I took this image from a Sketch by Sketch blog post, which gives no source and no date for it. For my purposes, that doesn't matter. I don't even need confirmation that this really is Nell Brinkley. What electrified me when I saw it was the way it feeds into a character I have invented for my work-in-progress: a young, talented, ambitious, and reckless writer. I've given her Willa Cather's dedication to her work combined with Edna St. Vincent Millay's dangerous boozing and partying. This image gives me a face, an expression, and maybe the hair to spark a visualization. Or maybe she'll suggest a giddy, funny friend. I don't know yet, but hurrah for anything that sparks imagination!
Picturing a World
What a difference a decade can make! Contrast Nell Brinkley's Dimples in 1928, daydreaming of becoming President, to yesterday's stalwart defender of Labor. (And, Kamala Harris, get a load of the pantsuit!) Yep, my copy of Trina Robbins's The Flapper Queens arrived, and it's terrific. I'm tickled to learn that Brinkley came to New York in 1907, so sure enough I can add a break-out female cartoonist to the publishing world my Mattie inhabits. Mostly, though, I'm getting a kick out of the visual energy and cheekiness of Brinkley's art work.
'Nuff said? Not quite: a special Labor Day thanks to the essential workers who have put their lives on the lines for the rest of us during the pandemic. They should be paid what they are worth. (One other message this year: vote.)
Via the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Who knew?!? Maybe you did, but I sure didn't know that J.P. Morgan's private librarian and eventual first director of the great Morgan Library in New York was a woman. Not only that—a woman of African-American descent. Belle da Costa Greene. I have just run across her in what might seem an unlikely source, Christopher de Hamel's endlessly entertaining and deeply informative Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts. The connection, of course, is a manuscript in the Morgan Library. But that's another story for another day.
Wouldn't Wells and Wong love it!?! And I expect to. This illustration is from Rachel Cooke's review of The Flapper Queens by Trina Robbins. The idea of jazzy female cartoonists opens a new world for me to think about in connection with my character Mattie's future in the New York publishing world. So, yes, I ordered it from my local independent bookstore. And for more sample pages, click here.
More fun imagining Mattie's New York: My last post included a link to a jigsaw puzzle set made from Clara Miller Burd illustrations. I followed up the clue and learned from Bob Armstrong's website that the craze for jigsaw puzzles for adults began in Boston, moved to New York in 1908, and was dominated early by—get ready for this—women puzzle cutters! An important one, Margaret Hayed Richardson, called her company Perplexity. Just making up names for an imaginary company would be a hoot. And clearly, if Mattie's immediate artist and publishing friends aren't directly involved in it, they'll know people who are.
Blog post tip: The workings of Edward Stratemeyer's syndicate, and especially the role of his secretary, Harriet Otis Smith, have contributed to the imaginary publishing office in my not-quite-abandoned ANONYMITY. I was tickled, therefore to run across a set of articles from the Scholarly Communication and Publishing at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign about the Honey Bunch series. Learning that Smith outlined and edited Honey Bunch: Her First Trip in an Airplane, I bought a copy. If nothing else, it will make for more soothing reading than news about drones, oil tankers, and possible air strikes in the Gulf.
Although “Anonymity” is stalled at the moment (I’m writing an unrelated novella), images that belong to my heroine Mattie’s world draw me back into it. Both the beauty of this photograph and the earnestness of the artist would, I think, appeal to a wistfully idealistic side of Mattie. Although she works in the pulp end of publishing, she also fosters young talent and encourages writers and artists to strive for their best. Read More
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