California Gold Rush Expansion

There were so many immigrants moving to California during the Gold Rush, from the East Coast and other countries, that the population of San Francisco grew from 1,000 to 20,000 in two years. Can you imagine the construction and the need for sanitation, food, and medical practitioners? Teachers?

The Harvard University Library Open Collections has photos you can study, quite closely, for your own research into the period, as well as digitized newspaper and magazine articles, passenger lists, maps, and more.

At the foot of the Big Tree, Grant National Park

For instance, Hunting for Gold, by William Downie, shares his personal recollections of hunting for gold from California to Alaska.

Sunset magazine, published by the Southern Pacific Railroad, published “Gold Mining in California,” by Chas. G. Yale, in August, 1899, describing California’s status as the leading gold mining state whose mines in 1899 were still “productive and profitable.” The photo below was published with this article.

Ten Dollars a Day

Ballad of Lucy WhippleMy book, The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, is set in the heyday of the California Gold Rush, in Lucky Diggins, California. When Arvella Whipple moves to this gold mining town to become proprietress of the boarding house, she brings her three children with her. Her oldest, California Morning Whipple, who later renames herself “Lucy,” is the narrator of this story. She resents the move from Massachusetts and wants to return to civilized surroundings. An avid reader, there are few books in this rough-and-tumble town. Will she ever grow used to her new surroundings?

A list of fantasy books, part 10

The Seeing StoneThe Seeing Stone—Kevin Crossley Holland. King Arthur as a boy. Lovely story, lovable characters, beautiful language.  Just what one expects from a poet.

Glad You Asked, Q3

March 30th, 2017

What’s your strongest memory of the 1950s?

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley, Jailhouse Rock, Wikimedia Commons

Elvis. No question. I also remember looking at all the unhappy housewives on our suburban street, sipping martinis and making lunches, and feared I would end up like that.

PS:  I didn’t.

Glad You Asked, Q2

March 28th, 2017

Did you take writing classes?

writingMy university had a graduate creative writing major but there was only one course for undergraduates. I took it, hated it, and never went. People sat around and criticized each other’s work. Not for me. The night before the quarter was over, I stayed up all night and wrote twelve short stories. The professor commented that I seemed to have learned a lot during the class even though I never came. Go figure. That was my first and last writing class.

Glad You Asked, Q1

March 23rd, 2017

Are you working on a new manuscript?

I’m struggling my way through a book set in San Diego in 1941, shortly before Pearl Harbor. Here’s the beginning, or the beginning at the moment:

Jorge lifted the slimy creature to his lips and bit it right between the eyes.

I shuddered as I watched.  “Doesn’t that taste muddy and disgusting?”

 “Nah,” he said, wiping mud from his mouth. “Is only salty. This way they don’t die but only sleep, stay fresh.” He threw the octopus into a bucket and slipped through the mud flats to another hole in the muck. He filled a baster from a mud-spattered Clorox bottle and squirted the bleach into a hole. When the occupant slithered to the surface, Jorge pulled it out and bit it, too. “You want?  Make good stew.”

I shook my head.  I preferred fish that came in cans and was mixed with mayo and chopped celery.

San Diego's Santa Fe train station

San Diego’s Santa Fe train station 1940s

What I’ve Been Reading

March 16th, 2017

Life in a Fishbowl

For young adult readers:

Life in a Fishbowl
Len Vlahos

Certain to be controversial, this novel tackles life and death, euthanasia, celebrity, reality television, religion, cancer, oh, most everything. Even Jared Stone’s brain tumor had a voice and a point of view, and I found myself feeling sorry for it. How can you top that? Sad and funny and insightful, this is a tour de force.

A list of fantasy books, part 9

February 23rd, 2017

Goblin's PuzzleThe Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy With No Name and Two Girls Named Alice by Andrew Chilton.  Mystery, adventure, and a title like that—I climbed into the book and stayed a while.

This Year’s Late Bloomer

February 21st, 2017

Belated congratulations to Late Bloomer Stephen Baker, whose manuscript Prayers to Broken Stone was chosen to receive this grant.

Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award

Virunga National Park

Bukima Patrol Post, Virunga National Park (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Fourteen-year-old Milana lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo with her mother studying the wild gorillas in Virunga National Park, but soon Milana must save both her family and the gorillas from an oil company bent on destroying the habitat.

This grant was established by Newbery Award winner and Newbery Honor Book recipient Karen Cushman and her husband, Philip Cushman, in conjunction with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Karen published her first children’s book, Catherine Called Birdy, in 1994 (Newbery Honor Book), at the age of fifty-three and has gone on to become one of the field’s most acclaimed novelists.

“The writing [in Prayers to Broken Stone] is very good, the setting unusual and intriguing, and there is the promise of a corporate villain we can root against,” said Karen. “I hope someday I get a chance to read the book and find out what happens.”

The SCBWI will propel the winning manuscript on the path to publication by exposing their work to hand-selected acquiring editors on a secure website for a period of time. This is an opportunity for the winners to gain exclusive access to some of the most sought-after professionals in the business. Read more about this award.

Favorite Museums Series #9

Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada:  Collection storage is visible to visitors.  And those totem poles!

Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia (Wikimedia Commons)

Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, totem pole detail (Wikimedia Commons)

First Book Printed with Movable Type in English

William Caxton

William Caxton (Wikimedia Commons)

In 1473 or 1474, William Caxton printed the first book using movable type in the English language. “At the end of his Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye … Caxton wrote, ‘I have practised and earned at my great charge and dispense to ordain this said book in print after the manner and form as you may here see, and is not written with pen and ink as other books been, to the end that every man may have them at once.’”

“Caxton began his translation, as he tells us in his preface, in Bruges in 1468, and completed it in Cologne in 1471.” (Sotheby’s)

Read more about Caxton and the first books he printed, just 20 years after Gutenberg’s press set to work, on the British Library’s website.

Sotheby’s has a thorough article as well as a good look at the pages of the book.

Here’s a later edition of the book, in 1892, designed and typeset by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press. This one’s in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.