the close on Saturday night when I signed up for a 5-minute reading of an excerpt from Eliza’s story.  I didn’t agonize over my choice for long. I wanted a single scene where the themes of medicine and women’s friendships and support for one another would shine. I found those three pages in Chapter 8. And, I found interest in Eliza’s story and accolades for the descriptions and emotive explorations from the audience of 15 people who stayed late on Saturday for the readings. Other readers received suggestions to improve their scene. So, it wasn’t like critical feedback was being withheld. I’m going to cling to the idea the comments and praise I heard were genuine.

I begged out early from the readings to get home to bed. I had a 3:50am alarm set for Sunday morning. Even though I was mentally drained from the 3-day conference, I woke easily and walked the mile up to our Village center with my friend Judy where we reported for a 4:30 A.M. start to our volunteer shift at the water stop of the Pan Mass Challenge. For anyone outside of MA, the PMC is a two-day, 190-mile bike ride from central MA to the tip of Cape Cod which aims to raise $60 million for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Jim and I support a few friends who ride every year as a way to honor and remember Jim’s brother and my sister-in-law, and so many others who’ve we lost to the cancer crisis. Seven years ago, I decided I wanted to do more than write a check which meant for three hours this morning Judy and I slapped together, cut and served a few hundred PB&J and Fluffenutter sandwiches to the 7,000 riders coming in after their first leg of 20 miles.

Inspiration comes from the most unlikeliest spots, including at 6:00 A.M. when you peel off the plastic gloves covered in PB&J and look out to a sea of colorful shirts, decorated bike helmets, tight bike shorts on every shape and sized body, and you begin to clap. Thank you PMC riders. You’ve inspired me to continue my trek despite the hills and bumps in the road which may lie ahead.

 

 

 

 

Title TBD

Title TBD

Draft #1, minus the final chapter = 82,517 words and approximately 330 pages. Working title, “Eliza’s Story” is out to my first set of preview, or beta, readers – my wonderful group of friends in my book club. Commence holding of breath now until we meet again at the end of August.

I’ve brought Eliza and her story up to 1933. My final chapter will take place in 1947, for a total of a 50 year span of historical events and a tremendous period of time for the advancement of women. I have several ideas for the final path taken in the last chapter. However, I think the feedback I receive for the first 29 chapters will help me decide which path should be Eliza’s final one.

I know there are a couple of plot holes in the story and I’ve used a few repetitive phrases which will need to be addressed in the next draft. Plus, my first editor has already pointed out my characters sweat a lot. There is more work to be done. But I do think I’ve brought my characters along in the story and I’ve introduced several interesting themes and events to provoke discussions. I’ll be looking forward to receiving my readers’ reactions and critique.

Now, what do I do for the next four weeks, besides nibble away at my fingernails???? First, I’ll be attending a writer’s conference here on Cape Cod next weekend where I hope to learn more about the agent “query” process. I also have a stack of books on my night stand I can turn to and devour, including Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelley and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, both which come highly recommended. I have a large scrapbooking project which has sat in bins in my attic for two months. And, I guess my house could use a thorough cleaning. The sand and shedding dog hair are starting to build their own homes in the corners of the rooms.

 

 

 

 

Pedaling Forward

blog pic bike

When the kitchen heats up, or any of my non-air-conditioned rooms in the cottage, it’s time to take advantage of free AC and free WiFi and head to the public library. One issue I didn’t consider when I started this new hobby of writing is the added hours I’m sitting on my ass. At least during the summer and fall I can strap on the bike helmet and pedal the 3 mile trip to my local library. Not sure it’s making a difference yet since summer also means trips to Four Seas Homemade Ice Cream… mocha chip “diet sized” sundae please…

My momentum writing Eliza’s story continues as I’ve stumbled upon a new idea to head toward the ending. At this point, I think I’m only a couple of chapters away from the finish line for the first draft. My brother has returned several more edited chapters. Along with my own first pass of editing the final chapters and I’ve got my work cut out for me for the next couple of months.

I did have my first experience with on-the-spot editing when I attended a “practice pitch” event with the Cape Cod Writers’ Group a couple of weeks ago. I requested more information on what to prepare and was told 2-4 minutes to present to the group and then I would receive feedback. Think of your “pitch” to an agent to tell your story as succinctly as possible. The event fell on the day I was flying home from Minneapolis so I spent both legs of my flight writing, editing, and practicing to get down to a 3-minute read:

At the dawn of a new century, a New Woman ideal emerges bringing aspirations for educated, independent, career women who will resist society expectations. Eliza Edwards is a woman of her times, and beyond her time.

Eliza Edwards abandons her mother’s hopes she will follow a traditional path as a debutante at 18, marriage and a privileged society life and instead chooses to enter a woman’s medical college. Over the next fifty years, from 1897 to 1947, Eliza embraces her own independence to define a new generation of women.

Exposing the exceptional world of women in medicine during the first half of the 1900s, and similar to the Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Call the Midwife series, MY NOVEL explores the contributions and care which woman doctors provided at a time when only 5% of medical professionals were women.

Her life and choices as a doctor, wife and mother are also affected and shaped by the tumultuous global events which occur during this time period as she moves from Philadelphia to Newport to Boston.  From the maternity wards for immigrant women in Philadelphia, to the barracks at Camp Devens under siege by the Spanish influenza, to advocating for women’s access to safe and legal birth control to the care of mentally disabled children, Eliza faces workplace challenges and triumphs as well as personal love and heartbreak.

Throughout her journey, Eliza leans on and learns from the women who surround her and give her the courage and fortitude to take her next step. Maiden aunts show her there can be more to life than a society debutante. Whether they volunteer for a Civil War veterans’ home, serve as one of the first court stenographers, teach painting at a settlement house, or assist eager students in the library of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, each one guides Eliza toward finding her own self-definition of becoming an independent woman.

Likewise, Eliza is forever connected through a sisterly bond with her classmates at medical school. Together they toil through four years of classes, labs, exams and practical practice. With love and support, they sustain each other from across the Atlantic and the hospital wards of WWI France to a medical partnership in the back side of Boston during the Depression. They learn and apply how to bring a sense of womanly sympathy to the rigors of science.

MY NOVEL celebrates the ties of women’s friendships which transcend history and reflects on the progress achieved by women to define a new generation for the twentieth century. 

I arrived at the event where I’m told the pitch needs to be one minute, and little did I know when I “signed in” that I would be the first one to present in front of 30 people.

CC Writers

On the spot editing indeed:

Rejecting her mother’s expectation of following a traditional path to become a debutante at 18, marry and enter a privileged society life, Eliza Edwards instead chooses to enter the first woman’s medical college in 1897 Philadelphia. Over the next fifty years, she embraces her own independence to cultivate and define a new generation of women.

The tumultuous global events which occur over these 50 years affect Eliza’s life choices as a doctor, wife and mother. From the maternity wards for immigrant women in Philadelphia, to the barracks at Massachusetts’ Camp Devens sieged by the Spanish influenza epidemic, to advocating for women’s access to safe and legal birth control to the sympathetic care of mentally disabled children, Eliza faces workplace challenges and triumphs as well as personal love and heartbreak.

Throughout her journey, Eliza leans on and learns from the women who surround her and give her the courage and fortitude to take her next step. She becomes a doctor as an enlightened century begins. Through careful application of their lessons and practice, Eliza and her classmates mold their learning into the hopes for a tomorrow where medicine would be considered not only a science, but also an art form, bringing forward a sense of dedication and sympathy by all physicians to all patients.

MY NOVEL celebrates the ties of women’s friendships which transcend history and reflects on the progress achieved by women to strive for more and achieve more.

The good news is the pitch was well received with constructive feedback for improvement. Even better, I met a woman who is also writing about the same time period and she said she’d love to read my book, “it sounds really interesting”. And lo and behold, I find out we share the same library where she leads a weekly yoga class that fits with my schedule. Bonus score – books and downward dog. A perfect combination. 

 

 

 

 

Bookmarked: Reviews Q2 2019

Q2 2019 books

Spring finally came to New England in late April as I continued to march forward with Eliza’s story. Rainy days followed by June beach days gave me plenty of extra time for research and writing and reading. I hope you’ll find a choice from the list below to spark your summer reading pile. The fourteen titles span fiction, non-fiction and biographies read for my NCL Book Club, research for my WIP and pleasure reading of my own choice. The books read for research will give you a hint of which time period I’m in and some of the issues I’m covering. There is one theme, however, I decided to abandon after my research as I felt it would require a curve off of my plot line. Any guesses which one didn’t make the cut?

From left to right and top to bottom.

The Collected Letters of Martha Gellhorn edited by Caroline Moorehead. Read for Research, hardcover – library loan. I stumbled upon Martha Gellhorn while researching a profession for one of my secondary characters. Her biography reveals another woman of history whose story I didn’t know. A prolific journalist, she was married to Ernest Hemingway as one of her many lovers starting in the early 1930s. She traveled extensively throughout the world and wrote for Harper’s, Collier’s and all the major magazines of the era. I admitted I didn’t read the entire book as I needed to focus my research on the 1930s period which aligns with my character development period. I’ll be checking this book out of the library to finish reading it after my WIP is finished and I have more time. RATING ****

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. Read for Book Club, Audible. Another unknown piece of history, this deeply researched non-fiction exposes a series of killings of the members of the Osage tribe in Oklahoma and the start of the FBI which investigated the murders. Although the book was long and at part tedious with multiple names and intertwined stories, our discussion was more interesting as our hostess and book selector has Osage ancestry through her father. RATING **

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. Read for Book Club, Hardcover – purchased. My only five star rating of the quarter. Apparently many others agree with me. I posted my review to Amazon and several Facebook groups on Historical Fiction which I belong to and the response was the highest I’ve had of any review. Many other book clubs are interested in scheduling a Skype interview with Lisa See. I hope I haven’t spurred an influx of requests to her inbox. Read my full review here: The Island of Sea Women. RATING *****

Margaret Sanger, A Life of Passion by Jean Baker. Read for Research, hardcover – library loan. Another biography of an influential woman whose work began in the 1920s and continues to be relevant after her death as her birth control clinics have evolved into Planned Parenthood. Her name and works needs to be elevated among more women whose choices today started with the passion of Margaret Sanger.  RATING ***

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. Read for Book Club, paperback – library loan. A contemporary story set in the early 1980s which delves into family relationships and the ravages of the AIDS epidemic. A good reminder of the horrors of AIDS and the secrecy which cloaked the homosexual community in the ’80s. I was reminded of the obituary I read of a classmate who died after contracting AIDS. He was in his late 20’s, a tragedy to loose someone so young. Beyond the social commentary, I found a few of the themes and topics were introduced on a peripheral basis and could have been more developed. In the end, I thought the book was more of a YA coming of age story. RATING **

Bossy Pants by Tina Fey. Read for Pleasure, paperback. One of my finds at the Morristown NJ library book sale for 50 cents. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of reading depressing and gripping research topics like The Great Depression and birth control and book club books about murder and AIDs, you need a detour into the light laughter and self-deprecating humor of Tina Fey. A quick, funny read.   RATING ****

City of Flickering Light by Juliettte Fay. Read for Pleasure, hardcover. After my coffee with Juliette, I had to read her latest book, another historical novel based in the 1920s. The three main characters arrive in early Hollywood looking to escape their former lives and find stardom in the silent movie business. Juliette presents each well-developed character as a relatable personality as each one struggles through their past demons and current societal ills, which continue today: drug use, discrimination over sexual orientation, women vying for success in male-dominated industries. I’m looking forward to seeing Juliette at a Cape Cod bookstore in a couple of weeks to see how she runs an author’s event. More info on my coffee with Juliette here: Shine a Spotlight. RATING ****

Go Get ‘Em by William Wellman, forward from Eliot Robinson. Read for Research, paperback. Although William Wellman is listed as the author, there is family folklore that my grandfather, Eliot Robinson Sr. ghost wrote the entire book about a WWI ace pilot whose story is used as propaganda to support the war effort in 1918 as the US increased its involvement.  We’ll never know for sure, but considering my grandfather was an author in the late 1910s and 1920s and William Wellman was a WWI ace pilot who went on to Hollywood as a director, I think the story is plausible. There is also the folklore Go Get ‘Em was adapted into Wings, a silent movie directed by Wellman and which won the first Academy Award for Best Picture in 1929. The glory of Amazon, I was able to rent the movie through Amazon Prime and suffered through it in black and white and subtitles one April night. Go Get ‘Em was better written than Man Proposes, the other novel I read by my Grandfather for research. RATING ***

Loom and Spindle, or Life Among the Early Mill Girls by Harriet Robinson (no relation to my knowledge). Read for Research, paperback – library loan. An interesting read about the young girls who worked in the textile mills of Lawrence and Lowell MA. First person accounts are transcribed and edited for easier reading. RATING **

Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell. Read for Research, paperback – library loan. A sad commentary on the family life of a rural Georgia family during the height of the Depression. The depths of despair are moving, albeit falls short of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Tobacco Road was banned from many Southern libraries due to its debasing account of a destitute, white sharecropper family driven by hungers for food and sexual urges. RATING **

Cape May by Chip Creek. Read for Pleasure – an advanced reader copy received through a FB giveaway. How many times can an author repeat himself? In a 256-page book, about 125 times. The premise of the story is promising: a young couple just married in the 1950s head from the South to Cape May NJ for their honeymoon where they meet and interact with a hodge podge of NY socialites during the off season. Have another gin and tonic, get drunk, and sit by the pool, night after night. There are only a couple of nights where any real action occurs over the two week span. As an aspiring novelist, I know how important reviews are for a debut, but I’d rather not give any than post a two-star one. RATING **

Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement by Barbara Berenson. Read for Research, paperback – purchased. An eye-opener to all the work done in MA for women’s rights, although I’m not totally surprised. I was happy to learn MA was one of the earliest states to ratify the 19th Amendment. More information on the 100th anniversary here: Votes for Women. RATING ***

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner. Read for Pleasure, Audible. I discovered Susan Meissner last year when I read As Bright as Heaven set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite historical fiction authors. A Fall of Marigolds presents a dual timeline plot which connects two characters through a silk scarf of marigolds design. The two timelines are separated by 100 years in NYC, September 1911 and 2011. The earlier story follows Clara, a nurse on Ellis Island who previously worked in the building of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. She is haunted by the trauma of the fire there which she escaped, but witnessed the death of so many other women and men, including the man she loved. Taryn, widowed by 9 – 11, is a textile designer who lives in NYC with her daughter. Writing a dual time line is challenging, but Meissner accomplishes the task with a compelling story of relatable women characters. RATING ****

The Buffalo Solider by Chris Bohjalian. Read for Pleasure, paperback – purchased. A local library book sale find for 50 cents. I’ve enjoyed other books by Bohjalian, namely Midwives, one of my Book Club’s first selections and The Sleepwalker, but this one fell flat. I powered through a drawn-out story of a family who fosters an African-American boy in rural Vermont. Too many loose threads were introduced and not tied together made this a plodding read. RATING: **

I am currently finishing Eunice by Eileen McNamara, an in-depth biography of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Queued up on my nightstand are Martha Hall Kelley’s Lost Roses, her prequel to Lilac Girls and In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende for my book club’s ironic July selection. I was fortunate to see both Eileen McNamara and Martha Hall Kelley present at back-to-back events in the Boston area in May. Author appearances are great fun and provide wonderful insights into motivations and back stories of books. I encourage you to look for them in your local area. Let me know if you attend any, I’d love to learn what makes them interesting and engaging as fodder for book marketing research.

Happy Summer Reading! I hope one of the above titles makes it into your beach or pool bag this summer.

Several books listed above are also mentioned in this post with more information: Mid-May Musings

More book recommendations are available on these pages:

Book Review Round Up Q1 2019

2018 Books In Review

Thank you for reading this post. I invite you to follow my blog and join me on my journey toward writing my first historical fiction.  More information in the Novel Synopsis. You can sign up from this page with the pop-up, or send me a note through the CONTACT page and I can email you an invitation to follow.

 

 

The Island of Sea Women

Book Club June 2019

Meet my Island of Sea Women, the wonderful ladies of my book club which originated in Norfolk over 20 years ago. Like the main characters, Mi-Ja and Young-Sook, early on in Lisa See’s newest book, The Island of Sea Women, we have developed friendships which have shaped our lives. I am forever grateful for this group of women who make me laugh, offer thoughtful discussions, support one another and partake in activities which go beyond the realm of a typical book club meeting.

Last week we gathered on Cape Cod at the beautiful home of our hostess, Leslie. Before we settled down to luncheon spread fit for royalty, we dialed up Lisa See for a Skype interview. AMAZING!  Lisa was so generous with her time staying on the line for 50 minutes answering our questions and giving us insights into the background and motivations of the story.

To say that we all enjoyed the book would be an understatement. Lisa presents a rich history of Korea before, during and after the Korean War teaching us in 350 pages more than we ever learned in a World History class. Entwined with the history and events of war, she explores and delves into the depths of women’s relationships, including the heartbreak when those bonds are severed with irreconcilable consequences. The story details the culture and commerce of the Koreans who live on Jeju Island, namely the women who make up the collective of haenyeo, women divers who harvest undersea gardens of conch, seaweed, octopus, sea urchins, abalone and more. Diving in frigid waters throughout most of the year, without air tanks, they support their community while the men tend to the babies and children, cook and laze around the village center.

At the core of the story, we follow Young-Sook from her early years as a “baby diver”, a young mother and on into her grandmother years as an esteemed elder and leader of her collective. Themes of guilt and the question of forgiveness mark the pages as deeply as they mark the ethos of Young-Sook and her friend, Mi-Ja, until the reader grapples with the questions herself and tries to place herself in each woman’s shoes, walking down their paths.

Beyond the exposition of human psychology, Lisa also weaves in the mysticism of the island landscape and folklore bringing the setting to life as a character of its own. From the caves and natural tunnel tubes, to the underwater fields, you are drawn into the Korean world of mountains and oceans, fields and cities, relishing its raw beauty and power.

Our book club has also read Lisa See’s books, Snowflower and the Secret Fan and Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. I don’t recall we have ever read three books by the same author. From the sounds of the research Lisa shared with us of her next book in progress, I think we’ll be reading a fourth one soon.

I would like to thank Lisa See for another exceptional book in my favorite genres of historical fiction and women’s fiction. She is an inspiration as I continue to slog through my final chapters. I may try the insider tip she told us during our Skype call. You all will have to figure out if I end up employing the tactic or not.

Until then, I’ll just take a breath, a breath, a breath …

*****The Island of Sea Women

Thank you for reading this post. I invite you to follow my blog and join me on my journey toward writing my first historical fiction.  More information in the Novel Synopsis. You can sign up from this page with the pop-up, or send me a note through the CONTACT page and I can email you an invitation to follow.

 

 

 

 

Votes for Women

votes china crop

Happy 100th Anniversary of the Massachusetts Ratification of the 19th Amendment. What’s that you say? You didn’t see anything in The Boston Globe this morning? Neither did I. (UPDATE – see below)

So, here’s your little known history fact of the day – on this day, June 25, 1919, the Massachusetts legislature ratified the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. Massachusetts was the 8th state after the process began on June 10th in Illinois. In order to gain national confirmation to become U.S. law, an additional 28 states would need to confirm the ratification. The process slowly rolled across the country with each state staging its own debates and hearings. Another year would pass before Tennessee claimed the honor of being the 36th state to ratify on August 26, 1920. Note – only 36 states were required for the majority since we only had 48 states back in 1919-1920.*

Sometimes we forget 100 years is not so long ago. Many of our grandparents and those of their generation are living well into their 90s. My own maternal grandmother was a young bride in 1920 to witness the ratification. Dying in 1989, with full mental capacity, she also witnessed the addition of Geraldine Ferraro to the Presidential campaign ticket in 1984 as Walter Mondale’s running mate. She may have even cast her vote in 1984 for the Democratic ticket. I don’t know, and regret asking her.

Today, we have how many women candidates in the 2020 Presidential race? I’ve lost count. The important fact is they are running and they’re able to run thanks to the decades and decades of work by the suffragettes of the 1800s and early 1900s.

As a progressive woman of her times, Eliza will be supportive of the movement. Although she may not be an active campaigner, she could work behind the scenes in many ways, like attending a fundraising luncheon at Alva Vanderbilt Belmont’s Marble House in Newport where she would dine off of a custom made set of dishes (photo above) or tending to the Boston suffragists jailed for protesting or attending an outdoor gathering outside the MA State House on June 25, 1919 to hear the proclamation.

Perhaps, like me, your first brush with the suffragette movement, albeit British movement, came from a Disney movie scene and not your American history books. In the words of Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins, join me in singing –

So, cast off the shackles of yesterday!
Shoulder to shoulder into the fray!
Our daughters’ daughters will adore us
And they’ll sign in grateful chorus
“Well done! Well done!
Well done Sister Suffragette!”

*Do  you notice a similar trend here the last states to ratify, after it had already been passed as the 19th Amendment, didn’t occur until 1969 – 1984? Mississippi, North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina. History does repeat itself you know – apparently even including a sensitivity and endorsement of women’s rights.

UPDATED, 6/26/19 – Nice to see coverage of Tuesday evening’s events by Alison Kuznitz in The Boston Globe: Modern-Day Suffragists Revel in 100th Anniversary of Voting Rights.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/06/25/modern-day-suffragists-revel-anniversary-voting-rights/swEiom3L3LNSIiiuHclVvO/story.html

 

Summertime

Summer Writing.jpg

And, the writing is easy. Or, easier it seems with fresh salt air blowing in through my porch windows. I can’t believe it’s been almost two years since my decision to embark on this writing journey. From enrolling in a creative writing class, to days of research, to drafting, editing and reviewing, I’ve enjoyed every minute. I’m excited to get to know Eliza and her friends and share them with readers. They remind me of my college friends and classmates. Notice the hat?  Cheers to the fabulous group of Wheaton women, Class of ’84, whom have given me so much encouragement and support on my adventure.

Now, I’m bearing down on completing the first draft of my manuscript. I’ve ordered a few more reference books from Amazon and through my Cape inter-library loan service to finish researching the subject I want to address for Eliza’s work during the 1930s. I think it will be powerful to pull in many parallels to current events and discussions in women’s rights and medicine. Stay tuned as Chapters 25 and 26 unfolds.

I’m also working against a self-imposed deadline to have a first draft ready to share by the third week of July with the best group of beta readers – my book club friends. I think I’ll be needing a few vacation days to finish. I’ve found I can’t really write while on the beach. Sand and sun glare on the tablet aren’t very conducive to a comfortable writing spot so I’ll have to stick to my porch and the quiet room at my library. Although I need to make note as to when the kids’ Lego Club meets at the library – not too quiet during that hour on Wednesday afternoons!

I’ve also signed up for a writers’ event in two weeks to practice my “pitch” in front of other writers. Crap – more distractions to keep me from writing. But, I think it will be an important exercise. The biggest challenge may be coming up with a title which I still haven’t chosen. I’ve been waiting to finish the first draft to see if a phrase or theme jumps out at me. I don’t think my working title, “Eliza’s Story” – yawn- will capture much attention.

June should be a productive month. I hit 75,000 words today (YOWZA!) which with a couple more chapters to go, plus editing out and adding in, should put me right in range of an estimated word count for a first time historical novel of 80K – 100K words.

In the words (or acronym) of one of my favs – LFG!!!

Ask me for the translation, or just Google “Tom Brady LFG”. 🙂

Musical Interlude

American Quartet.jpg

Presenting the heart-throb boy band of the 1910’s – American Quartet. Although without YouTube and MTV, or even the Ed Sullivan Show, could these four men really have been heart-throbs when their fans rarely saw them live? Their popularity stemmed from their vocal capacity and catchy tunes alone. Although the one on the far right has a smoldering sensuality IMHO.

One of my Facebook writing groups prompts us to post tidbits from our WIP (works in progress) related to a theme. Most recently, #FunFursday, has focused on incorporating the senses. Today’s theme was FOOD and taste. I have already written a post around some early descriptors of food in my WIP (see Mealtimes) so today I decided to share here a prior prompt for #FunFursday related to SOUND.

Sounds lend another way to provide sensory detail to a story’s setting and emotions. I stumbled upon the American Quartet while researching for a fun dance tune that would get my main character’s toe tapping. I found it with “Everybody Two-Step”.  Take a listen and tell me if you were able to keep your toes still: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aC5fhcXFFWw

I incorporated the light-hearted tune into this scene:

The pianist in the corner of the dining room seated himself for a late evening of sing-along-tunes played on phonographs across the country. The tinkling of the keys started in on the American Quartet’s newest favorite, Everybody Two-Step. Eliza’s white Italian boot began to tap to the rhythm beneath the white skirted table. Such frivolity. She never tapped her toe to music with Patrick. Harrison felt her foot move beneath the cloth and stood up from the table. He spun around on his heel in front of her, the tails of his dinner jacket swinging in a wide arc as the song rounded into its second refrain of the chorus. 

He held out his hand to her as he slurred, “Come my girly-girl, let’s do a two-step and I shall twirly-twirl you about the room.” The brazen, loud declaration and his pull on her hand sent the four men seated to their left into a roar of laughter and applause. Eliza’s neck and cheeks reddened like an over-ripe tomato wilting under a pulp of inner weight. 

 

Thank you for reading this post. I invite you to follow my blog and join me on my journey toward writing my first historical fiction.  More information in the Novel Synopsis. You can sign up from this page with the pop-up, or send me a note through the CONTACT page and I can email you an invitation to follow.

Scene Development: Newport RI

elms.jpg

While I’ve visited Newport before on several occasions, it was never with the intention of gathering first-hand research for scenes which will play out on the pages of my book. Newport in 1912 continued the heyday of the Gilded Age which began in the 1870s. Every “cottage” hosted the elite of Boston, New York and Philadelphia as they attempted to replicate European monarchies. For the past two days, I’ve felt the pull of the ocean along the Cliff Walk, sat in a wooden chair courtside of the Newport Lawn Tennis  Club (and now Tennis Hall of Fame), put my toes in the fine sand of Goosebery Beach unlike the rocky shore of Easton’s Beach, imagined the view from a confectionery store on Thames Street across to a bustling Bowen’s Wharf (before hideous, modern day and over-priced hotels were built), and toured several of the mansions, including The Elms (above) and the Vanderbilt’s Marble House. I needed to place Eliza inside these settings and wonder how they would affect her.

Eliza walked through the front door on Freddy’s arm. The opulence and richness of color surrounded her as if she had drunk from the glass bottle in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and shrunk small enough to walk through a Queen’s jewelry box. Dressed in one of Bea’s flowing evening gowns which no longer fit her, Eliza felt like a princess as she strolled through the rooms embellished with emerald greens, ruby reds, and sapphire blues. Twinkling diamond crystals hung from a chandelier in every room as if tiaras had been strung together with golden thread. Gilded gold adorned every surface; perhaps King Midas had been the first guest to the house. Life during a Newport Season played out like royal fairy tales.

gate and ledge

“Let’s go out. The moon on the water is magnificent. You can’t really get a good view here with the privet growing so high.” Harrison lifted the gate’s latch and stepped out onto the rocky swath of ground, less than eight feet from the cliff’s edge. He reached back for her hand. An imminent danger lay before them. One loose rock, one slip of her boot and they would plummet onto the jagged shore below where the heaving waves crashed onto themselves. A lone seagull cried into the wind as it returned to shore, searching for a sheltered spot for the night. Overhead, one by one stars appeared, sending their shine down onto the sea like silver nuggets sparkling on the black water. Eliza took his hand and followed him toward the ledge.

A pivotal event occurs in Newport and I wanted these scenes to be as authentic as possible. I am fortunate to have found a great little studio in Middletown, half a mile from Easton’s Beach, for easy access to Newport for research, a quiet nook for writing and sunshine overhead to glimpse out to the waves hitting on the other side of the inlet against the Cliff Walk area, and very affordable. Staying for just Sunday night, the owner even accommodated a late check out so I could spend nearly two whole days here. I highly recommend this gem of a spot available on Homeaway: https://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p423789vb?noDates=true

10 Hoover Rd

Thank you for reading this post. I invite you to follow my blog and join me on my journey toward writing my first historical fiction.  More information in the Novel Synopsis. You can sign up from this page with the pop-up, or send me a note through the CONTACT page and I can email you an invitation to follow.