Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance Prizewinners

I'm happy to boast that I'm one of 'em. The New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance has given The Edge of Ruin their prize for the best historical novel to come out in 2010 about New Jersey. (I didn't ask them how big the field was. Some things you're better off not knowing.)

There were four of us this year who got a prize from the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance, or NJSAA, me and three real historians. Tomorrow afternoon at five o'clock in the Pane Room on the first floor of Rutgers' Alexander Library on College Avenue in New Brunswick, we're going to get together and talk about it.

2011 NJSAA Author Awards Winners:

Non-fiction scholarly category:

Ezra Shales. Made in Newark: Cultivating Industrial Arts and Civic Identity in the Progressive Era, (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2010).
See: http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu/acatalog/Made_in_Newark.html

Non-fiction popular category:

Michael S. Adelberg. The American Revolution in Monmouth County: The Theatre of Spoil and Destruction, (Charleston, S.C.: History Press, 2010).

Link to footnotes and accompanying essay:

Non-fiction reference category:

Joseph G. Bilby, ed. New Jersey Goes to War: Biographies of 150 New Jerseyans Caught up in the Struggle of the Civil War. (Hightstown, N.J.:
Longstreet House, 2010).
A publication of the New Jersey Civil War 150th Anniversary Committee, see: http://www.njcivilwar150.org.

Fiction and poetry category:

Irene Fleming. That's me! The Edge of Ruin, (New York, N.Y.:
Minotaur Books, Macmillan, 2010).

See: http://us.macmillan.com/theedgeofruin-1

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

When the Great Depression Began and Ended in Lambertville

For those of you who may be curious about the beginning and end of the Great Depression, in case we have to go through another one, or in case we are actually in one, as some suggest, I have a benchmark for you.

Some say the Stock Market Crash on October 29, 1929, marked the beginning of that grim period in our nation's history. It's true that when the bottom fell out of the stock market things looked mighty dark. But, the low point? That came in 1930, on the day when the Lambertville Free Public Library got a monthly bill for $4.00 from the telephone company and the board voted to remove the telephone.

Now, this was in a time when there were no cell phones. If you needed to make a call you found a pay phone and put a nickel in (first having felt in the change slot to see whether the caller before you had neglected to take his change). Was the library phone used by patrons in 1930? Was it used by the librarian to call scofflaws who kept their books out too long? Whatever use it had been, the library board considered it superfluous.

That's right, folks, there was no telephone in the Lambertville Free Public Library for another thirteen years, when the board voted to restore phone service. So 1943, at least in Lambertville, marked the end of the Great Depression.

Makes you think. What if things got so bad the libraries had to shut down their internet connections?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bag the Cat

We interrupt the regular broadcast of news about the War of 1812 to bloviate upon our writing career, such as it is, what there is of it, as the family used to say about a vaguely unsatisfactory meal. On Wednesday last I had lunch with my agent. The Work In Progress I had hoped to hand him was not quite finished, so that I was forced to deliver a lame elevator pitch for it.

Turns out that the plot I had so craftily constructed last spring with the aid of that excellent how-to book, Save the Cat, was so complex and convoluted that it did not readily lend itself to an elevator pitch. This is a red flag for flaws in a manuscript, by the way. If you have to go on all day about what your book is about, to the point where your agent's eyes glaze over (assuming you're lucky enough to have an agent), then the book is probably a dog. Good books beget snappy log lines.

About halfway through the lunch he began offering helpful suggestions to improve the work, or at least make it easier for him to sell. By the time I had finished my post-prandial coffee I realized that a Major Rewrite was in order. Harold and I had company this weekend, so that today was the first chance I had to get to it. Many things in the WIP want straightening out, but the most starkly evident is this:

The cat must go.

So with apologies to all my fellow cat-lovers out there I'm removing all references to the kitty. I'm not even worried about what it does to my word count. Word count is the least of my problems right now.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dropping the Ball This Week

I haven't got a single thing to say this week, not about The Collingswood Book Festival, which took place on Saturday and was great, not about life in Lambertville, which goes on as usual, not even about the War of 1812. I'm cleaning out the attic, which doubles as a guest room, because we are having guests. The task of digging out five trashbags full of dead sewing and knitting projects – first of all determining which ones are actually dead, and which merely comatose, and then carrying their rotting corpses down two flights of stairs and out to the curb – has been exhausting. My mental faculties, such as they are, are not up to blogging this week. Next week I'll be back, posting with my customary charm and erudition.

Stay tuned.