Monday, June 30, 2014

Julia Sand: Encouragement in a Time of Crisis

So just who was Julia Sand? I'd never heard of her until I read Candice Millard's Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, an amazing account of James A. Garfield's life and the assassination attempt on him while serving as president.

Garfield, an extraordinary man, was actually nominated for president against his will.  However, four months after his inauguration, he was shot in the back by the deranged Charles Guiteau, who'd sought a political office in Garfield's administration.

It wasn't the would-be assassin's bullet that killed the president, but rather the medical treatment Garfield received.  As Garfield suffered for nearly two months, the nation was thrown into turmoil, and during this time, Vice President Chester A. Arthur ( a not so extraordinary man) stayed in seclusion. When Guiteau was apprehended he announced his wish for Arthur to become president.  Because of this, there was a brief investigation into whether Guiteau had been hired by Garfield’s enemies.

Although no proof was found to support this, there were threats made on Arthur’s life and he feared making public appearances. Arthur’s past was linked to some scandals involving the New York Customhouse and many thought Arthur as president would mean disaster for the country.

Here's where Julia Sand fits into the equation.  She corresponded with Arthur beginning in late August of 1881, before Garfield's death.  Her last surviving letter is dated September 15, 1883. Sand referred to herself as the President’s “little dwarf”, alluding to the idea that in a royal court, the dwarf is the only one with courage enough to tell the truth.

Sand was an educated woman who lived in New York, yet when she began writing Arthur at age 31, she was bedridden due to spinal trouble, lameness and deafness.  What I'm posting below is a portion of Sand's first letter to the would-be president:

The day [Garfield] was shot, the thought rose in a thousand minds that you might be the instigator of the foul act. Is not that a humiliation which cuts deeper then any bullet can pierce?

Your kindest opponents say "Arthur will try to do right"– adding gloomily –"He won’t succeed though making a man President cannot change him."

…But making a man President can change him! Great emergencies awaken generous traits which have lain dormant half a life. If there is a spark of true nobility in you, now is the occasion to let it shine. Faith in your better nature forces me to write to you – but not to beg you to resign. Do what is more difficult & brave. Reform!
It is not proof of highest goodness never to have done wrong, but it is proof of it, sometimes in ones career, to pause & ponder, to recognize the evil, to
recognize the evil, to turn resolutely against it…. Once in awhile there comes a
crisis which renders miracles feasible. The great tidal wave of sorrow which has
rolled over the country has swept you loose from your old moorings & set you on
a mountaintop, alone.

Disappoint our fears. Force the nation to have faith in you. Show from the first
that you have none but the purest of aims.

You cannot slink back into obscurity, if you would. A hundred years hence,
school boys will recite you name in the list of Presidents & tell of your
administration. And what shall posterity say? It is for you to choose….

Apparently, her words of encouragement inspired and changed him. At the end of his presidency, Arthur earned praise from his contemporaries for his solid performance in office. In 1886, the New York World wrote: "No duty was  neglected in his administration, and no adventurous project alarmed the nation." And according to Mark Twain, "[I]t would be hard indeed to better President Arthur's administration."

Had you ever heard of Julia Sand? Also, can you think of anyone you can encourage today? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Reprinted from October 1, 2012.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Handy Writing Tip: Arrive Late, Leave Early

"Too many words..."
"Figure out what the action of the scene is going to be, or what its thrust is, and then start writing just a fraction before the action begins." Robert Masello, Robert's Rules of Writing, Rule 42: Make an Entrance

If you haven't guessed, Masello's Robert's Rules of Writing is one of my favorite craft books.  It's a small work jam packed with excellent advice!

Masello uses the example of a scene that takes place in a lecture hall.  Is it really necessary to show the students filing in, the professor straightening his notes at the podium, then clearing his throat and beginning the lecture?

Absolutely not!  If the oncoming conflict is an argument that takes place between the protagonist and the professor, that results in the protagonist getting kicked out of school, focus on that.

Masello says, "If that's what the scene is about, if that's what moves the action of your story forward, then come in just before the argument flares up and out of control.  And once the expulsion is given, end the scene...Lingering in that lecture hall will only dilute the power of the confrontation."

In closing, get to the point, and know when to quit.  Rambling and meandering is okay in a first draft, but while revising, cut what's possible so the reader won't be bored!

Reprinted from April 18, 2011.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Thirty Years a Slave

I ran across an interesting slave narrative recently and thought I'd share it today. Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave, And Four Years in the White House was written by Elizabeth Keckley.  She was best known as the personal seamstress and confidante of First Lady Mary Todd LincolnKeckley was born a slave in 1818, but purchased her freedom in 1860 and then moved to Washington. She created an independent business in the capital, and her clients included the wives of the government elite.

According to
Keckley not only became Mrs. Lincoln's dressmaker, she was also the first lady's personal dresser and closest companion. She was a White House habitué during the pivotal years of the Abraham Lincoln presidency; the two ladies travelled together, with Keckley present for the Gettysburg address, and they raised money together for the Civil War effort.
Keckley son's died in the war in August 1861, but her mourning was cut short to comfort Mrs. Lincoln, who lost her own son to typhoid the following February. Keckley was also there to provide support following the president's assassination and Mrs. Lincoln's transition out of the White House.
Keckley decided to write her memoir in part to salvage the former first lady's reputation after the war. However, the publication of Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years as a Slave and Four Years in the White House in 1868 had the opposite effect; feeling betrayed by the revelations in the book, Mrs. Lincoln cut off contact with the woman she once called her closest friend.
I just recently learned about Elizabeth Keckley. Were you at all familiar with her? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Interracial Love Gone Wrong

My friend Lisa sent me a link to this fascinating article about Alice Jones and Kip Rhinelander. What an interesting topic to blog about, especially since my soon to be released novel, Revelation, deals with a woman who hides the secret of a black grandparent.

Here's a brief overview of the story, courtesy of Wikipedia:

In 1921, Leonard Kip Rhinelander, a member of a socially prominent wealthy New York family, began a romance with Alice Beatrice Jones, a domestic. The two met during Rhinelander's stay at the Orchard School in Stamford, Connecticut, an inpatient clinic where he was seeking treatment for extreme shyness and stuttering. 

They had a three-year romance before marrying at the New Rochelle, New York courthouse in October of 1924, not long after Rhinelander turned 21. The couple moved in with Jones' parents in Pelham Manor. Although Rhinelander didn't tell his family about the marriage, he continued to work at Rhinelander Real Estate Company.

The couple tried to keep their marriage secret, but news of it was soon announced by the press. Because of the Rhinelanders' wealth and social position, New Rochelle reporters wanted to learn about Jones' background. After they began investigating, reporters discovered that Jones was the daughter of English immigrants and her father, George, was a "colored man". 

At first, Rhinelander stood by his wife during the scathing national coverage of their marriage. But after two weeks, he gave in to his family's demands to leave Jones.  He signed an annulment complaint that his father's lawyers had prepared. The document claimed that Jones had deceived Rhinelander by hiding her true race and passing herself off as a white woman. Jones denied this stating that her race was obvious. Rhinelander later said that Jones hadn't deceived him outright but did so by letting him believe she was white.

Sad story, and it only gets worse.  To see how it ends, check out the article by Theodore Johnson III,
When One Of New York's Glitterati Married A 'Quadroon'.

I'd read about this case before, had you ever heard about it?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Chicken Cacciatore

Italian food is one of my favorites! Here's a quick and easy recipe for the crock pot that can be thrown together in minutes.  It's from Mable Hoffman's Crockery Cookery. Hope you enjoy it!

Chicken Cacciatore

1 3lb broiler chicken cut up
1 onion, chopped
1 t dried basil
1/2 t lemon pepper
1/4 t salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup rose wine
1 T sugar
1/2 green pepper, sliced
1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
Cooked pasta

Combine all ingredients, except mushrooms and pasta in slow cooker.  Cover and cook on Low 5 to 6 hours Tune control to High and add mushrooms. Cover and cook about 10 minutes. Serve over pats. Makes 5-6 servings.

Do you have a favorite Italian meal for the crock pot? Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!
Republished from March 4, 2011.