Pilgrimage to the heart(h) of Bronson Alcott

I am pleased to present this guest post by Helen Batchelder — she had the privilege of visiting the birthplace of Bronson Alcott.

You can still sign up to attend Helen’s two lectures on Alcott at the Fruitlands Museum – call 978-456-3924, ext. 291. Cost is $12 for members, $20 for non-members.

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Land impacts our development, actions, preferences, and constitutions.

Did you grow up on flat farmland? Near mountains? By rivers? Lakes? Streams? In a cityscape? I grew up in a quiet country town that had two major disturbances — the construction of a highway, and housing developments prompted by a boom in the job market thanks to Digital and IBM, but they were far from my drumlin, my arthritic ancient apple trees, and the gigantic rocks left behind by running glaciers. Likely this granted me a very different perspective on life and my place in it than I otherwise might have had, if the privacy of my childhood home had been the 34th floor of an apartment building in New York.  In my research on Amos “Bronson” Alcott, I kept turning to his hometown, picturing him, a youth, the first of his parents’ nine children, ambling about a sparsely wooded hill, gathering who he would be. I provincially imagined that hill to be like my drumlin, much smaller than the 420’ elevation of my hometown of Harvard, Massachusetts in which he would, in 1843, attempt a “Con-sociation” called Fruitlands. Continue reading

Major acquisition by the Concord Library of Louisa May Alcott working manuscripts

Alcott scholar Joel Myerson announced today that the Concord Library has acquired rare working manuscripts of Louisa May Alcott, pointing to an article titled Louisa May Alcott Manuscripts Go to Concord Free Public Library in Private Sale” by Jeanne Schinto.

The deal was brokered by Marsha Malinowski Fine Books & Manuscripts of New York City.

eight cousins the clanSome of the 500+ pages of material includes chapters from Eight Cousins and Under the Lilacs.

Malinowski stressed that this is the largest and most important body of manuscript material in the hand of Alcott that has been offered for sale. They are working manuscripts with edits from which the type was set and the books printed. Continue reading

Louisa May Alcott Illuminated by The Message only $5 till Christmas

louisa coverLooking for a great gift for a Louisa lover in your life? How about yourself? My publisher, ACTA, has reduced the price of my book, Louisa May Alcott Illuminated by The Message from $10.95 to only $5 up until Christmas!

Here’s a sample that you can read.

Click here to order your copy.

And a Merry Christmas to you!

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Happy Birthday Bronson and Louisa! Not a day over 217 and 184 ;-)

bronson and louisa

louisa coverNOTE: I just found out my publisher, ACTA, is giving away 15 free copies of Louisa May Alcott Illuminated by The Message in honor of our favorite author’s birthday. Go here http://actapublications.com/louisa-may-alcott-illuminated-by-the-message/ and type in code HAPPYBIRTHDAY at checkout. Even if you have your own copy, order one as a gift for friend!

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As the birthdays of two of my favorite people dawns today, I can’t help but think how deliciously ironic it is that I am finally finishing Eden’s Outcasts, the Pulitzer prize-winning book on the life of Louisa May Alcott and her father Amos Bronson Alcott by John Matteson.

eden's outcasts big and yet I never finished the book until now. I just couldn’t. I loved the book so much I didn’t want it to end. I find that reading this compelling story of two such talented, creative, intelligent, and difficult people orders my mind and fills my heart. It is told with such elegance along with touches of humor and irony. Among other things, it explores the spiritual aspect of the Alcotts which was so important to them. Continue reading

Hospitality still reigns at Orchard House (plus a big surprise announcement!)

from lma facebook page

taken from Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House Facebook page

The Christmas season has officially begun at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House!  “A Country Christmas” begins this weekend, December 5th/6th and continues the following two weekends. Phone 978.369.4118 x106 for reservations.

Last night the staff held an open house for members of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. This meant we could walk in the front door on our own and be greeted with Christmas carolers decked out in period garb and accompanied by violin and bass mandolin.

orchard house at night

photo by Kristi Martin

The house is decorated with greens, candles on the walkway and a lovely wreath on the door. A tiny Christmas tree decked with handmade ornaments sits in the nursery surrounded by wrapped gifts. A tiny dollhouse decked out with a tree and populated by toy mice sat nearby.

Hot cider, homemade cookies and other treats waited for us in the kitchen along with a surprise–a beautiful gingerbread house rendition of Orchard House complete with glazed windows and flickering lights inside!

gingerbread house

photo by Kristi Martin

The best part? Wandering freely throughout the house, lingering over the displays of rare artifacts, spending as much time as we wished in each room, inspecting every corner. And while wandering, engaging in lively conversation with other Alcott enthusiasts.

I couldn’t resist joining in with the Christmas carolers for a few songs. I made some new friends that night.

Jan Turnquist, dressed as Louisa remarked that this was the essence of the family that occupied Orchard House for twenty years–welcoming guests and friends, filling the house with warmth, laughter and conversation.

Pure magic!

Oh, and now for the surprise!

both sizes-640I found out last night from Jan that the museum store will be carrying my new book, Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message! To say I am excited is an understatement. I am deeply grateful and so pleased that my little book will join the classics of our favorite author plus books by luminaries Madeleine B. Stern, Daniel Shealy, John Matteson and others. A dream come true for this newbie author!!

As you can see from the picture, the book comes in two sizes, one for your pocketbook, and a large print version (which my fading eyesight sure appreciates!).

Treat yourself to “A Country Christmas” at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House– phone 978.369.4118 x106 for reservations.

And don’t forget to stop by afterwards at 4pm on Sunday at the Barrow for the book launch and signing of Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message and my spiritual memoir, River of Grace.

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Find Susan’s books here on AmazonPurchase Susan’s CD.

The Annotated Little Women edited by John Matteson is a treasure

Just when you think there can’t be anything more revealed about the Alcotts, something new and wonderful comes our way.

A treasure chest

This rich and gorgeous volume of Little Women is filled with treasures that delight any fan of the March family from the casual reader to the Alcott wonk (like me). John Matteson never fails to amaze me with his insight into Louisa May Alcott; in his introduction and biographical account he brings a fresh approach to the children’s classic and its author that goes far beyond the familiar feminist interpretation. Matteson presents a well-rounded picture of each sister, focusing on what Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy bring to the table for readers today. As a Beth fan myself, I was so pleased to see how he gave this often misunderstood character her due, praising her faith, courage and graciousness when facing certain death.

From the vaults of Orchard House

There are many never-seen-before photos in this book from the archives of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House–stunning remnants of a memorable family which include locks of hair from Louisa and Lizzie, rare new photos of Anna, Lizzie’s New Testament (only recently discovered) and drawings by May of her nephews. Such remnants link the real Alcott sisters to their fictional counterparts in such an intimate way.

Beautifully designed

Norton did a magnificent job with assembling and designing this book–my husband said it looked like a Bible! My only quibble is that some of the paintings and drawings printed on the dark side.

edit_c_michelle_rollo_mattesonLouisa’s gift and genius

Matteson concludes his biographical account with this sentence: “As a writer, as a person, Louisa May Alcott’s greatest success lay in the invisible gifts she gave to others.” So true. John Matteson does a magnificent job in extracting those gifts and revealing them to the world.

More to come

P1080229In the next few days I will get into more detail about what I found in the introduction and the biographical account. I have pages of notes to sort through; that’s how rich this was!

In the meantime, help yourself to this great book!
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Louisa May Alcott too?
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Life restored after a season of loss: “River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times” in word and song

This past Wednesday was a BIG day. This arrived in the mail …

river of grace books-640

cover front only for webBut that was not all. I also got the final mix of my soundtrack CD for River of Grace from the producer. And I have to say he really outdid himself. I sent him a text back with 7 hearts – one for each song!

It was one of those rare, extraordinary days that sends you into orbit and you just want to cling to that feeling forever. I will write about it in my journal so I can go back and bathe in that grace, that pure gift from God whenever discouragement knocks on my door.

What does all this have to do with Louisa May Alcott?

Louisa's room at Hillside, dubbed "Poet's Corner," illustration by Flora Smith for The Story of Louisa May Alcott by Joan Howard

Louisa’s room at Hillside, dubbed “Poet’s Corner,” illustration by Flora Smith for The Story of Louisa May Alcott by Joan Howard

By immersing myself into her life and works she became my muse. She reawakened a childhood dream of writing. When you think about it, it’s such a common tale when it comes to Louisa; she has inspired so many writers through her own life and that of Jo March, her alter ego. Little did she know of the impact her life would have on so many women.

Because of her, I became an author. It’s also because of you, dear readers. Your interest and contributions to this blog fueled my writing dream. I thank you.

Here’s a look inside of my first-born, River of Grace

00 cover drop shadowRiver of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times is a spiritual memoir that reveals how several major losses helped me rediscover creativity and faith. Published by Ave Maria Press, it is described as “Filled with powerful insights on the presence and action of grace–in the Mass and the sacraments, nature and grief, and even through the life and works of Louisa May Alcott–River of Grace guides readers in strengthening their faith, discovering their own hidden gifts and restoring a joy in living during and after tough times.” It contains lots of practical spiritual exercises called Flow Lessons that lead you there. (Some of the Flow Lessons are on my other blog, Be as One–check them out here.)

Losing a part of yourself

One of the losses I experienced was that of my singing voice. Yet throughout the writing of River of Grace, I kept thinking of songs that would fit with each chapter. While writing the third chapter on the loss of my voice, I experienced a miraculous healing after receiving a throat blessing on the Feast of St. Blaise.

This song was playing in my head; here’s a passage from chapter 3 on why:

How Can I Keep from Singing • Traditional Quaker hymn
“Instead of being raw and fragmented, I began to feel whole. A sense of wonder and deep gratitude welled up inside. The following Sunday as I entered the church to go to Mass I was immediately struck with the knowledge that I had received a significant healing with that throat blessing. I couldn’t wait to tell the priest.
Thereafter during Mass I noticed that it became easier to sing the hymns. Buoyed, I pushed my voice a bit further each week. One day while driving home after Mass I sang some of the most challenging songs in my repertoire including “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah and discovered to my delight that I could sing them just as I had before. My voice had been restored. I had received a physical healing along with the emotional and spiritual.” (from chapter 3, River of Grace)

New life after loss

River of Grace is also about new life. In the writing I learned that creativity is far more than being able to sing, dance, paint or write. Creativity is all about intention. I thought of Psalm 103, traditionally read during the Easter season, and this song:

Lord, Send Out Your Spirit (from Psalm 103) • Words and music by Susan Bailey ©2001 Susan W. Bailey
“If you recognize and accept the presence within of God’s Spirit, you will live a creative life. Since God is limitless, the possibilities of creativity are limitless too. You only need to believe it and take your own deep dive to discover the authentic person within, the one created in the image and likeness of God, the person you are meant to be. Nothing is too small or too insignificant. Nothing is too foolish or crazy. No effort is wasted. God has placed the capability in every person to be “great” even if that greatness is quiet, unassuming, and shared within a small circle. … Broken as we are, we can be made new, made whole though likely we will never be the same again … By being immersed in the river of grace, we can go on the adventure of a lifetime.” (chapter 5, River of Grace)

Working through fear

River of Grace is also about overcoming fear; stepping out and seeing life as a glorious adventure.

This song came to mind:

Touch the Sky • Words and music by Susan Bailey ©1998 Susan W. Bailey
“I saw yet again that working through my fear was necessary in order to find and then be my authentic self. I could be like Gloria: passionate, confident, joyful, and enthusiastic, affecting those around me as a result. By believing in God’s love for me I could then become his emissary. I didn’t have to travel to Haiti; I only had to travel within to discover where the river of grace was leading me, and then commit to the journey. I had to get used to living with the uncertainty that is the fundamental part of self-discovery. It required being alert and awake to that quiet voice of God inside of me, his gentle hand nudging me this way and that. It gave new meaning to the scripture to “Beware, keep alert” (Mk 13:33). We must be alert and awake at all times to God’s call. This is what it means to be truly present to each and every moment. And if we pay heed to such moments, we won’t have the time to worry about the future or regret the past.” (from chapter 6, River of Grace)

So that’s the big reveal! This project has been my life for the last two years and a lot of the transformation I write about happened as I was writing the book. Writing is truly a life-changing experience.

I am so fortunate  to be working with a great publisher. Ave Maria Press is everything everyone said it would be. Totally professional, really helpful, and daring, taking chances on newbies like myself. I am so honored to have a book published by them.

You can order River of Grace (the book) through Ave Maria Press and Amazon. Don’t forget to write a review after you’ve read it!

The CD will be available by the end of October; I’ll let you know when it’s ready.

I have been fundraising for the cost of the CD;
can you help?

I hope you are enjoying these clips from the new CD. With the deadline of October 15 looming just around the corner, I still need much help in meeting the goal of raising $1600 to pay for the making of the CD. You can donate at http://igg.me/at/susanbailey. Every dollar counts. If you can only give $5 or $10, I will be so grateful. And for those who can give more, I am offering some rewards which I think you’ll appreciate.

louisa may alcott for widgetboth books for LMA blog widgetAre you passionate about
Louisa May Alcott too?
Subscribe to the email list and
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Keep up with news and free giveaways on Susan’s books,
Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message, and River of Grace!

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