For many years I’ve been curious about all those family members who have made me who I am. Several months ago I made a chart starting with eight sheets of 8 ½x14 paper taped together in two rows of four each.
Then I drew lines for seven generations with me as the first one on a single line in the middle of the chart’s bottom. I put my parents on the next 2 lines widely separated; above those 4 lines for my grandparents; then 8 (great grandparents); 16 (2nd great grandparents); 32 (3rd great grandparents); finally, 64 (4th great grandparents.
How many of those lines are filled? All of my grandparents and 1st great grandparents. I am missing only one of my 2nd great grandparents (the name of the mother of my great grandmother from Scotland). From there on my chart becomes sketchy. I have 17 of 32 of 3rd generation grandparents’ names. Only 10 of the 64 (4th generation) are filled in.
However, I was pleased to find four of the next generation which includes one who fought in the American Revolution. Another entered the War of 1812. Perhaps some fought in the Civil War, but I do not have their names.
If a bowl of chips or box of chocolate is on the table. You take just one. Can you then walk away satisfied? I can’t.
Tracing one’s genealogy becomes equally additive. It is easy to spend hours online searching one site or another. The name of a grandparent pops up. I am thrilled. But, who are their parents? When were they born, married, died? One question after another one keeps me staring at the screen.
This past two weeks I have spent most of my time sitting in front of this computer. I have working on submitting manuscripts for publication. At the top of my agenda are three books I’d love to see published. Books that have been in the writing in various forms for many years—one is a biography of architect Mary Colter for middle school children, a picture book of Mary Colter for lower grades, and a chapter book telling the story of a young girl living on a farm during World War II.
All three of these books have been through several revisions and critiqued by my writing group and edited again. But I have let them sit quietly in my computer. Yes, I did send them out once or twice and received a rejection. No, I don’t like to receive rejections, but they don’t discourage me from writing. I’ve even received encouraging rejections, such as: “I love the story, but it is not right for us.”
How to find that one agent or editor who says, “I love the story, here’s a contract?”
Nothing submitted. Nothing published. I know this.
So this is my New Year’s resolution:
I will submit at least one story to an agent or editor every week.
Perhaps having written this for all to see, I will work to keep my resolution.
REVISE, REVISE, REVISE
This morning a note from an editor gave me the news that she can’t accept my picture book of Mary Colter as it is. She recognized that I have done extensive research and closed with the hope that I will consider revising it.
I will definitely consider revision. Now comes the hard part. How to put another person’s life in a form that is interesting and helps you know that person. Colter wrote almost nothing about herself. Her correspondence dealt with her work as an architect. Some quotes about her from other people give us an insight into her personality. Her interests and personality also come through in her buildings. OK. Now I have those insights and personality traits into words –words that children will understand.
I’m thinking along the lines of buildings that tell stories. It will be a while before I try to commit this idea to paper, but I am making notes as I think of them.
When I am in a project , writing is an all-consuming task whether or not anything is put on paper.
Mary Colter was an architect, who built amazing buildings. She achieved success during her life, but is not given her due, in my opinion, in today’s architectural history.
This is also true of other pioneering women in the field of architecture.
One was Julia Morgan, who lived from 1872 to 1957, comparable to Colter’s life. She was one of the first women to earn a degree in civil engineering. Bernard Maybeck, who had encouraged Colter, also encouraged Morgan to go to Paris to study architecture.
She opened her own architectural business in 1904 in San Francisco. Her most famous building was commissioned by William Hearst, who hired her to design the main buildings on his ranch in San Simeon, which is now known as Hearst Castle. She continued work there until 1947. A few years later she retired and lived quietly, dying in 1957.
Louise Blanchard Bethune was born in Waterloo, New York in 1856. Waterloo was in the heart of the women’s movement. She took a job as a draftsman in a Buffalo, New York, firm. It was more common to apprentice to become an architect than going to college.
While there she met and married Robert Bethune. Together they opened an architectural firm.
Bethune is best known for her design for Hotel Lafayette in Buffalo. It is considered her masterpiece.
She was the first woman to become an associate of the American Institute of Architects in 1888, and a fellow of the AIA the following year.
These are a few of the women pioneers in architecture in the United States.
An excellent book on the subject is The First American Women Architects by Sarah Allabeck, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 2008.
I recommend it.
I’ve been thinking about trying the November Novel in a Month. Would this take time I need to get cover letters, outlines, queries, resumes, market analysis, and sample chapters ready to send out to the thirteen possible publishers I’ve identified for my Mary Colter book? They do need to get out because replies take anywhere from one month to six months.
But writing a 50,000 word draft of a novel in thirty days would be a challenge – one that might be the very one I need to jump start my publishing – however doubtful. The topic would be my life as the wife of a Protestant minister. It would start while I was still in college and declared to my friends that I never wanted to marry a minister. It would continue through my marriage to a US Navy man, university, seminary and four ministries, three in upstate New York and one in Warsaw, Poland. I’m not certain it would be exciting or memorable, but it would document Richard’s fifty years of ordination and how ministry affected me and our family life.
In writing magazines, I read about lack of ideas for writing. I have two unedited novels on my shelves. A middle grade novel in first person about a young boy rafting logs to market on the Delaware River in the 1700s in my head. It would be fun to research and write. My computer holds about a third of a middle grade sequel to my completed novel “A Long, Long Summer” (which also needs marketing). I need uninterrupted time to finish it. Then I have an idea for biographies of noted women composers. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and other men are celebrated, but what about Amy Beach, Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, and others still living.
I must decide how I should use my time, which seems to fly into the wind. Do the needed marketing, or try something totally new? I’m tempted.
What do you think?
When traveling this week with an Oregonian friend, we came across this sign in a park beside a covered bridge.
“Daniel Skinner and Josiah Parks are credited with running the first raft down the Delaware River to Philadelphia in 1764.” Daniel failed in putting logs together for a raft in his first tries. Then “he developed a method of mortising the ends of the mast timbers, inserting a white oak spindle and pinning the ends of lumber creating a raft.” It took Skinner and Parks eight days to float his raft to Philadelphia where he was paid $29 in gold for each mast.
Rafting became a popular way to get logs to market. The Delaware River was named a public highway for log rafting. It was a dangerous job and many men lost their life.
I grew up near the village of Deposit, New York, so named because all winter logs were “deposited” on the banks of the Delaware to await the spring thaw when they could be rafted to market. Deposit’s high school teams are called the Lumberjacks. The annual Lumberjack Festival each July draws modern day lumberjacks to show their prowess at rolling logs, slicing through a log with an ax, and in other lumbering skills.
My first thought on reading the poster was that young children might like to read about these men and their adventures. My thoughts about approaching the subject haven’t gelled yet. Should it be a strictly factual story or a adventure of a young boy? Writing this makes me think both.
If you want to know more about Daniel Skinner and Josiah Parks see: History of Wayne County, [Pa.] By Phineas G. Goodrich (available on line)
Each week I participate in critiquing work of my companion writers in my writers’ group. Sometimes the story is so well told our only criticism involves forgotten commas or a missing word. Other times we question what is happening at that moment in the story because we find something confusing.
Our group had critiqued a story I submitted for a critique at a writers conference. The critique was returned in written form, so there was no opportunity to question his/her conclusion. Since then I have had two people read the story and the critique. Both felt he/she had missed the point of the story.
Now the question is what do I do with this professional critique. I can agree with a point made about certain rhyming words. To use the other points, however, would in effect eliminate the repetitious rhyme which is the point of the story. I think I’ll probably do nothing whether or not it ever gets published. Am I right or wrong? I don’t know.