Though I’m not ready to store my summer clothes just yet, my latest article published in Elegant Lifestyles Magazine is all about transitional dressing–what to wear when the weather is still-summer one day and entering-autumn another. Then there are the days that combine both!
Many years, when heading to our annual Pick-Your-Own-Pumpkin-and-Hay-Ride-Day at Ort Farms in Long Valley, we’d dress for crisp air and then shed layers as the afternoon sun warmed up the fields. We loved deciding which pumpkins would make the best jack-o-lanterns, smell the sweet hay, pet the adorable farm animals, and take home freshly baked apple cider doughnuts. The best part? Spending time together as a family and seeing other families doing the same.
Kathleen Wilford, one of my critique partners, can now say her middle-grade historical novel is published! The story is funny, emotional, full of interesting, historical details and, most of all, Cabby is engaging!
Kathleen Wilford’s debut CABBY POTTS, DUCHESS OF DIRT (Little Press) is a delightful story set in the 1870’s during the migration of Americans to the prairies of the Midwest for homesteading. Here is my review:
This historical fiction story set in the 1870’s, is a fast-paced trip to the days of homesteading on the Kansas prairies. When her parents force her to work at grand Ashford Manor, 12-year-old Cabby Potts will do anything to escape, including playing matchmaker between her sister and the rich young lord of the manor. If it succeeds, her scheme will save her family’s struggling homestead. If it fails? Cabby can’t even think about that.
Can Cabby find the courage to stand up for her family, a Native American friend, and an entire community threatened by land-grabbers?
The author does a wonderful job grounding the reader in time and place with period details and appropriate phrasing and language of the era. “My brain buzzed like it was full of gnats” is one of many similes that feels fresh and original. The characters are well-rounded and engaging, making for a quick read. Readers will enjoy Cabby’s antics and feisty demeanor as she navigates the unfamiliar world of the wealthy. A highly recommended debut.
I ran across a book called Prairie Fever, by Peter Pagnamenta, and I was intrigued to learn about the British aristocracy’s fascination with the American West. Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt is based on the true story of Victoria, Kansas, an enclave of British aristocrats in the 1870’s. Victoria was designed as a “community of culture and refinement” where “the arts and graces of life” could be imported straight from London.
I couldn’t imagine a bigger culture clash than between the English nobility and hardscrabble American homesteaders. I pictured an outdoorsy 12-year-old girl forced to work as a housemaid at a grand English manor, and the character of Cabby was born. Trying to save her family’s struggling homestead, Cabby plays matchmaker between her pretty, romantic sister Emmeline and the rich young lord of Ashford Manor. What could go wrong with that scheme?
As an author of historical fiction myself, I was immediately drawn into the setting and era of the story. What drew you to writing historical fiction?
I love the way historical fiction immerses readers into a different world. All good fiction is immersive, but with historical fiction, the past comes alive in a fresh way. And there’s a serious side too: I believe that to understand where we ARE, we need to understand where we’ve BEEN. Non-fiction helps readers do that too, but fiction adds an important layer of empathy.
As for this particular era, 1870’s Kansas, I’ve always been fascinated by pioneer literature, from Willa Cather to Laura Ingalls Wilder. My life is so easy compared to women who endured life on lonely prairies, living in sod houses and struggling to keep themselves and their families alive.
Tell us a bit about your research process.
I like to begin with books that situate the time period I’m studying in a larger historical context. I follow that up with more specific books and then with primary sources. For Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt, I consulted homesteader journals, 1870’s editions of the Dodge City Times, an 1841 book by Dr. Samuel Sheldon Fitch called Diseases of the Chest (fascinating, trust me), Mrs. Beeton’s book on the duties of a housemaid . . . etc.! Since I work for Rutgers, I’m lucky enough to have access to the rich depth of primary materials owned by the university. I think primary sources are key not only to authentic details but to the language of the times.
Several experts also helped me with questions, and of course, Google is great for filling in details!
What amazing thing did you discover while writing?
How much time do we have?? I learned so many fascinating tidbits of information, many of which I couldn’t include in the book but would be happy to tell you about sometime. Some facts that DID make it into the book: people used to believe that walking on the prairie could cure consumption (tuberculosis)—housemaids were not allowed to whistle in the house—dried up buffalo dung was burned for fuel.
One fact that informed my book: fully half of all homesteaders didn’t make it and never “proved up” on their claims. We tend to romanticize homesteading on the prairies, but it was brutally difficult.
What message do you want young readers to take away from this story?
I hope kids will enjoy a funny, fast-paced story with lots of drama! Beyond that, I hoped to give readers a clearer picture of the homesteading life. Along with showing how difficult the life was, I wanted readers to see how race and class prejudices infiltrated even supposedly egalitarian rural America. Cabby wakes up to this prejudice as she forms a friendship with Eli, a half-Kiowa boy. She finally learns to use her “intemperate tongue” to stand up for him, her family, and her whole community. In Cabby Potts, I tried to portray a funny, feisty girl growing into more awareness of her world, with all its imperfections. She learns to use her voice to make that world a better place, something I hope we all can do.
When one needs writing/publishing advice, who should one go to? First, I checked in with fellow NJSCBWI writer-friends. Shout to Laurie Wallmark who has written many women in STEM biographies in addition to Dino Pajama Party: A Bedtime Book, Donna Cangelosi whose debut picture book Mr. Roger’s Gift of Music launches Aug. 2022, and Ariel Bernstein who has written many humorous books including We Love Fishing. Then I connected with my cousin, writer/editor/novelist Aliza Fogelson. Aliza shared her publishing journey, listened to my concerns, and gave me honest and insightful advice. Thanks, Aliza!
I just finished reading Aliza’s adult novel The Lending Library, and the more I read, the more I wanted to find out what was going to happen to Dodie, her love life, friends, family, and the library she created in her home. Issues weren’t easily solvable, real-life emotions such as grief and longing for a child were explored, and the main character actually worked (as opposed to many stories/tv shows/movies where I wonder why isn’t anyone working?). Aliza’s descriptions of food highlighted one of Dodie’s passions and added–ahem–flavor to the story.
For fans of Jane Green and Loretta Nyhan, a heartwarming debut novel about a daydreamer who gives her town, and herself, an amazing gift: a lending library in her sunroom while confronting an even higher stakes, life-changing, decision.
When the Chatsworth library closes indefinitely, Dodie Fairisle loses her sanctuary. How is a small-town art teacher supposed to cope without the never-ending life advice and enjoyment that books give her? Well, when she’s as resourceful and generous as Dodie, she turns her sunroom into her very own little lending library.
At first just a hobby, this lit lovers’ haven opens up her world in incredible ways. She knows books are powerful, and soon enough they help her forge friendships between her zany neighbors―and attract an exciting new romance.
But when the chance to adopt an orphaned child brings Dodie’s secret dream of motherhood within reach, everything else suddenly seems less important. Finding herself at a crossroads, Dodie must figure out what it means to live a full, happy life. If only there were a book that could tell her what to do…
What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
If at all possible, write for pleasure—for your imagined reader and for yourself—instead of worrying about whether your book will ultimately be published or sell well. When inspiration strikes, follow it and write without editing or criticizing what you’ve written. Let that come later. If you can enjoy the process, the time you spent will likely feel worthwhile to you and you will learn a lot about writing whether or not your manuscript ends up as a published book.
Summer Fashion 2022 is all about bright, candy colors.
As soon as I turned in Sweet Summer Style for Elegant Lifestyles Magazine’s June 2022 issue, I noticed brightly colored, braided, quilted, and puffy sandals and bags everywhere. You know I love a theme, puns and wordplay, so I took sweet and ran with it: “Clothes Dress Up summer in Jelly Bean Brights,” “Shoes Loosen Up in Gummy Bear Flavors,” “Bags Act as Arm Candy in Swedish Fish Colors,” and “Sunglasses Shine in Shades of Ice Cream.”
Personally, I’m a big fan of wearing all white in the summer and accessorizing with a pop of color. Not everyone is a fan of wearing all white. I had a funny interaction with colleagues at the preschool this spring. For Purim–the “Halloween” of Jewish holidays–the preschool director decided the staff would dress up as Tootsie Pop lollipops. She ordered Tootsie Pop t-shirts and requested we wear white pants since Tootsie Pop sticks are white.
Me: “Sure. Do you want jeans, slacks or cargo pants?”
Teacher A: “I don’t own white pants.”
Me: “How do you not own white pants?!”
Teacher A: Makes a face at me and says, “You can wear white pants. I cannot!”
Teacher A turns to Teacher B: “Do you own white pants?”
Teacher B: “Definitely not!”
Teacher B tells director their “sticks” will not be white.
Director: “You don’t own white jeans, at least?”
Teachers A & B: “No!”
My co-teacher enters our classroom.
Me: “Can you believe Teachers A and B don’t own white pants?!”
Co-Teacher: “I don’t own white pants, either.”
Hon, which camp are you in? Love white pants or would never wear them?!
Where does “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” come from?
Right before the pandemic caused everything to shut down in March 2020, I’d written two articles for Elegant Lifestyles Magazine: one was an in-depth, 6-7 page feature about a fundraiser/showhouse called Mansion in May which included interviews and photos of custom-designed rooms; the other was a shorter bridal article about the history of the saying, “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
Though Mansion in May transformed into Splendor in September, ELS was temporarily shuttered and my articles never ran. So, I was pleasantly surprised when the editor of ELS (shout out to Kara Sibilia) included my bridal piece in the Spring 2022 issue. The topic is the saying, “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” which, it turns out, is based on superstitions surrounding evil spirits and fertility. The most interesting thing I learned?
‘Something blue’ is directly related to the Evil Eye jewelry we wear today. Though Evil Eye amulets dates back about 5,000 years, the earliest iterations of blue as the eye color were discovered in the Mediterranean in 1500 BC. Since blue eyes were a genetic rarity in that region, people possessing them were believed to be ‘uncannily proficient at bestowing the curse.’ Blue glass beads circulated around the world, and people wore their own Evil Eyes to deflect wicked stares. Brides traditionally wore blue garters to ward off, once again, the threat of infertility.
Researching color trends put me in the mood to paint, and learning how to create a butterfly and hummingbird garden has–ummm-planted the idea in my head! “How to Build a Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden” was published in the April-May 2022 issue of Elegant Lifestyles Magazine, and since it came out, I’ve been thinking about starting one. A couple of years back, when I covered a design mansion and then toured it, there was a lovely, four-season garden. Maybe I can combine the two…
As an added bonus, the butterfly pics accompanying the article are mine! When I showed my wonderful editor, Kara, the photographs I’d taken, she said she’d use them instead of stock photography–yay!
Hon, have you ever planted a butterfly or hummingbird garden?Did you get lots of visitors?
Researching color and design trends for the article I published in the April-May 2022 issue of Elegant Lifestyles Magazine made me re-think my own home. There are several rooms I’d like to refresh, painting them in 2022’s land, sea, and sky-inspired colors. I love how the latest subtle-but-saturated greens and blues are being used as “new neutrals,” giving rooms a nature-inspired, serene feel. Just what I need right about now!
Hon, are you re-painting any rooms? What color are you using?
I learned so much researching sustainable fashion for my feature article in the Winter 2022 issue of Elegant Lifestyles Magazine. Though I’d heard of eco-friendly fashion, I didn’t know about innovative fabrics such as “leather” made from mushrooms, “silk” made from oranges, or “cashmere” made from soy. It was fascinating to find out about the processes involved in creating fabric from natural, biodegradable sources, and it was eye-opening to learn what goes on from sourcing to production to shipping to retailing. The business owners I interviewed were happy to describe the merchandise they carry that can be labeled “Ethical Fashion.” And I learned about Capsule Wardrobes, a pared down closet containing quality pieces to mix and match.
The Winter 2022 issue of Elegant Lifestyles Magazine came out last week and in it are two of my articles. Researching the latest landscaping trends put me in the mood for warmer weather and an update of our backyard. I don’t know what we’re doing with the space that used to house a swing set. No rush, thank goodness, because there are so many ideas to choose from!
Transcript of speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. August 28, 1963. Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beckoning light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
One hundred years later the Negro is still languishing in the comers of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.
We all have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to change racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice ring out for all of God’s children.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted citizenship rights.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
And the marvelous new militarism which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers have evidenced by their presence here today that they have come to realize that their destiny is part of our destiny.
So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its Governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places plains, and the crooked places will be made straight, and before the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the mount with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the genuine discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, pray together; to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom forever, )mowing that we will be free one day.
And I say to you today my friends, let freedom ring. From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the mighty mountains of New York, let freedom ring. From the mighty Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snow capped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only there; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”