“Follow” Louisa on Twitter

I’ve created a separate twitter account (@LMAismypassion) just for this blog and you can see the posts on this site (just scroll down a bit). When I don’t have time to to write a full post, I’ll tweet instead. I’ve had to take time to prepare a talk and have had to devote all my reading and study time to that, but it’s almost done. I am anxious to get back into the swing of things with this blog and get us all talking again about Louisa!

In the meantime, I have been keeping up with events around the country – be sure and check the Events page to see activities in your area. With the ALA initiative, there’s lots going on. PLUS, Orchard House is holding a week-long event to begin their centennial celebration of the Alcott homestead. Check the Events page for details on that.

So while I finish up my talk, check out my tweets. If you have a Twitter account, follow me at @LMAismypassion. See you there!

A trip through fairy land

I wanted to share a wonderful post I found on Dawn’s “She’s Too Fond of Books” blog where she describes an outing with her girl scout troop to Hapgood Wright Town Forest in Concord, where Louisa May Alcott roamed with Henry David Thoreau. As you may recall, Thoreau had a magical way of teaching nature by mixing it with a taste of fairy tales. I remember reading in Joan Howard’s children’s biography, The Story of Louisa May Alcott, about a trip she took with Thoreau which she referenced as a “trip to fairy land.” I was especially struck by how Thoreau described a spider’s web, dripping with dew as a fairy’s handkerchief carelessly tossed in the woods. No wonder Louisa was so enchanted with him!

Here’s a teaser from Dawn’s post. Be sure and follow the link to read the rest and see the pictures. She also includes the publisher’s synopsis of Flower Fables and shows a cover of the book.

The Sunday Salon: On the Road to Louisa May Alcott’s Fairyland

Yesterday I joined my 8-year-old Brownie, others from her troop, and Concord-area Girl Scouts of all ages as we “pulled together” to rid Fairyland (the Hapgood Wright Town Forest) of garlic mustard, an invasive weed whose rapid growth chokes out native wildflowers, posing a threat to natural biodiversity.  I’ve read various accounts of the weed’s entry to North America (via Europe and/or via Japan); it’s now found in over thirty states and parts of Canada.  This page at the Massachusetts Audubon site gives more info about garlic mustard (see Dawn’s post for the link).

The area chosen for the pull was the Hapgood Wright Town Forest, the “fairyland” near the Walden Woods.  It’s referred to in the journals of Thoreau, the writing of Louisa May Alcott, and other other historical documents.  The area is now town conservation land, and was named in honor of a benefactor in the early 1930s.

From the publisher’s synopsis of Flower Fables:

Read the rest of the post here

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House and the Patriot’s Day Parade, Concord, MA April 2011

There can’t be a better place in the world to celebrate Patriot’s Day (celebrated in April) than Concord, MA where the “shot heard round the world” was fired, and America was on its way to becoming a nation. Watch the Orchard House staff and friends celebrate in the town’s annual parade.

Want to book a vacation in Concord touring its literary treasures?

Here’s a brand new start-up company founded by two enterprising women who offer in-depth tours of the literary treasures of Concord, MA.  Gatepost Tours began last February and is taking off like a rocket. Friends Joan Spinazola and Alida Bailey are the co-owners. Sounds like a great way to spend a summer vacation! Check out this excerpt from the Boston.com article and click on the link to read the entire article.

New company celebrates
Concord’s literary history with tours

Posted by Sarah Thomas May 5, 2011

Joan Spinazola was a displaced Concordian, making a living offering “Mob Tours” in between stand-up comedy gigs in Las Vegas. Alida Bailey was a transplant from New Zealand who toured the Old Manse so many times she was eventually offered a job. Together, they’re Gatepost Tours – a new business that allows visitors to explore Concord’s literary history.

“We just started in February and already have tours booked through the summer,” said Bailey in an interview Wednesday. “Now we ask each other why we didn’t decide to try this sooner.”

Gatepost Tours joins many other groups offering tours through Concord with different hooks – after all, it is one of the most historically important towns in America, and has a rich cultural heritage. And many companies offer travelers the world over a glimpse into the writing life – Spinazola mentions Dickens tours through London and the home of Leo Tolstoy in Russia.

But Gatepost is special in that it has such a wide and significant stock of literary giants to explore – from Emerson and Thoreau to Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott, along with all the other leading lights of their day who visited or briefly lived and worked in Concord.

Read the rest of the article here.

Louisa the actress: meet her idol, Fanny Kemble

Kelly O’Connor McNees, author of  The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott (now available in paperback), wrote an article recently about Fanny Kemble, a 19th century actress whom Louisa May Alcott greatly admired. There’s a wonderful scene in Lost Summer where Louisa gets to perform in front of Kemble and I could just feel the thrill she would have felt.

Here’s an excerpt from McNees’ article, including a link to the rest of the article. If you leave a comment on the page, you could be chosen to receive a free copy of the paperback edition of Lost Summer.

Fanny Kemble, 19th Century Celebrity

in Women and Society

By Kelly O’Connor McNees

My historical novel, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, imagines a summer in Louisa’s life when she was just 22 and on the precipice of a remarkable life. In trying to understand Louisa, I investigated the books she loved and the people she admired. That’s how I learned about Fanny Kemble.

Fanny Kemble was born to a family that dominated the British stage for generations. She too was an actress a young age, and later met and married Pierce Butler while performing in the U.S. His family’s money came from cotton and rice plantations in Georgia. When he took Fanny home to the plantation, she was appalled by the realities of slavery. As a Brit, she had long opposed the institution, but seeing it with her own eyes hardened her resolve. To her husband’s great humiliation, she began to write about what she saw. The marriage dissolved, and later she published Journal of A Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839. It caused quite a stir. Read the rest of the article here.

You can read the interview I conducted with Kelly here.

Here’s some good background for “Hospital Sketches”

This article from Nurse.com provided some excellent background for the emergence of women in nursing during the Civil War. It was truly new and Louisa May Alcott was right in the forefront, volunteering her services. She of course wrote about those experiences in Hospital Sketches.

The Civil War and Nursing

By Cathryn Domrose
Friday April 29, 2011

Vivid, dramatic images of Civil War nursing spill from history books into the American psyche: Clara Barton, her apron soaked with blood, working tirelessly beside surgeons as they amputated arms and legs. Louisa May Alcott bringing water to crying soldiers, cradling their heads in her arms, scribbling as they dictated letters home. Sally Tompkins, a captain in the Confederate army, insisting on absolute cleanliness in the hospital she ran in Richmond, Va. Dorothea Dix and Mary Ann Bickerdyke defying male surgeons and administrators to make sure their nurses and patients got the respect and resources they deserved. Phoebe Pember doing the same in the South, sometimes with the help of a pistol she kept in her pocket.

Birth of a Profession

“The Civil War launched the profession of nursing in the United States,” says Jane E. Schultz, PhD, professor of English, American studies, women’s studies and medical humanities at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and the author of “Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America” and “This Birth Place of Souls: The Civil War Nursing Diary of Harriet Eaton.”

Click here to read the rest of the article