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.

A small sample of the images that inspired me appears below. Click on these or any images in the posts to see enlargements. In the text, click on colored words to activate links.

Selected Works

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


Quick Links

Find Authors

Picturing a World

Sarah Stilwell Weber

March 28, 2018

Tags: illustration, women artists, work-in-progress

Sarah Stilwell Weber is known primarily for her illustration of children, which fits nicely with my heroine Mattie who works in children’s publishing; but I have selected this Collier cover because it is so richly striking. Weber studied with Howard Pyle and was associated with his famous female students, the Red Rose Girls. This picture suggests to me that she also kept up with larger art world and knew the work of Gustav Klimt. It’s always a mistake to think that creative people are limited to whatever work makes them famous or pays the bills!

For more about Weber, click here and here.

London working-class suffragists

February 7, 2018

Tags: suffrage, work-in-progress

Blog alert:The Spitalsfield Life post for February 7, 2017, Celebrating East End Suffragettes focuses on working class women in London during the fight for the vote. Great maps! (more…)

Department of Titular Confusion

October 12, 2017

Tags: work-in-progress

This was the image I used for my first blog post back in 2012 because it leads readers directly into the studios of Where the Light Falls. Women’s friendship in the 19th C art world; a model; work clothes and fashion; touches of Japonisme; gold-framed pictures; canvas on an easel—it’s all there. I’m posting it again today to reiterate that this is my Where the Light Falls. I must ruefully report that another one is out there.

In July, Allison and Owen Pataki published a novel set in Paris with the same title. When I learned about it, I thought, “Oh gosh, that’s going to cause confusion.” And I think it has. (more…)

Lucy Stone’s milk wagon

September 7, 2017

Tags: suffrage, work-in-progress

I have set ANON in 1908 partly to avoid the need to account for all the glorious woman’s suffrage activity of 1912 and partly because the anxieties, tensions, and precursors to major historical events provide uncertainties that give room for fictional exploration. I try to avoid anachronisms and stay within historical constraints. All the same, (more…)

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!


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…)


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…)