Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 9, 2015

Thanking Readers

There’s some paper crunching and throwing happening on my window seat as I take a pretty good manuscript and try to add roadblocks or traps, and generally amp up the tension. I pull my turtleneck past my chin and scowl at the computer screen. But the celebratory yellow roses from my kind nephew and his wife remind me with every sweet breath of how lucky I am with relatives, friends, readers, and some who are all of those at once. Here’s a post of gratitude, including for a lovely review of Little Woman in Blue in The Recorder, which suggests May as a dream role for any actress (agreed!). Unabridged Chick (whose photo I reproduced below) notes, “Conservative New England mores combined with May’s family’s poverty means she struggles for access to materials, classes, and inspiration yet the fierce hunger we see in Louisa’s Jo (from Little Women) is just as urgent in May.” It was gratifying to see someone who didn’t like the youngest sister in Little Woman come to admire the real woman. And also to meet the hopes of some devoted Alcott fans such as the proprietress of Beth’s Book-Nook Blog who writes, “I’ve been known to stop reading a book, shout, “Hogwash!” and actually toss it away if it contains what I perceive to be Alcott sacrilege.” Yes, I’ve tossed some books myself, and am so pleased to know Beth thinks I kept on the right side of hogwash.

Audra

Most creative writing means trying to work a way into what Coleridge called the willing suspension of disbelief. Writing historical fiction always means taking care to get the food, clothing, and diction right, but while others who begin with biography play loose to good effect, I kept as close as I could to known chronology. I honored facts, while developing small episodes and filling in what isn’t known. I hoped not only not to annoy librarians and Alcott fans too much, but that they’d manage to fall under fiction’s spell and think Little Woman in Blue shows a way that things might have happened.

It’s an author’s dream to hear that people we never met are moved by our words, connecting with someone we’ve been living with alone in our rooms. It’s also lovely to hear from friends, such as Sue, who I’ve known for decades, who tells me about reading the novel to her mother, sometimes in the waiting rooms at doctors’ offices. A colleague in the English Department at UMass wrote, “To say that it sure beats Trollope does not do it or you justice.” And my daughter gave the novel five stars on Goodreads, which is one more than she gave Mindy Kaling. I’m honored.

lake

Now I’m back to new work, fresh with inspiration from the SCBWI Eastern NY Falling Leaves conference on Lake George, a weekend of writing and critiquing with peers, and gaining wisdom from generous editors. There was a bit of down time, too, including taking a walk with Toby Speed, talking about her poetry and how I imagined my protagonist responding to the trees, cottages, and signs on the road. When we wound our way back to the porch and I stopped to take a picture of these chairs, she laughed and said, “Oh, this will be on your blog. How you heard your characters between buildings and by the lake.” Yes, and between the slats of conversation with her. Grateful.

chairs

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