Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 13, 2014

May Alcott and Me

I’m in full dream-come-true mode as I announce that LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE: A NOVEL OF MAY ALCOTT will be published by She Writes Press in fall 2015.

My fascination with the youngest Alcott sister began when I was a girl playing Little Women with two friends and my older sister, who claimed the role of Jo March. I also wanted to get my hands ink-stained and eat apples in a garret, but I didn’t see what was so wrong with liking clothes or handsome boys, too. As years passed and I learned about point of view, I wondered how much the portrait of May changed to Amy in Little Women was developed from the lens of an older sister, who might have been jealous of an independent girl who didn’t feel as strong a need to please their parents.

The many writers of nineteenth century Concord gave me plenty of material to research. I walked on cobblestones and through woods, imagining my way into the sister, daughter, artist, and lover of romance. I swam in Walden Pond, where May also swam, though in a flannel gown. I rewrote the novel multiple times: just ask my writing group, who patiently and thoughtfully read through revisions of revisions. I could tell you long stories about the manuscript finding its way on and off the desks of agents and editors, but at last it found a happy home at She Writes Press, a hybrid press that is creating innovative ways to put women’s books into the world at a time when the old ways don’t always work well. The people I’ve begun working with have been warm, straightforward, smart, and respectful, making the publishing experience – fun!

I’m excited that more people will get to cheer for May Alcott, someone I came to love the more I learned and wrote. She was inspired by Michelangelo, and while never matching his extraordinary talent, May courageously worked among people who said women couldn’t paint a masterpiece. Despite what she was told, and many kinds of setbacks, she kept doing what she loved. In my eyes, that makes her great.

Rose_Peckham_-_Abigail_May_Alcott_Nieriker_(d._1879)

A portrait of May painted in Paris by her friend Rose Peckham, displayed at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House.

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Responses

  1. Oh, I’m so excited! This is wonderful! Congratulations, Jeannine.

    • Thank you, Becky, and for passing along word on Facebook. I look forward to you reading this, with your historically-sharp eyes!

  2. Reblogged this on Louisa May Alcott is My Passion and commented:
    This is big news – the first of its kind – a novel about May Alcott! And from one of our readers, Jeannine Atkins, author of several books including her most recent, Views from a Window Seat and Beyond Little Women (see previous post). Congratulations, Jeannine, we can hardly wait!

    • Susan, you’ve been such a fun and inspiring companion on this journey. Thank you for spreading the news on your great blog!

  3. So very happy to read of this latest accomplishment. Hooray for May!
    Linda

    Linda Lear,Ph.D
    linda@lindalear.com
    http://www.rachelcarson.org
    http://www.bpotter.com
    http://www.lindalear.com

  4. Such wonderful news! I’m dancing in my kitchen for you, Jeannine — and remembering a late autumn walk by Old North Bridge, and time spent scribbling and sipping tea in a Concord cafe. I can’t wait to read this book!

    • Amy, one of my most cherished memories is walking by the river and run-down garden by the Old Manse and talking about those near and dear to us, kept safely in our notebooks. You’ve been such an inspiration, and can’t wait till this book makes its way to you!

      • This warms my heart, Jeannine. So happy for shared memories, and for your wonderful book!

  5. SCREAM How did I miss this yesterday?!

    Big hoorays and congratulations, Jeannine. Fabuloso to the max!!!

    • I’m so excited I can’t get my dates straight. Whew! I’m glad I didn’t actually miss this wonderful news before. 🙂

      • Jama, you are very cute when you’re excited. Don’t spill the tea! xo

  6. I’ve only read the first sentence, and I’m on the run – will come back and read more – but Jeannine, YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Sarah, thanks for the big cheer, and all the important smaller ones along the way.

  7. Wow Jeannine, how exciting! Congratulations! I’m so happy for you and for all of your readers like me. I can’t wait to hold a copy and immerse myself in May’s world. 🙂
    I so appreciate the way you explore the untrodden path and open that up for all of us to discover. Such a gift you offer to us all, dear friend. And I’m so happy that you’ve found a good home that will take care of its journey out into the world. Much love and a big hug to you!

    • It’s my great pleasure to think of you immersing yourself in May’s world. Thank you for the kind words about my passion for those untrodden paths — and the hug! Sending one back.

  8. Yah! Big congrats, Jeannine!!!

  9. Jeannine!!! I am thrilled for you! Congrats all over the place! I’m both thrilled and envious you’ve written an adult novel, something I wish I could do (if I aimed for an adult novel, it might be a YA, maybe). And I’m proud you stuck it out during this process because you believed in your subject, the Alcott sister no one thinks much about, and you trusted your work.

    Hurray!

    • I love books for children and teens, but this story is one of little women all grown up. Trusting the work — that’s what we do, right, though it may take its own sometimes bittersweet time. I am happy to celebrate with you! (and now back to our regular reading of Thoughts of Shy Writers)

  10. This is what I’ve been waiting for, knowing full well (and deep in my heart) that it was only a matter of time. Oh ((((Jeannine)))), I am kvelling for you!!!

    My Nana’s first name was May. She was the heart of my heart–and so is this news.

    • Lovely to hear from your very deep heart, Melodye. It will be a good year for us!

  11. This is such exciting news, Jeannine, and I’m so happy for you! Through just the few years I’ve been reading your posts& the book of essays, there have been small references to this research, & because I loved Borrowed Names so much, I know it will be grand. I had a dear great-aunt May, so just love the name. Congratulations!

    • Thank you, Linda, for all your cheering on. May was actually her middle name (as it was for her sister Louisa May), their mother’s maiden name — but she thought it was prettier than her given “Abigail,” so as a teen asked everyone to call her that. I agree, a lovely name!

  12. Leaping! Dancing! Cheering! So glad to know another book by Jeannine Atkins will soon hit the shelves. And my shelf, too! YAY! Congrats, Jeannine!

    • Carol, thank you for the leaps, dances, and cheers!

  13. Happy dance time! So excited for you to be fulfilling a lifelong dream. Can’t wait to read it.

  14. I’ve always liked Amy, and May. I could never help thinking, what if May had had her baby in the era of modern medicine …
    Looking forward to the book!!

    • Thanks, Jenn. It’s poignant you think of that. We can’t know all the details, but there seems some evidence of the tragedy falling as the modern era began, when some arrogant doctors thought they knew more than experienced midwives…

  15. Jeannine, FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!

  16. Well, bravo and well done and hooray, my friend! Such exciting news – and now I have a marvelous book to look forward to.

    • Thank you, Tara. It will be a honor to have this on your mighty book stack!

  17. HOORAY! Now I can read on from what you shared with me. I’m so excited! Congratulations!!

    • Debbi, thank you for your gentle encouragement to share, and your enthusiasm. Both meant so much to me. And thanks for your patience in waiting for the end (and let’s hope you’re called on for less patience in all writerly things this year) xo

  18. Congratulations! Fabulous news.

  19. Yes, congratulations, Jeannine!

    • Thanks, Meredith, and for your keen-eyed assistance!

  20. So glad to see this news writ large (or large-ish) on the internet. Cannot wait for your book to come out. Will they let you use May’s portrait for the cover?

    • Yes, it’s exciting to move the news beyond whispers. I love that portrait of May, but in cover discussions and seeing samples I’ve been taken by an image I agree is still more striking, showing a less pensive side, fitting for a woman of action.

  21. So absolutely thrilled for you, Jeannine!! You’ve always been exemplary to me, and now May is, too, as I see that you and she are cut from the same steadfast cloth.

    • Thanks, Sarah. As a writer, I’ve seen some of myself in Louisa, while admiring her younger sister’s spirit. She continued to surprise and delight me through much of the long writing process — something really necessary. All those hours, over years spent with someone: she had better be someone you love.

  22. This is so exciting, Jeannine! I’m looking forward to getting my hands on this book. I know it’s wonderful.

    • What a kind thing to say, Dori. Thank you!

  23. […] and till then, I’ll be drinking many cups of anticipation tea, daydreaming about Concord. Click here to read Jeannine’s post about the book (isn’t that a stunning cover?), and here to […]


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