Hello, friends. I’ve got my head down this week, working on revisions to my forthcoming short story, “The Legendary Garrett Girls”. It’ll be part of a Candlewick Press anthology called Petticoats and Pistols, edited by Jessica Spotswood. I can’t tell you how much fun it’s been! I loved the research, as always. I used this short story as a chance to experiment with a first-person narrator, which I found both liberating and satisfying. And for the first time, I wrote about a pair of sisters. Yes, yes, there’s that old adage about writing what you know. I confess: I have a sibling, but not a sister. But the Garrett girls’ sibling relationship felt very real to me, and Jessica (who knows from sisters) found it believable, too. Hurray for the dark art of fiction!
In other news, I posted at the History Girls about historic Kingston Penitentiary. (I’ve blogged before about my tour of the Pen – Part 1 and Part 2 are here – but this is a separate post about KP’s past.) Dickens toured Kingston Penitentiary in 1842 and called it “an admirable jail… well and wisely governed, and excellently regulated, in every respect”. Can you picture the frantic scrubbing, sprinting, and general fluffing that went on before the great man’s arrival? He was much ruder about the rest of Kingston. The rest of the post is here.
I also want to draw your attention to Stephanie Burgis’s post on approaching Chronic Illness as a Reader and a Writer. It’s a personal response to a novel that uses chronic illness as a way of building sympathy for other characters – ie, the ones who live with the chronically ill. More importantly, though, Steph uses this moment to talk about stereotypes of chronic illness in fiction and confesses that she has, in her own fiction, drawn “on nineteenth-century comic tropes [of the manipulative invalid] from Jane Austen onward - even though I had a chronic illness myself”. This is where Steph’s post goes from being brave and compassionate to being extraordinarily courageous and insightful.
Steph talks about rewriting her manipulative invalid – but not as a reformed character or a misunderstood heroine: “Instead, I left in every line where she wielded her health issues – and the effects of stress upon them – like a sword over her son’s head. I wasn’t writing an unthinking stereotype anymore – I was writing my own personal nightmare of the mother I was terrified to become. Mrs. Carlyle gives in to every temptation to seize power where she can, in a situation where her son is the one with all the legal and financial power and she lives on his sufferance. She listens to that dark voice inside her that I’ve heard, too, and she lets it take charge of her mouth.”
It’s an amazing post, and one that reminds me of the urgent necessity of looking at my own comfortable assumptions very carefully indeed. Thank you, Steph. As Tricia said, you’re a lion-hearted woman.
How about you, friends? What are you writing, reading, and thinking about this week?