Monday, February 27, 2012


If a man is going to shoot someone in Act III, he must acquire a gun in Act I.

You’ve probably heard that, or something similar to it, before. It’s an old maxim that explains foreshadowing. Things cannot happen in a story just because you want them to, or need them to. If Mary is going to shoot her husband, she cannot just pull a gun from her purse at the necessary moment. The reader needs to know where that gun came from and how it got in her purse. Events must spring logically from events that have come before them. And it’s your job as a writer to set up those events by preparing the reader now for things that will come later.

There are several types of foreshadowing.

Blatant: Here, you’re telling the reader straight out what your character will be doing in the future.

Her mind was made up. She would kill her husband tomorrow.

Implied: This makes clear what will happen in the future without coming right out and saying it. It implies an event through action or dialogue, but is still pretty obvious to the reader.

She picked up the photograph of her husband, and with marker in hand, drew a fat, black X through his face.

Subtle: This is less obvious. It’s slipped into the background carefully so that it’s barely noticed.

She hurried down the street to the bar where she’d have to pry her husband from a sticky bar stool yet again. She passed several strip clubs advertising Girls! Girls! Girls! and a pawn shop window filled with the belongings of others - rings, watches, a tv and pistol, two guitars. And then there were the porn shops . . . .

You can also work foreshadowing into your manuscript in several different ways.

Through Dialogue:

"It’s going to be a tough game tonight. Do you think we’ll win?" Kevin asked.
"Of course we will," Tom said. "Jack’s back from visiting his Grandmother. We can’t lose with him on the team."

"Who are you asking to the dance?" Jake asked.
"I’m gonna ask Sue," Tom said.
Jake shook his head. "Bob already asked her. She’s going with him."
Tom smiled. "I think Bob’s going to be disappointed."

Through Flashback:

Let’s say your character has to swim out into the ocean to save someone from drowning. At some point before this event, you can add in a flashback to his days as a Navy Seal or swim coach to establish that he has the capabilities to swim the distance and rescue the drowning man. But don’t just use the flashback to establish he can swim. Make it do double duty. Perhaps we learn in the flashback that he once failed to save someone else from drowning, which is why he drinks now. Then when he swims out to save the drowning man, there will be no guarantee that he will succeed. You create tension and suspense.

Through Description:

You can use description to foreshadow an event that will happen in the same scene instead of a later one. Leonard Bishop, in Dare to be a Great Writer, compares it to the background music in a movie. If you’re just listening to a movie instead of watching it, you can still tell when something’s going to happen because of the change in the background music. In writing, instead of changing the music, you change the writing. Slowing it down and dwelling on the description will tip off readers to pay attention. Something is going to happen.

Mary slid out of the car with her groceries and headed for the house. She slipped her key in the lock and turned it. She stiffened. It was already unlocked. Had she forgotten to lock it?

She opened the door slowly and stepped inside. The curtains were closed and the room was gray and filled with shadows. She crept silently across the carpet and set her bag of groceries on the couch, listening for the slightest sound. Everything looked the way she had left it. Her purple sweats hung over the back of the sofa, an empty coffee cup sat on the coffee table beside the jigsaw puzzle she had been working on. She stepped carefully toward the kitchen and suddenly stopped. Looked back. The puzzle! There had been two pieces missing in the sky. Now there was only one.

And, of course, you would have set up this scene by foreshadowing it earlier before Mary ever went shopping. You would have shown her working on the puzzle, searching through the box for those two pieces of missing sky.

If you use it wisely, one bit of foreshadowing will lead to another, which will lead to another, which will do more than set up a future event. If done well, it creates a thread that strings your novel together, that creates tension and suspense, and that advances your plot. It might even foreshadow a book sale.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Poetry Friday: Memory

Another forgotten poem by New Hampshire's Thomas Bailey Aldrich.

My mind lets go a thousand things,
Like dates of wars and deaths of kings,
And yet recalls the very hour--
'T was noon by yonder village tower,
And on the last blue noon in May--
The wind came briskly up this way,
Crisping the brook beside the road;
Then, pausing here, set down its load
Of pine-scents, and shook listlessly
Two petals from that wild-rose tree.

And really, which memory is more valuable?

Poetry Friday is being hosted this week at Check it Out!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Women of Wednesday: Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Zitkala Sha)

Today is the birthday of Zitkala Sha, born Gertrude Simmons. Born in 1876 on the Yankton Sioux reservation in South Dakota, she was the daughter of a Sioux woman who was abandoned by her white husband. Simmons was the name of her mother’s second husband.

Gertrude’s mother distrusted the missionary schools but Gertrude was a bright girl who insisted on getting the best education she could. She attended a Quaker school off-reservation as a child and then, after trying the local normal school (teacher’s college) and finding it too limited, she earned a scholarship to Earlham College in Indiana. She was a talented violinist and won a scholarship to the Boston Conservatory of Music. 

In 1899, Gertrude was hired to teach music at the Carlisle Indian School. This set the stage for her life’s crusade. The forced “civilization” of Indian children at the Carlisle school (and others that followed its model) has been well-documented. Gertrude worked simultaneously to give her students  the best education she could (her school band won a trip to the Paris Exposition in 1900) while writing articles under her Sioux pen name which decried the treatment of the students in the Indian school.

Her writing eventually cost her the teaching position, but she obtained a contract from the Ginn Publishing company in Boston to record and compile Sioux legends. Back on the reservation she met a young Lakota artist, Angel de Cora. Angel illustrated Zitkala Sha’s book, and with Zitkala Sha’s encouragement, also wrote and published a number of her own stories.

Zitkala Sha married a Lakota man, Raymond Bonnin, in 1902 and had a son in 1903. Her husband worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the family was frequently relocated. She continued to write and kept up with her music – in 1913 while living in Utah she collaborated on an opera.

Zitkala Sha opposed many BIA policies and encouraged Indians to work together across tribal lines, rather than dissipating their political strength in fighting about tribal identities and prerogatives. Her activism cost her husband his position, and together they moved to Washington DC and became activists for Native rights and women’s suffrage . Zitkala Sha wrote and edited for numerous publications. Her book Oklahoma's Poor Rich Indians: An Orgy of Graft, Exploitation of the Five Civilized Tribes, Legalized Robbery (published over the names of two white men) contributed to the political shift that eventually resulted in the Indian Reorganization Act – a law that prevented continued selling-off of Indian lands (which had suddenly become valuable for the oil underneath them). Late 20th-century Native sovereignty movements can be directly traced to her work. In 1926 she co-founded the National Council of American Indians and was president of that organization until her death in 1938. The Council was based on her desire to see all Native American working together: a major focus of the group during her lifetime was the campaign for voting rights for Indians, which many states denied until the 1950s.

Gertrude wrote that music was her first love, but she felt the obligation to work for the rights of American Indians was more important. It is good to know that she had the chance to see her opera, The Sun Dance, performed on Broadway in 1938, shortly before she died.

Raymond Bonnin had been a Captain in the United States Army and so Raymond and Gertrude are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mentor Monday: Revising, Part 3

Finally: Proofreading!

At long last, we arrive at the polishing point in our editing process. You will have picked up many, many copy-type errors in the previous rounds of editing. Still it is important to take this final step, the once-over, just for typos and such scouring. Sadly, an over-looked spelling error will leap off the page and display itself in bright bold print to the first reader, planting doubt about your professionalism and, perhaps, your scholarship.

Now my first suggestion is also a confession. My very best tip for proofreading is my husband. My husband is not a writer, his knowledge of English grammar is negligible, and he is unfamiliar with most of the subjects I’ve written about. BUT – he is an eagle-eyed reader, picking up everything from the extra comma to the awkward phrase to the misspelled county. As an added advantage, he cares about my success, and he’s available at odd hours of the evening when I’m likely to be needing a proofreader. Unfortunately for you, he’s not taking new clients. But I would recommend finding a personal proofreader (PPR), if you can. And I would recommend NOT using that person to read interim drafts of your work. Part of what makes my husband’s review effective is that he is coming to the material completely raw. He has no previous phrases in his head which might gloss over the actual text on the page. And he’ll notice an awkward or confusing statement that I’ve missed, precisely because he doesn’t know what the piece is about.

Even before you pass off your manuscript to the PPR, or in those inevitable crisis moments when the PPR is in Tanzania when you’re on deadline, there are some other proofreading tips and tricks you can manage on your own.

Give your manuscript the gifts of Time, Paper, Space and Sound. Each will help hone the final copy.
  1. Time: Never try to do a final proofread on a manuscript you’ve been working on for hours. You need fresh eyes. It’s best to wait at least a day; at minimum, take a walk or a coffee break.
  2. Paper: Working on the computer gives us a wonderful freedom in the editing process, but ultimately your work is going to be read on paper. Read it on paper at least once before you send it off.
  3. Space: Take the paper copy and read it in different place than you wrote it. This heightens your attention to detail.
  4. Sound: I’ve recommended reading aloud before. Several proofreading tricks are much more effective when you are listening as well as looking at your words. And turn off the background noises when you’re proofreading. You need to concentrate!
First of all, check for your personal demons. We all have them – the words we’ve been spelling incorrectly since the third grade. Do a “find all” for your most-common misspellings. (I almost never recommend doing a global find-and-replace. Most word-processors will replace the target sequence wherever it appears, including in the middle of other words. So if you change your character’s dress color from “red” to “blue” and do a global find-and-replace, you’ll find that a number of unexpected substitutions have occurblue. (In fact, if you have done a global F&R on the manuscript, you should add those kinds of mistakes to your proof-reading checklist.)

The one global F&R I would recommend is for the double-space-after-a-period. If you learned to type back when we called it typing, you were taught to double space after the end of a sentence, and your fingers probably still do that. This is no longer standard. Since punctuation marks are not typically part of standard spelling, you can safely run “replace all” for the double space after a period, a question mark and an exclamation point.

Other things to look for with the “find” function:

  1.  Any detail that you changed from one version of the piece to another (nicknames, for example).
  2.  Auto-correct errors, especially names and acronyms changed to common words
  3. Homonyms: Spell-checkers will not flag you for using the wrong version of there/their/they’re or to/too/two. And while you’re at it, pay particular attention to its/it’s. (Remember, if you could substitute “his” for “its,” it does NOT need an apostrophe.)
  4.  Stylistic choices: Some words are always compound words, some are always hyphenated, but in many cases these are style choices. You want to be sure you have followed your publisher’s guidelines, if you have them. If not, default to the AP Stylebook. But check! Even if both proofread and proof-read are acceptable, using them interchangeably within your manuscript is not.
Turn on the “show/hide” option and look for random carriage returns and any other unexpected formatting marks.

Now – print out the manuscript! It is difficult if not impossible to do a really effective proofreading job on a screen. For some reason, errors “pop” on paper.

Now is when you can try this often-suggested trick: Read the manuscript backwards, which forces you to think about each word individually.

Things to look for:
  1. Random capital letters.
  2. Doubled letters (which can easily become tripled). Also – is it REALLY a double letter? (Hopefully your spell-check will have picked those up, but watch for them anyway.)
  3. Transposed letters, especially if the scrambled version is also a correctly-spelled word. (Most of us have one or two words we frequently transpose: add them to your list of things you search for with the “find” function.)
  4. Commonly confused words: Accept/except, effect/affect, lay/lie. Backward and backwards do not mean the same thing. Neither do beside and besides. Toward and towards, however, are interchangeable.
  5. Consistency with hyphens, compound words, serial commas, line spacing and indentations. Again, follow publisher’s guidelines or the AP Stylebook. Double-check the spelling of every name. If you find an error in a word you’ve used more than once, make a note to do a “find” for the incorrect form when you go back to the computer to make sure you’ve caught them all.
  6. British/American spelling: if you read a lot of material published in the UK or Canada, you may find yourself using perfectly good spellings that your editor will consider wrong! If there are words you use frequently for which this is an issue (judgement/judgment), add them to your F&R list.
Finally, double-check every number: dates, prices, addresses. Numbers are so easy to type incorrectly, and no mechanical checker will find your errors! Also check any instance of million/billion/trillion.

Go back to the computer, fix the errors you found on paper, and you’re ready to SEND!

Some helpful websites:

General proofreading tips:

There are a number of lists of commonly confused words on the internet. Here’s one good one:

British/American spelling comparison:

I highly recommend owning the AP Stylebook (and getting an updated version every few years) but in the meanwhile, the ever-helpful Purdue Writing Lab has a quick-check online:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Poetry Friday: The Fawn

Sunday morning and mellow as precious metal
The church bells rang, but I went
To the woods instead.

A fawn, too new
For fear, rose from the grass
And stood with its spots blazing,
And knowing no way but words,
No trick but music,
I sang to him.

He listened.
His small hooves struck the grass.
Oh what is holiness?

The fawn came closer,
Walked to my hands, to my knees.

I did not touch him.
I only sang, and when the doe came back
Calling out to him dolefully
And he turned and followed her into the trees,
Still I sang,
Not knowing how to end such a joyful text,

Until far off the bells once more tipped and tumbled
And rang through the morning, announcing
The going forth of the blessed.

                    -- Mary Oliver from Twelve Moons

Gathering Books is hosting today, and it's worth a looksee!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mentor Monday: Is it Possible to Combine Fiction and Non-fiction?

One of the recent topics on the Children’s Non-fiction list has been whether it is possible to use fictional techniques in non-fiction and if so, what does one call this hybrid? Librarians might argue, More importantly, where does one shelve it in the library?

In an article for the Institute of Children’s Literature entitled "Creative Nonfiction vs Informational Fiction,” author Jan Fields gives this definition:

Creative nonfiction happens when an author uses totally well researched facts to create a story-like narrative with NO made up parts. Creative nonfiction isn’t FICTION – it has to be built from facts. The pieces that lend themselves to creative nonfiction will be either historical, profiles, or biographies.”

(Read the entire article here):

Melissa Stewart, author of more than 150 non-fiction titles for children, disagrees. She posted on the non-fiction list:

“I believe the most accepted definition of creative nonfiction is a more general term. In other words, narrative nonfiction is just one kind of creative nonfiction. There are a host of ways nonfiction can be creative, and in recent years, authors are really experimenting and innovating and coming up with some amazing stuff.I recently wrote an article for the SCBWI Bulletin that draws attention to what I refer to as nonfiction with a strong voice. It is creative because it is lyrical or humorous/sassy/silly, for instance.”

Profile writers for my America’s Notable Women series ( are asked to open each story with a creative non-fiction hook. Using information gleaned from their research, the authors’ first 50 or so words show the featured woman at a crossroads in her life. They rarely use dialogue unless quoting from the profilee’s diary or an interview. It is possible, in this way, to use fictional techniques to grab our child-reader and make her want to read more.

There are other ways to combine the two genres. Some writers alternate chapters. Others might use sidebars to present the non-fiction aspects of their stories. Sarah Marwil Lamstein’s new book, Big Night for Salamanders, uses a change in font to help young readers navigate the switch from fact to fiction. I find the technique very successful but almost unnecessary. While the story is not told in predictable page turns (for example, all left pages would be non-fiction, all right pages fiction), the story flows smoothly from one to the other.

Big Night tells the story of the annual migration of the spotted salamander from their winter dens to the vernal pools where they will lay their eggs. The fictional part of the story involves Evan and his family. Each year, they volunteer to help the salamanders cross a road that separates the salamanders from the pools by lighting the area and asking drivers to slow down watch for the tiny creatures. The fictional aspect of the book provides the tension that makes what could have been just a series of facts a lovely work of literature. It is easier to care about people because they show emotion. The reader transfers the emotional attachment developed for Evan. Because he cares about these small amphibians, the reader cares too.

The use of fictional techniques can enhance non-fiction. As always, we suggest you become familiar with current authors who have strengthened their fictional voices by doing more than stating a series of facts. Melissa Stewart, in her recent post, suggested the following:

Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre (illus by Steve Jenkins)

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman (illus by Beth Krommes)

The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass (illus by E.B. Lewis)

Step Out Gently by Helen Frost (photos by Rick Lieder)

Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving and Independent Dames by Laurie Halse Anderson (illus by Matt Faulkner)

The Truth About Poop and See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House by Susan E. Goodman (illus. by Elwood H. Smith)

Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs by Kathleen Kudlinski (illus. by S.D. Schindler)

What to Do About Alice? by Barbara Kerley (illus. by Edwin Fotheringham)

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Larvae: A Guide for Insect Parents (and Curious Kids) by Bridget Heos

Friday, February 10, 2012

Poetry Friday: Another Frost-y Day . . .

. . . but spring is in the air.

A Patch of Old Snow

There's a patch of old snow in a corner,,
     That I should have guessed
Was a blow-away paper the rain
     Had brought to rest.

It is speckled with grime as if
    Small print overspread it,
The news of the day I've forgotten --
     If I ever read it.

                     -- Robert Frost

Laura Purdie Salas is hosting PF today over at her blog, Writing the World for Kids.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mentor Monday: Do I Have to Provide Pictures with my Manuscripts? Part 2

Yesterday, Sheila Brown gave us the first of several hints for finding illustrations for our manuscripts or works-in-progress. Here is the rest of her interview:

2. How do you track the provenance of a photo or illustration that appears on say, Google images?

Unfortunately, there is a common belief that images found on the internet are in the public domain. Images found on the internet should not be assumed to be in the public domain. Many organizations obtain electronic rights to be able to post images on their website for a specific amount of time and for a specific use. .

Many times a website that is using a photograph will provide a credit line to the source of the photograph. A photo researcher must contact the credited source to verify that they are the rights-holder and to set up a new contract to use the image for their own project.

3. Should you always get permission to use photos/illustrations to accompany a manuscript? If yes, what problems could arise if you don't get permission?

Yes, a photo researcher should always get permission to use a photo or illustration to accompany a manuscript with the exception of public domain images. It should be noted that researchers should try to provide a credit line for the image source. This is not only a courtesy to the institution providing the free image, but it is sometimes a requirement for using a public domain image.

For rights-managed images, a photo researcher needs to obtain editorial rights for a photograph that will be used to illustrate a manuscript. Editorial rights allow for the use of images for education or newsworthiness. An image with editorial rights cannot be used for advertising or selling a product. If permission is not obtained for editorial use, the contracting company may be sued for infringing on a photographer’s right to earn an income from a photo or from the licensing photo company that is manages the photo.

4. Private sources are sometimes willing to lend old photos to illustrate a book or magazine article. What are some of the problems writers should keep in mind regarding the use of these photos?

It is a great benefit to have access to private family photos or photos from private sources because that gives readers the chance to view images they may not have seen before. If a private source lends a photograph for use in a book or magazine, a photo researcher must still verify that the family owns the rights to the photo and therefore the right to distribute the photo. Often, families have physical copies of photos that were taken by another professional photographer for a third-party or that belong to another institution. The family may believe they have the right to distribute the photo, but a photo researcher must still verify the legal owner of the rights to the original photograph.
For private sources that want to charge for use of their photos, pricing for the use of a photo may become an issue. Sometimes private sources are not aware of the value of their photos and they may charge a price that is out of range of your normal photo budget. This over-valued price can be fueled by emotional attachments with photos of their loved one or favorite subject. A photo researcher will have to tread carefully and negotiate with family members about the price of using an image.

Thanks to Sheila for sharing her expertise. If you have more questions, please feel free to send them along and we'll try to get them answered.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mentor Monday: Do I Have to Provide Pictures with my Manuscripts?

What is the writer’s requirement when it comes to providing illustrations for the books we write? Most of the time, we don’t have to give the publisher anything. If you’re doing an illustrated picture book, the publisher will find the illustrator. A new writer, for example, might be paired with a well-known illustrator. This sort of combination may make your book more saleable. Fans of the illustrator’s style will look for his/her new book. When my friend, Marybeth Lorbiecki, wrote one of her early picture books, Just One Flick of a Finger, she was paired with David Diaz who had recently won the Caldecott Medal.

Sometimes, publishers require the author to provide pictures with their manuscripts. Enslow Publishers, who produce many biographies for the middle-grade/YA readers was one such publishing house. Some houses provide a photo budget. Most houses don’t.

Even magazines may ask writers to include photos for their pieces. Write Sister Kathy’s husband once wrote an article that was accepted by a fishing magazine. It did not go to print because he had not taken photographs to accompany his first-person story.

There are other reasons for wanting to have photos on-hand. Pictures and art work can provide details we can use in our descriptions or even just give us inspiration. Karen Hesse tells the story about writing her Newbery-winning Out of the Dust. She found a picture of a Dust-Bowl-era girl that became, in her mind, her character Billie Jo. She put the picture in her office and looked at her “Billie Jo” each day as she worked on the book. When the book was ready for publication, her editor sent her a Library of Congress picture of a young girl from the Dust Bowl period. They wanted to use the picture on the cover of the book. You guessed it. It was the same picture. Karen had never told her editor that it was the picture she looked at every day.

How do you find pictures when you need them to help sell a manuscript or, even for your own research? Photos are works of art as much as your writing is. You would not want anyone using your words without acknowledging that the words were yours. You would hope to be paid for your work—even if someone else wanted to use it. Photographers and illustrators deserve the same consideration. So, how do you find the photos you need without taking out a second mortgage on your house? Some older pictures are in the public domain and can be used for free. Some photographers just want the world to see their work and allow anyone to use their pictures. How do you find legitimately free or low cost illustrations?

I interviewed Sheila Brown who has done photo research for several publishing companies. I’m including part of the interview in today’s blog and will post the rest of the interview tomorrow.

1. Sheila, can you please list, in order of preference, two or three places you would look for free photos to accompany a manuscript:

a. Library of Congress: The Library of Congress is a repository of other library collections or historical societies’ collections. While a vast number of images at the Library of Congress’s website are in the public domain, a photo researcher must still check the Rights & Reproduction information to verify if the image is in the public domain or not.
b. This is the National Archives and Administration’s website where you can search for digital images relating to politics, environmental images (example: (DOCUMERICA), and military events. The images are small in resolution so a researcher will have to pay a small fee (around $30) for a 300-dpi image.

c. This is a master website that provides links to multiple public domain or low-cost images from various government or military departments:

Here’s a sampling of what you might find there.
FEMA Photo Library:
NASA Multimedia :
USDA Agricultural Research Photo Library:
The USDA provides many photo galleries to search and use.
USGS Image Gallery:
Photo Subscription Websites: Websites, such as, and are microstock photo agencies that provide photos of common items for a set monthly or yearly price. A monthly or yearly subscription allows a certain number of images to be downloaded at higher resolutions. Print runs are usually set by these companies so a photo researcher will have to make sure the publisher is aware of these limits.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Poetry Friday--"Manners"

Here is a poem by Elizabeth Bishop that is nostalgic and touching without being sappy:
For a Child of 1918

My grandfather said to me
as we sat on the wagon seat,
"Be sure to remember to always
speak to everyone you meet."

We met a stranger on foot.
My grandfather's whip tapped his hat.
"Good day, sir. Good day. A fine day."
And I said it and bowed where I sat.

Then we overtook a boy we knew
with his big pet crow on his shoulder.
"Always offer everyone a ride;
don't forget that when you get older,"

my grandfather said. So Willy
climbed up with us, but the crow
gave a "Caw!" and flew off. I was worried.
How would he know where to go?

But he flew a little way at a time
from fence post to fence post, ahead;
and when Willy whistled he answered.
"A fine bird," my grandfather said,

"and he's well brought up. See, he answers
nicely when he's spoken to.
Man or beast, that's good manners.
Be sure that you both always do."

When automobiles went by,
the dust hid the people's faces,
but we shouted "Good day! Good day!
Fine day!" at the top of our voices.

When we came to Hustler Hill,
he said that the mare was tired,
so we all got down and walked,
as our good manners required.
What a fabulous ending! And what a surprise.

Check out the Poetry Friday Round-Up being hosted today at The Iris Chronicles.


Photo by Lewis Wickes Hine courtesy Library of Congress.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Women of Wednesday--A Book Recommendation

I thought today I'd recommend a book for those of you who like nonfiction. It's Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden (Scribner, 2011).

It's a detailing of the author's discovery of her grandmother, Dorothy Woodruff's, early life. Woodruff, and her childhood friend, Rosamund Underwood, were born in Auburn, New York at the end of the 19th century. They both came from well-off families and lived lives of relative ease with servants to take care of their needs. They attended the all-women school, Smith College, and graduated in 1909. But rather than pursue the path of others of their station--marriage and/or performing acts of charity--the women traveled, and then, a half-dozen years later, took jobs as school teachers in the newly settled Elkhead Mountain region of Colorado.

I found the book to be perfectly fascinating, most especially in the way it shattered the conceptions I had of women in the pre-World War I United States. For example, my idea of a Smith College education didn't include this, as related by Dorothy Woodruff, "I loved every minute...I was invited to join all of the fun and social clubs that there were." And, "Life was very relaxed and easy." This easiness was not as a result of Dorothy's being an exceptionally quick learner. According to her granddaughter, with grades of two Ds, two C-s, a B-, and a C+, Dorothy "was put on probation." Somehow I saw a college education at the time as being close to torturous in its demands and expectations. Dorothy stayed at Smith for all four years, had FUN, and still managed to graduate.

Even in the wilds of Colorado, while teaching the "backward children," the two women found the time and energy for extracurricular activities! Wickenden tells the reader that the two "became adept at organizing community-wide parties."

Of course, the book is about more than girls wanting to have fun--there's a little about the settling of the west, a little about the hardscrabble existence of those in Elkhead, a little about western romance, and a whole lot about living a life of your own making!

Nothing Daunted has its own website where there are many pictures--click here. I hope you'll pick up a copy of the book and see if it doesn't make you rethink your idea of early 20th century society women! It would also make a great book discussion title for those of you in a book group.