Success!

I am pleased to announce that I have finished the rough draft of Chapter One of my Lizzie book. After extensive research and nine years of stops and starts, I am finally getting this down on paper. It feels terrific!

I needed a strategy in putting together this book, and it took a long time to figure it out. Once solved, the writing went so much faster. I stumbled upon the answer while reading about writing a fiction novel. The book, Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland taught me how to build and use chronological order as the framework while still focusing on themes. My natural tendency is to be a thematic writer, and I am also very much into process. These two things can confuse the reader because exploring themes and processes can make the story hard to follow. I discovered this after writing three previous drafts of this chapter (I am slow, but I get it eventually. :-)) I followed a strict chronological order governed by an actual calendar of each year. Linking the day of the week to the date made each event more real to me.

My first step was to consult the primary source journals and letters to get actual dates. Then I filled in the gaps with the secondary sources. It helped keep me organized and focused.

I have a little confession to make. For the longest time, I’ve had this sense that I was working against the clock. It’s not that I’m all that old at 64, but I keep remembering how Madelon Bedell could not finish her second volume of her Alcott biography (which was on the sisters) because she died of cancer. I can’t even imagine how she must have felt knowing that she would not be able to finish. I did not want the same thing to happen to me, but I was having difficulty getting anywhere with this book until now.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in very different ways. For me, it resulted in anxiety and depression, a severe body tremor, and the loss of my job of 27 years. Losing that job (and being able to collect unemployment) opened up the opportunity to focus on my health. I had several symptoms that affected the quality of life. After nine months of trying out various medications and going to physical therapy, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Fortunately, the medicine that I am taking has alleviated most of the symptoms, making me productive again. As a result of the diagnosis, I decided to retire, which now leaves me lots of time to focus on this book.

Knowing I have Parkinson’s does indeed put a deadline on my work. It is hard to say how long I can mitigate the symptoms. But this just fuels my desire all the more to get this done. I am thankful that I have at least some warning regarding my health as it is sharpening my focus on my work. It’s all a good thing.

Especially since I finished the draft of Chapter One!

In a small way, all this helps me to relate to my dear Lizzie all the more.

Lizzie Alcott’s Hillside Diary

I am pleased to share with you the only known existing journal of Elizabeth Alcott.

Disclaimer #1: I cannot guarantee total accuracy as I am not a professional transcriber.  If there is something you want to quote for a paper, please email me through the Contact page, note the page or pages you want, and I will send you photographs of these pages.

Disclaimer #2: I have annotated it with notes and insights (in red) — please keep in mind that these notes are often just my opinion about what I read  (and a few might not make sense to you) — these opinions should not be taken otherwise.

Please use the citation information below if you want to quote this diary. 

Enjoy this rare look at Lizzie Alcott at ages 10 and 11.

 
Alcott, Elizabeth Sewell, A.MS. diary 19 Apr-4 Oct 1846, Amos Bronson Alcott papers, MS Am 1130.9 (24) Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

 

Medical journal writes short extract on Beth March’s compassion

I was surprised to find this and wish it were longer. It’s a wonderful comparison between Beth/Lizzie’s courage in caring (in a hands-on fashion) for someone with a highly contagious disease and the brave Ebola workers.

From The American Journal of Medicine:

A day in the life of Lizzie Alcott … a fiction approach

At one time I considered writing Lizzie’s story as historical fiction. In that way I could go into her head and heart in a deeper way and speculate to my heart’s desire.

The problem is I have no idea how to write fiction. I never even read fiction. I have a feeling I would be a slave to the facts when the story in fact, is paramount.

But, I did try to write a couple of scenes. Here’s one I wrote several years ago. In reading this scene, it makes me want to try some more, just to get the words to flow.

The setting for this scene is Boston in 1852.

A thick fog veiled the city in mist. It chilled Louisa as she walked down the street in long strides, swerving to avoid the endless stream of bodies at every turn. As she fingered the few pennies in her purse, a sigh escaped from her lips. A flicker of warmth permeated her body as she imagined the dear faces, but it soon dissipated. There was no victory today. Continue reading “A day in the life of Lizzie Alcott … a fiction approach”

A new book on Lizzie Alcott needs a new work place – planning my writing room

I spent some time over Christmas break beefing up my writing room. The room had previously worked when I wrote my spiritual memoir a few years back. The organization of that book was simple and I’d write on my tablet in a comfy chair and not have to worry about having a lot of space.

It is so different this time around! There are piles of books and papers everywhere. My mind is in overdrive and my emotions raw. The words I have set down so far present a confusing and unfocused account. The story that is so clear in my mind lacks continuity on the screen. I vacillate between being a storyteller, a journalist (“just the facts”) and a lawyer arguing a case. It’s all so chaotic at times. Continue reading “A new book on Lizzie Alcott needs a new work place – planning my writing room”

Beginning the book on Elisabeth Sewall Alcott, and taking you on the journey

I have begun work at last on a biography of Elisabeth* Sewall Alcott; she is best known as the real life prototype of Beth March of Little Women, written by her older sister, Louisa May Alcott. After spending nearly 8 years researching her life, I am ready to write about it.

Diary of a biography

Writing such a book can take years to complete and the enormity of the task is overwhelming at times. This plus the fact that I am learning so many interesting aspects of writing biography inspired me to create this diary so that you can share in the experience. As I work through the steep learning curve of writing this book, I am hoping these posts will offer information that aspiring biographers will find helpful. It is also a way to hold myself accountable to you – to work in a disciplined manner and to keep you updated on the progress of the book.

Continue reading “Beginning the book on Elisabeth Sewall Alcott, and taking you on the journey”