Friday, December 30, 2011

The "Outting" of Fanny Fern

William U. Moulton
Today I was honored to write a guest post for Rob Velella's fabulous blog, The American Literary Blog.  Of course, I wanted want to write about Fanny Fern, and Rob asked me to write about a very specific point in Fern's life, the date and circumstances when her nom de plume was no longer cloaked in anonymity and her true identity was revealed.  That date was Dec. 30, 1854.  Her nemesis?  The best guess of many scholars is that it was one of her former Boston editors, William U. Moulton, editor of Boston's True Flag.  His motive?  Check out the blog to see.  And, while you're at it, read Rob Velella's other thoughtful and informative posts about Fanny Fern and a host of other 19th-century American authors.

Click here to read more:  American Literary Blog 

*Special thanks to Rob Velella for finding the picture of Moulton.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A great blog if you love 19th-century American Literature . . .

Take a stroll through the past and get great insights about literature to boot.  I've discovered this excellent blog, by Rob Velella, a 19th-century American Literature aficionado and scholar.  Oh, the tidbits he knows!  Oh, the lessons he shares!  Oh, the writers he champions!  <cough, cough, including our own Fanny Fern>  Take a look at this fascinating and well-conceived blog when you have a chance.  He covers all the favorites and explores more than a few lesser-known authors.  And rumor has it that he's dishing about Fanny right about now, if you happen to check in. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Enjoy the Darkness

Happy Winter Solstice -- the official day when the axial tilt of the planet's polar hemisphere is farthest away from the star it orbits. Our star, of course, is the sun, and the Winter Solstice officially marks the shortest day and longest night of the year.  It's no wonder that light reigns supreme during this season.  Whether the glow comes from the soft flicker of Hanukkah or Kwanzaa candles, a roaring fire in the grate, or the the twinkle of Christmas trees, we all need the comfort of a little extra illumination about now.  But, don't chase away the magic of darkness completely.  Enjoy the peace and velvet quiet inherent in the longer nights.  Sleep deeply, rest, and breathe in the serenity of this deep, dark winter, even as you light it up. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Movie Time

George Clooney's latest film, "The Descendents," is probably one of the best films he's ever been in.  Although this promotional photo makes the movie seem like one of those slapstick holiday feel-goods, the film is really one of the most thought-provoking commercial films I've seen in a while.  True, there are one-liners and moments of slapstick, but "The Descendents" goes beyond that to explore serious issues about relationships, death, money and the environment.  Check out the trailer by clicking below:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Sleigh Bells and Ink Wells" Blog Hop

Are you ready to hop?  Take this tour of 12 blogs -- some you may already know and some new ones.  It's easy.  It's fun.  It's a good Friday diversion.


‘Tis the season, you know, for giving and receiving – mostly for giving, though, right?  But, what is the nature of true giving?  How does one define generosity?  Philanthropy?

As is often the case, my idol, Fanny Fern, has already written the perfect seasonal column about this very topic.  Who is Fanny Fern?  Fanny Fern (the pen name of Sara Payson Willis), was one of the most successful, influential, and popular writers of the nineteenth century. A novelist, journalist, and feminist, Fern (1811-1872) outsold Harriet Beecher Stowe, won the respect of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and served as literary mentor to Walt Whitman. Scrabbling in the depths of poverty before her meteoric rise to fame and fortune, she was widowed, escaped an abusive second marriage, penned one of the country's first prenuptial agreements, married a man eleven years her junior, and served as a nineteenth-century Oprah to her hundreds of thousands of fans. Her weekly editorials in the pages of the New York Ledger and other periodicals over a period of about twenty years chronicled the myriad controversies of her era and demonstrated her firm belief in the motto, "Speak the truth, and shame the devil."  

As part of the “Sleigh Bells and Ink Wells” Blog Hop, my blog will introduce you to the real-life writing of the heroine of my historical novel Shame the Devil.  Her typically-sarcastic June 5, 1852 article, published in Boston’s The Olive Branch, follows:

Mistaken Philanthropy

“Don’t moralize to a man who is on his back;—help him up, set him firmly on his feet, and then give him advice and means.”

There’s an old-fashioned, verdant, piece of wisdom, altogether unsuited for the enlightened age we live in; fished up, probably, from some musty old newspaper, edited by some eccentric man troubled with than inconvenient appendage called a heart!  Don’t pay any attention to it.  If a poor wretch—male or female—comes to you for charity, whether allied to you by your own mother, or mother Eve, put on the most stoical, “get thee behind me,” expression you can muster.  Listen to him with the air of a man who “thanks God he is not as other men are.”  If the story carry conviction with it, and truth and sorrow go hand in hand, button your coat up tighter over your pocket book, and give him a piece of—good advice!  If you know anything about him, try to rake up some imprudence or mistake he may have made in the course of his life, and bring that up as a reason why you can’t give him anything more substantial, and tell him that his present condition is probably a salutary discipline for those same peccadilloes!  Ask him more questions than there are in the Assembly’s Catechism, about his private history, and when you’ve pumped him high and dry, try to teach him—on an empty stomach—the “duty of submission.”  If a tear of the wounded sensibility begins to flood the eye, and a hopeless look of discouragement settles down upon the face, “wish him well,” and turn your back upon him as quick as possible.

Should you at any time be seized with an unexpected spasm of generosity, and make up your mind to bestow some worn-out old garment, that will hardly hold together till the recipient gets it home, you’ve bought him, body and soul; of course, you are entitled to gratitude of a life-time!  If he ever presumes to think differently from you after that, he is an “ungrateful wretch,” and “ought to suffer.”  As to the “golden rule,” that was made in old times; everything is changed now; it is not suited to our meridian.

People shouldn’t get poor; if they do, you don’t want to be bothered with it.  It is disagreeable; it hinders your digestion.  You would rather see Dives than Lazarus; and, it is my opinion, your taste will be gratified in that particular,—in the other world, if not in this!

--Fanny Fern

Ha!  You said it Fanny!  To learn more about Fanny Fern and my historical novel about her, click here: Shame the Devil.

To continue onto the next “Sleigh Bells and Ink Wells” blogger, the amazing Malcolm R. Campbell, click here: Malcolm’s Round Table.  From Malcolm’s site, you’ll be directed to hop to the next blog until you finish the whole short, wonderful tour of twelve blogs.  Enjoy! 

“Sleigh Bells and Ink Wells” blog hop participants are authors of small press/university press books that are eliciting discussion and notice.  Blog hoppers include:

Smoky Zeidel @ Smoky Talks

Patricia Damery @ Patricia Damery

Debra Brenegan @ Debra Brenegan, author

Malcolm R. Campbell @ Malcolm’s Round Table

T.K. Thorne @ T.K.’s Tales

Anne K. Albert @ Anne K. Albert

Elizabeth Clark-Stern @ Elizabeth Clark-Stern’s Blog

Collin Kelley @ Modern Confessional

Sharon Heath @ Sharon Heath

Melinda Clayton @ Author Melinda Clayton

Leah Shelleda @ After the Jug was Broken

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Coming to you: Friday, Dec. 16th

You're Invited to a
"Blog Hop"

Read about new books

Read about new authors

Get ideas for your holiday gift list

Visit some new, quality blogs


Monday, December 12, 2011

Simple Pleasures

They say the best things in life are free.  When you think about it, our lives are laced with hundreds of simple pleasures – little perks that satisfy and sooth, that make life seem A-Okay. 

Here’s a partial list of life’s little niceties:

A new toothbrush

Sleeping in on a rainy day

A baby’s smile

Making all the traffic lights

Fresh flowers – delivered

Finding money you didn’t know you had

Clothes that fit just right

Receiving a snail mail letter

The smell of bakery air

Hearing the right song at the right moment

Stars on a clear night

Saying the same thing simultaneously

Snow Days

The first bowl of cereal from the box

Fresh bed sheets

Drowsing in the sun with a light breeze

A good laugh shared

Spying your favorite bird at the bird feeder

When the workout is over

A sunset

What are some of your favorite simple pleasures?  Take a minute and add to the list!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Joys of a Hot Bath

In The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath writes about the pleasures of a hot bath from the perspective of the novel’s narrator, Esther Greenwood.

Plath writes:

“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say : “I’ll go take a hot bath.”

I meditate in the bath. The water needs to be very hot, so hot you can barely stand putting your foot in it. Then you lower yourself, inch by inch, till the water’s up to your neck.

I remember the ceiling over every bathtub I’ve stretched out in. I remember the texture of the ceilings and the cracks and the colors and the damp spots and the light fixtures. I remember the tubs, too:  the antique griffin-legged tubs, and the modern coffin-shaped tubs, and the fancy pink marble tubs overlooking indoor lily ponds, and I remember the shape and sizes of the water taps and the different sort of soap holders.

I never feel so much myself as when I’m in a hot bath.

I lay in that tub on the seventeenth floor of this hotel for-women-only, high up over the jazz and push of New York, for near onto an hour, and I felt myself growing pure again. I don’t believe in baptism or the waters of Jordan or anything like that, but I guess I feel about a hot bath the way those religious people feel about holy water.

I said to myself:  “Doreen is dissolving. Lenny Shepherd is dissolving. Frankie is dissolving. New York is dissolving, they are all dissolving away and none of them matter any more. I don’t know them, I have never known them and I am very pure. All that liquor and those sticky kisses I saw and the dirt that settled on my skin on the way back is turning into something pure.”

The longer I lay there in the clear hot water the purer I felt, and when I stepped out at last and wrapped myself in one of the big, soft white hotel bath towels I felt pure and sweet as a baby.”

- From: The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

I couldn’t agree more.  In fact, during this hectic season when the holidays press and the end of the year work worries loom large, schedule some quality time with your bathtub, like Sylvia Plath’s Esther Greenwood does. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gloria Steinem Still Rocks

In an article printed today in Bloomberg Business Week, famed feminist Gloria Steinem said, “Sometimes people say to me, at my age, well aren’t you interested in something other than women’s issues? And I say ‘show me one. Show me one that isn’t transformed by including both halves of the population.’”

Steinem still says it all, still cuts to the crux of the issue. It is not just about equality and equal opportunity, about equal pay and equal rights. It’s about allowing 51% of the population to fully participate. It’s about basking in the benefits those 51% of people bring to society – absorbing their input, relishing their creativity, living with the wonder of their ideas and beliefs and values, profiting from their expertise, learning from their perspectives. Full societal participation by all people won’t take away from those who already participate – it will add to the betterment of everyone in ways we have yet to imagine.

To read the entire Bloomberg Business Week article click on the link below: