Katherine Keenum


A blog about how paintings, photographs, and prints have helped me visualize my fiction—both Where the Light Falls and works-in-progress—with a hope that they will stimulate other writers and readers, too.

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Selected Works

Fiction
An American woman art student meets a Civil War veteran in Belle Époque Paris.

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Picturing a World

The more things change—

March 6, 2017

Tags: work-in-progress

The more things change, the more they stay the same! Long before presidential tweets, there was pulp fiction. This morning, while looking into a question about the early 20th C publishing industry for ANONYMITY, I came across this title and couldn’t resist posting it.

It was published in Cleveland by The Arthur Westbrook Co. I suppose I could have had my Ohio heroine, Mattie, work closer to her native Circleville; but it would have been harder for her to keep her secrets there. She headed for the big time.

Incidentally, New York University’s Fales Library and Special Collections Guide to the Levy Dime Novel Collection is rich source of titles to borrow, alter, or parody.

Inez Milholland

January 23, 2017

Tags: suffrage, work-in-progress

Photographs of Inez Milholland in a white costume on a white horse leading the March 1913 woman’s suffrage parade in Washington appeared this past weekend in several stories about the 2017 Women’s March in Washington. She was brilliant; she was dashing; and she died (more…)

Stenographer or reporter?

September 19, 2016

Tags: Mattie, work-in-progress, offices, illustration, magazine, work-in-progress, publishing

Mattie Palmer, the heroine of ANONYMITY, my work-in-progress, is a “stenographer” or secretary in a publishing firm. Before going to New York around 1900, she had been a reporter in Cincinnati.

So far, I haven’t been able to find the short story, “A Girl Who Became a Reporter,” for which this is an illustration; (more…)

Clipping services

September 15, 2016

Tags: work-in-progress

A minor plot turn early in ANONYMITY could be most easily handled if clipping services existed in 1908. They did! A Londoner named Henry Romeike seems to have begun the first one ca. 1880, and the idea rapidly spread. At first, they tended to be cottage industries; but soon companies were hiring readers, mostly women, (more…)

Suffrage with a smile

June 6, 2016

Tags: suffrage, photograph, work-in-progress

After rereading a couple of chapters of ANONYMITY, my work-in-progress, I took a break by Googling images related to women's suffrage. This one popped up without any documentation, but for my purposes, that didn't matter. What I love are the candid smiles and sense of motion. Just what I need to make me feel I'm back in a living, breathing time. (more…)

Morris chair as narrator

February 8, 2016

Tags: work-in-progress

I write first drafts of my fiction longhand in an old Morris chair that has been in the family for ages, but I never thought of it as the narrator. Running over a set of early 20th C images from children’s publications, I came across this one. Naturally, the chair caught my eye. Puzzled by the wording, I did an internet search and (more…)

Suffragette—the Movie

December 18, 2015

Tags: Suffragette movie, suffrage, work-in-progress

This week, I saw the movie Suffragette, about the working women who responded to Emmeline Pankhurst’s call for the suffragist cause in Great Britain.

First off, let me tell you that, yup, it passes the Bechdel Test on every criterion! (more…)

Mark Kelso

September 17, 2014

Tags: work-in-progress

CD by Mark Kelso
Having finished the first draft of a short story about a composer and sound engineer, I approached the brilliantly gifted musician Mark Kelso for help with technical details. I am comfortable with my setting, action, and the character’s psychology; but I’m no musician and certainly not a sound engineer. Mark graciously invited me to spend an hour today at his Muddy Angel Music Studio, where he composes, teaches, and records himself and other artists. (more…)

Suffragists in England

August 3, 2014

Tags: suffrage, work-in-progress

Blog tip For ideas about what Mattie's suffragist group might be up to, I read about the suffragist movement in England as well as America. Today's Spitalfield Life's East End Suffragette Map caught my eye.

Mattie illicit lover

July 24, 2014

Tags: fashion or clothes, work-in-progress

In the first chapter of my work-in-progress, Mattie dresses for her job as a stenographer but daydreams about the coming evening with her lover as she puts on a sexy corset which she has bought from a fancy corsetiere. (more…)

Mattie Stenographer

July 21, 2014

Tags: Mattie, fashion or clothes, light, offices, work-in-progress

As I tried to say last Thursday, I'll be writing more about my new work as well as Where the Light Falls. For instance, the stenographer shown here taking shorthand on her pad is younger than my new heroine, but I found the picture helpful in visualizing how Mattie might be dressed (shirt sleeves, no hat, pleated skirt) (more…)

Nancy Drew and a Clue to the Blog

July 17, 2014

Tags: Mattie, children's books, work-in-progress

Is there an American woman novelist writing today who did not read at least one Nancy Drew mystery as a girl? For many women over a certain age, the Nancy Drew books were favorite reading, as compulsive as Harry Potter.

In my family, they were taken for granted as pleasurable junk, tolerated because my (more…)

Seed packets

June 7, 2014

Tags: work-in-progress

Blog tip: A garden with a Japanese theme plays a part in my work-in-progress. So does feminism. It tickled me, therefore, to find this seed packet and read today’s post at It’s About Time on pioneering seedswoman Carrie H. Lippincott.

Crime and dance

May 19, 2014

Tags: entertainment, work-in-progress

Sometimes interests converge. A recent post on The Gangs of Paris at the Victorian Paris blog sent me investigating the story-telling, tough-guy, tough-gal Danse Apache or Apache Dance (pronounced ah-PAHSH in both French and English), which originated in France and quickly moved to the American stage in 1908. (more…)

On horseback, in pants

May 15, 2014

Tags: Dieulafoy, Franco-Prussian War, Gardner, Tarbell, fashion or clothes, horses, work-in-progress

For my work-in-progress, I’ve been reading the autobiography of journalist Ida M. Tarbell, All in the Day’s Work. In 1892 for a McClure’s Magazine article, Tarbell interviewed the French archeologist and writer Jane Henriette Magre Dieulafoy, who with her husband Marcel worked on excavations in Persia. (more…)

Women Painters of the World (1905)

April 6, 2014

Tags: women artists, work-in-progress

Web link: Check out the website of The Public Domain Review. I immediately found this this book on women painters from 1905, which Mattie my current heroine might give to Jeanette. No telling what what you'll find!

Atget

March 13, 2014

Tags: Atget, Paris landmark, photograph, work-in-progress


Time for a photograph at the blog, I thought: I’ll do a post on Eugène Atget. As it happens, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a show up through May 9th, Paris as Muse: Photography, 1840s–1950s, where Atget's Quai d'Anjou can be seen.

I looked at a lot of Atget's photographs (more…)

Salome

February 27, 2014

Tags: Henri, entertainment, work-in-progress

Robert Henri, Salome (1909)
As a follow-up to my last post, here’s a quick look ahead at naughty behavior in New York City in 1908, the setting for my current work-in-progress. I came across Robert Henri’s portrait of the dancer Mademoiselle Voclezca in a 1995 exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Lives: The Ashcan Artists and Their New York. More astonishing to me than the painting were several paragraphs about a craze for “Salome dancers.” (more…)

Asleep on a train

February 6, 2014

Tags: Amy, Effie, Jeanette, photograph, transportation, work-in-progress

For my new novel, I’m investigating early 20th C photography and print processes. This picture of a girl asleep on a train appears (more…)

Poupée en Bas

June 27, 2013

Tags: Beals, Poupée, cafés and restaurants, work-in-progress

La Poupée en Bas, where Jeanette and Cousin Effie meet Sonja to discuss her eviction, is completely fictional, confected from what I learned about supper clubs and various informal arrangements made by male artists for taking communal meals. It was easy to imagine that women artists might also join together to avoid having to cook or go out to restaurants. I then had the fun of inventing the arrangement with La Belle Hélène, describing the decor, and visiting the place from time to time with my characters. But, of course, there is no illustration of it. As a substitute (and a plug for a future novel), I’m borrowing from research (more…)