Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Women of Wednesday: The Strong

When I was a kid, I had lots of unstructured time, and I had no problem filling it to the max with all sorts of imaginative play. I don't think that happens as much as it once did. During my teaching career -- and this is just anecdotal -- I saw my students so over-committed, I wondered if they ever had time to just play. They were so busy with formal lessons and team sports and other team activities -- usually organized by parents.

As I was searching for something else, I happened upon The Strong. The Strong bills itself as an interactive, collections-based institution dedicated to the idea of Play.

Even the building looks fun:

The Strong is named for Margaret Woodbury Strong. Margaret led an amazingly privileged life:

'Thanks to her parent’s passion for traveling, Margaret saw more of the world by age 11 than many people do in a lifetime. On one six-month trip, she visited the beaches of Hawaii, played with dolls in a Japanese teahouse, rode an elephant in Ceylon, and toured the waterfronts of Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Canton. As an adult reflecting on her travels, she noted, “I was allowed to carry a small bag to put my dolls and toys in, and to add anything I acquired on the trips. Consequently, my fondness for small objects grew.” The Woodburys also spent considerable time visiting museums and attending the theater. In short, they made the world both Margaret’s classroom and her playground.

An active child, Margaret enjoyed numerous athletic endeavors and later became an accomplished bowler and golfer. She also followed the social schedule dictated by the period and class to which she belonged. A comprehensive round of teas, dinners, and dances filled her calendar, and she faithfully catalogued mementos from these occasions in scrapbooks. She also pursued photography and received tutoring in languages, history, music, and art."

Margaret was quite accomplished. She won major awards for her golf game and for flower arranging. The latter even netted her an invitation to exhibit her flower-arranging skills at the 1939 Worlds Fair.

Her real passion was, however, collecting. Margaret was keen and passionate about it as only true collectors are.

"Margaret’s collecting interests ranged so wide and her methods assumed such aggressive proportions that by the late 1960s, she had amassed more than 27,000 dolls and a seemingly endless number of middle-class American household objects spread over more than 50 categories. The vast majority of her collections, however, related in some way to play, and she earned a particular reputation for her outstanding collection of dolls and toys"

She began to think of her collection as more of a museum and added two wings that were more like galleries to her already-huge 30 room home in Rochester, NY. She thought of her home and collection as The Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum of Fascination.

Margaret died at age 72 in 1969. She left behind her collections and a financial legacy that has resulted in The Strong. The museum opened to the public in 1982, and now encompasses The National Museum of Play, The National Toy Hall of Fame, and others.

For her contribution to the world of Play, today The Write Sisters salute Margaret Woodbury Strong.

You can read more at The Strong.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mentor Monday: Setting as Antagonist

Most of the time we think of setting as just a place to put a story. We say stories are “character-driven” while others are “plot driven.”  Can they be “setting driven?”  Maybe, if the setting is considered a character.

Stories need a protagonist and an antagonist. In Hatchet, Gary Paulsen’s first book in the Bryan Robeson series, the setting is the antagonist. Bryan and the wilderness are the main characters in the story. The plot is basic: 14-year-old stranded Bryan tries to survive. The wilderness tries to kill him.

A story cannot proceed without a well-developed hero and villain, neither can it proceed without a well-developed setting. In a recent post we experimented with changing the setting of stories and found that the change impacted the characters as well as the story’s trajectory.

Some time ago, we also discussed some of the basic plots in literature and how they can be divided into seven concepts:

Man vs. nature
Man vs. man
Man vs. the environment
Man vs. machines/technology
Man vs. the supernatural
Man vs. self
Man vs. god/religion 

Setting helps writers turn these 7 concepts into innumerable stories. Hatchet, for example, is a man vs. nature tale. It is a contemporary story of a boy who is lost in the wilderness when the pilot of a small bush plane, in which Bryan is a passenger, has a heart attack mid-flight. The plane crashes and Bryan survives to face the harsh Canadian forest.

Take another 14-year-old boy and put him in a forest in the early 1300s. He is left alone for a month or more. If he survives, he becomes a man in the eyes of his clan.

Take a third teen and put him in post-apocalyptic Europe in the year 2499. He awakens to find that he is alone in the destroyed ruins of a once-thriving city.

All of these situations mimic the Hatchet story but the setting changes the type of character that will be developed in each man vs. nature scenario. The threats and the survival possibilities will be different. The protagonists’ inner knowledge will be different. Bryan Robeson has his hatchet. Such a weapon might not exist for the 14th century boy. The 25th century boy might find weapons that have not yet been invented in our time.

Your unique setting also will impact your plot and the outcome of your story. In each of the scenarios above, the author’s background knowledge will be different, too. Gary Paulsen’s character, Bryan, needed to survive using real, modern-day and believable skills. 

The 14th century native teen, left alone to prove he is a man, would have some similar threats that Bryan faced (such as wild beasts, cold, etc.) but with different limitations. While he might be better at creating shelter for himself than a 20th century teen, he might have weapons that are less dependable such as an ax he made himself that wouldn’t cut as well as the machine-made model available to Bryan. The author would have to do a different kind of research than that done by Gary Paulsen: what kind of wood and stone would be available to his character in that particular part of the world at that particular time in history?

The protagonist teen in the post-apocalyptic novel would be limited only by the author’s imagination.  “Nature” might have an entirely different definition in this particular world. In these stories, set in a future time, the author makes the rules.

Continue to read great authors for children and pay attention to the setting of their stories. Notice the authors’ methods of description and how the sense of place impacts each work you read. Not all settings will be used as an antagonist but can the setting be considered even a minor character?  We’ll talk about that in a future post. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Poetry Friday

Forget about the lawn mower and the shopping list.  Forget about the laundry and the dishes.  You're not getting any younger and neither is the day.  Get out and enjoy it!


So here has been dawning
another blue day;
Think, wilt thou let it
slip useless away.

Out of Eternity
the new day was born;
Into Eternity
at night, will return.

Behold it aforetime
no eye ever did;
So soon it forever
from all eyes is hid.

Here has been dawning
another blue day;
Think, wilt thou let it
slip useless away.

Thomas Carlyle

Linda, at Teacherdance is hosting today's Poetry Friday.
Go on over and say 'hello' and then read her goodbye poetry.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Women of Wednesday--Imagine...

I received a politically-oriented email Mother's Day weekend regarding the 2012 elections in New Hampshire--don't worry, this is not going to be a politically-oriented post. The message reflected on the history of women in NH governance. It noted that in 2009, NH was "the first legislative body with a female majority in the country," and "New Hampshire is also the first and only state in the country to elect a woman as both a Governor and United States Senator--Jeanne Shaheen."

We had a Women of Wednesday post three years ago about the NH legislature. Wow, have things changed in three years time--and not for the better as far as women are concerned. Back then we ranked #2 of all the states, now, we're #22! At the time 37.7% of NH's legislature were women, now it's 24.8%. We had a majority of women in the state senate--13 out of 24--now we have 6 out of 24. NH is moving backwards.

New Hampshire's Senate chamber in the Capitol Building in Concord is the oldest chamber still in use in the nation, having been in continuous use since 1819, the year the Statehouse opened. Photo and caption courtesy NH State Senate.

The elections in November 2012 are critical to restoring women to the NH legislature, and hopefully restoring some of the "people-oriented" services that have been drastically cut over the past two years.

Our present governor's term ends this year and Governor Lynch has decided not to run for a fifth term. I know there are women who have declared their intention to run. On the federal level, NH has two female senators, Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte [note: surprisingly, three other states also are represented by two women in the Senate--California, Maine, and Washington]. As a small state, we have two congressmen, both of whom are men. Now just imagine...after November's elections, our new governor may be a woman, our two congressmen could be women, and our two senators already are women! I wonder where that would put us in comparison to the other 49 states? At the state level, we can only hope that women who are fed up with the way some of the men in the legislature have been acting, will run in opposition! Imagine...

If you can imagine it, it can be made to happen! Run for office, if you can. Vote in the primaries. Vote in the elections. It's your right--exercise it!


Monday, May 21, 2012

Making an Entrance

No matter what kind of novel you write, your characters all have to make entrances.  Most times, they’ll simply walk into a room.  Passing from one place to another is all the moment calls for.  But there are moments when an entrance is important, where it needs to be more and do more.


The most obvious entrance is when a character steps on stage for the first time.  In this case, she won’t necessarily be walking through a door.  She isn’t entering a room, she’s entering the story.  It’s a moment of introduction.

Many beginners introduce a character by describing things like height, age, and hair color.  Another common introduction is naming a character and telling us where they are – John Smith stepped off the school bus.  Mary Jones walked into the party.  It’s done all the time and is perfectly acceptable, but both types of introduction are generally pretty blah.  An introduction should make us curious enough about a character to prod us into reading on.

 Consider the following introduction from Madapple, by Christina Meldrum.  It’s the first time we see the main character.  It’s also the entire first chapter. 

 -Please state your name for the record.
-And your last name?
-I don’t know.
-You don’t know your last name?
-Your mother’s name was Maren Hellig, was it not?
-You are Aslaugh Hellig.
-Mother called me Aslaugh Datter.
-So your last name is Datter?
-No.  I mean, I don’t know.  Datter means daughter in Danish.  I’m not sure it’s my name.
-What was your father’s name?
-I don’t have a father.
-You don’t know who your father is?
-I don’t have a father, other than the one we share.
-You mean God in heaven?
-I never said God is in heaven.
-But you mean God, am I right?
-Well, I’m referring to your biological father.  You don’t know who he is?
-I don’t have a biological father.
-Your Honor, the witness is being nonresponsive.  She’s being tried for one count of attempted murder, and two counts of murder in the first degree, and she’s playing games—
-Do you have a birth certificate for the witness, Counsel?  It seems that document may clarify this matter.
-She has no birth certificate, Your Honor.  At least none we’ve found.

We know who she is, where she is, and what the initial problem is.  We know she’s Danish, that her mother is dead, and even have a hint at her religious beliefs.  We know she has a backbone because she doesn’t back down from the Prosecutor.  And it only took 190 words—less than a page.  Do you care that you don’t know her hair or eye color?  Probably not.  You’re probably wondering if she really is a murderer, and who did she kill, and why.  And how can anyone not have a biological father?  And what’s that bit about God not being in heaven, and why doesn’t she have a birth certificate?  Something’s obviously rotten in Denmark.  How can you not turn the page?

 Setting Tone and Mood

That is how Bartimaeus enters the room in The Amulet of Samarkand, The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud.

The temperature of the room dropped fast.  Ice formed on the curtains and crusted thickly around the lights in the ceiling.  The glowing filaments of each bulb shrank and dimmed, while the candles that sprang from every available surface like a colony of toadstools had their wicks snuffed out.  The darkened room filled with a yellow choking cloud of brimstone, in which indistinct black shadows writhed and roiled.  From far away came the sound of many voices screaming.  Pressure was suddenly applied to the door that led to the landing.  It bulged inward, the timbres groaning.  Footsteps from invisible feet came pattering across the floorboards and invisible mouths whispered wicked things from behind the bed and under the desk.

 The sulfur cloud contracted into a thick column of smoke that vomited forth thin tendrils; they licked the air like tongues before withdrawing.  The columns hung above the middle of the pentacle, bubbling ever upward against the ceiling like the cloud of an erupting volcano.  There was a barely perceptible pause.  Then two yellow staring eyes materialized in the heart of the smoke.

All that happens here is that Bartimaeus appears.  It only takes a second or two, but Stroud stretched those few seconds out to build the moment, to create an eerie, magical, and mysterious tone and atmosphere.   You know what kind of book you’re getting when you read that.  And even though all we see are his yellow eyes, we can infer Bartimaeus is powerful and someone to be reckoned with because Stroud made the moment big.  Bartimaeus doesn’t just appear in a cloud of smoke, he makes all those other things happen first.  He’s grandstanding and making a show of it.  He thinks highly of himself.  He has an ego.


Not all entrances will be big, but they can still add something to your manuscript.  Here’s a short excerpt from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  Haymitch, mentor in the games to Katniss and Peeta, enters the room.

Just then, Haymitch enters the compartment.  “I miss supper?” he says in a slurred voice.  Then he vomits all over the expensive carpet and falls in the mess.

We’ve already seen Haymitch drunk and falling off a stage.  Now he’s obviously drunk again.  He’s clearly an alcoholic, and we have to wonder what he can possibly do to help these two kids out in the game.  But why does it matter that he came through the door?  It’s only three sentences, and it’s already been established he’s a drunk.  Why throw in this entrance?

Because coming through the door says he tried.  It says he cared about these kids.  It says he may drink his life away but he hasn’t given up.  He hasn’t sunk to the point of no return.  He may have arrived late and drunk, but he arrived.  Somewhere inside him, there’s a bit of hope that he can come back.  He hasn’t given up on himself.

None of that is in the excerpt, but it can be inferred because he made the entrance, because he walked through the door.  If the kids had found him sitting in his own vomit just outside the door, it says he didn’t care enough, he didn’t try hard enough, he gave up.  It’s the entrance, the coming through the door that changes the way we see him. 
Choosing an Entrance

And finally, remember that entrances aren’t always made through doors and they don’t always lead to rooms.  Stepping up to bat and diving into a pool are both entrances, as is falling into a manhole.  And consider your mode of entry in relation to your story.  Why enter Narnia through a wardrobe?  Because it’s a land of perpetual winter and they needed those fur coats hung inside. 

Next time, we’ll look at exits.  In the meantime, take a look at the entrances in your own work and make sure they add something to the story, your character or, preferably, both. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Poetry Friday--Playing Baseball (Like a Girl)

I don't know if you heard the recent news about a Fundamentalist Catholic high school baseball team in Arizona that refused to play in a state finals game. The opposing team had a female second baseman. The gist of the story is that the girl, in deference to the objecting team, didn't play against them in regular season games, but when it came down to the crucial game in the finals, she stepped up to the plate! Unfortunately, the game was forfeited by the parochial school, and she didn't get to play.

I admire the confidence and spirit of the young woman who was able to try out for, and play with, the "boys" team. It's too bad her team won by default. As for the forfeiting team--they are truly losers--the 21st century is here to stay, and women are not going back!

By way of celebrating Paige Sultzbach, here's a poem by J. Patrick Lewis:
First Girls in Little League Baseball

December 26, 1974
Title IX of the 1972 Education Act is signed, providing for equal opportunity in athletics for girls as well as boys.

The year was 1974
When Little Leaguers learned the score.
President Ford took out his pen,
And signed a law that said from then
On women too would have the chance
To wear the stripes and wear the pants.
Now what you hear, as flags unfurl,
Is "Atta boy!" and "Atta girl!"

Head over to Write. Sketch. Repeat. for this week's Round-Up.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Women of Wednesday--The War on Women

Warning: this post is slightly political, but mostly I see it as a discussion of power--who has it, who doesn't--and our role in the "war."

Last year, at just about this time, I wrote a post where I mentioned the trivialization of the reality of war by the constant use of the phrase, "war on" (as in "war on marijuana," "war on Christmas," "war on marriage"). You can read it here.

The "war on women," however, although not a kill/be killed type of conflict, is one with far-reaching implications, and one that effects more than 50% of the U.S. population.

This is what the "war" is about--power, and how it can be kept from women. It is all about manipulation and bullying. It is an exercise for aging, white men in Congress--one last chance to be in control. (Yes, that is a broad brush to use, but bear with me.)

In a recent article by Kerry Kennedy, she wrote about the roles people take in any instance of bullying:
Will I be a perpetrator, a victim, a bystander or a human rights defender?

And each time she makes that decision on which role she will play, she is exercising a muscle. Like any muscle, the more she uses it, the stronger it becomes. And its strength defines who she is in her school, her family, her neighborhood, and most importantly, who she sees when she looks in the mirror.

The same choices exist in the "War on Women."

As a reader of this blog, I trust you may be sympathetic to our interests in seeing women, to paraphrase the army ad from several years ago, "be all that they can be." If that is so, then the only role you can take in the "war on women," is as a defender of human rights. Humans--and that includes women--denied rights can never be all that they can be. Become a defender of human rights, exercise your muscle.

Exercise that muscle by educating yourself, and then educating others. If you're a writer, you can follow in the footsteps of women such as Clementine Churchill. She knew the value of wit and humor in presenting an idea. Click here to read a letter she wrote 100 years ago in response to another letter from a anti-suffrage male.

Politicians, full of hot air, can be deflated, and they can be defeated at the polls. If you do nothing else in your role as defender of human rights, you can vote and make a difference. When you look in the mirror you'll be proud of what you see.

(Okay, now to address those other aging, white men in Congress. My favorite member of Congress is Bernie Sanders who said, "We are not going back." Others exist--support them!)


Photo taken Concord, NH, April 28, 2012.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mentor Monday: Revisiting the Topic of Setting

How important is a story’s setting?  Let’s try an experiment and see.  Here’s some dialogue from a well-known novel:

“Jess?” her voice flowed through the receiver.  “Miserable weather, isn’t it?”

“Yes’m.”  He was scared to say more for fear she’d hear the shake.

“I was thinking of driving down to Washington—maybe go to the Smithsonian or the National Gallery.  How would you like to keep me company?”

He broke out in a cold sweat.


He licked his lips and shoved his hair off his face.

“You still there, Jess?”

“Yes’m.” He tried to get a deep breath so he could keep talking.

“Would you like to go with me?”

Lord.  “Yes’m.”

We have one male and one female in this conversation.  We know the weather is “miserable” but not bad enough to prevent travel.  The male is obviously nervous.  The female is in charge.  The story could change based on where this conversation took place. Read the conversation again. Imagine the story takes place today. The male character is a 20-something office worker.  The female character is his boss. He is out with a girlfriend with the phone rings. He sees the caller ID.  It’s his boss. She’s a beautiful, aggressive 40-something. He needs this job. He can’t NOT take the call.
Read the conversation again. Change the setting. 1960s, New Jersey. He’s a young, undercover cop.  He’s spent months working his way into a mafia-like gang. She’s the head man’s daughter and she’s taken a shine to him. He doesn’t know how to handle her request. Will he get in trouble with his bosses if he goes with her? Will he get in trouble if he doesn’t?

The conversation is actually from Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.  The book was published in 1977—before cell phones and home computers. Jess is a fifth grader. He comes from a poor family and he loves to draw. The woman is his teacher, Miss Edmunds. She is offering to bring Jess to Washington to visit his first art gallery. Her goal is simply to inspire him. 

The dialogue seems to change as we 1) change the characters’ ages but also as we 2) place them in different settings. Doing so makes the same words read differently in our minds. The setting makes a huge difference. It changes our feelings about both the characters and how the story will play out.

Nineteenth century novelists devoted pages and pages to describing setting. Modern readers don’t have the patience to comb through this much detail but an author must still provide the reader with a sense of place. We do so with well-placed and well-paced actions.  In Bridge to Terabithia, for example, Paterson never says that Jess’s family lives in the country.  She shows us:

“Where are you going, Jess?” May Belle lifted herself up…
“Sh.”…The walls were thin…
“Just over the cow field,” he whispered…

On the very first page we have a sense of place. A house that has thin walls is not worth much. If it’s near a cow field it’s not in the city or even the suburbs. Our minds assign a different set of issues to people who live in this kind of place.

How important is a story’s setting?  Ask yourself: could my story have occurred anywhere else?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Poetry Friday: The Early Bird

Still dark, and raining hard
on a cold May morning

and yet the early bird
is out there chirping,

chirping its sweet-sour
wooden-pulley notes,

pleased, it would seem,
to be given work,

hauling the heavy bucket of dawn

up from the darkness,
note over note,

and letting us drink.

                    --Ted Kooser

(Oh, Ted. I love you so.)
You can find more totally lovable poets (and their poems) over at Live Your Poem where Irene is hosting today. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Women of Wednesday: Woman's Suffrage redux


Not surprisingly, the America’s Notable Women seriesprofiles lots of women who were involve in the century-long effort to securethe voting franchise for women, and many more who worked for the rights ofAfrican Americans and other minority groups. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are the best-known of the Suffragists,of course, but many others worked both in public and behind the scenes to gainfull citizenship for all Americans.

Today’s bizarre efforts to make it more difficult for women,the elderly, and members of minority groups to vote is creating a whole newcrop of Notable American Women. Ironically, many of these women were alive towelcome the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, now they have lived longenough to see those hard-won rights taken away again.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Dorothy Cooper, a 96 year old woman from Tennessee, was denieda voter-id because her birth certificate says her name is Dorothy Alexander.Dorothy, who has outlived two husbands, does not have a copy of her most recentmarriage license.

Thelma Mitchell, 93, also from Tennessee, was denied theright to vote using her State-employee ID card. She can’t get one of the newvoter id cards because she doesn’t have a birth certificate.

Ruthelle Frank, 84, has been unable to obtain a voter id inWisconsin because she never had a birth certificate. A former elected officialherself, she points out that being required to pay for a birth certificate tovote is a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition on charging a fee for theopportunity to vote.

Another Tennessean, Virginia Lasater, 91, has been unable toobtain a voter id because the DMV refused to accommodate her need to sit downwhile waiting her turn in the lengthy line of applicants.

In Pennsylvania, Viviette Applewhite, 93, was also denied avoter ID for the lack of a birth certificate or driver’s license. So farApplewhite is the most likely candidate to wind up in a future Notable Womenbook, as she has agreed to be the lead plaintiff in the ACLU’s lawsuit againstthe Pennsylvania law.

You don’t have to be elderly to get caught in the new laws’traps. Rita Platt, also from Wisconsin, is a librarian in the St. Croix Falls schooldistrict (which presumably means she’s already passed a criminal backgroundcheck). She was told she could not obtain an id without paying for either a birthcertificate or a passport. In addition, Wisconsin’sapplication for a copy of a birth certificate says the applicant must present a“valid photo ID” – but won’t issue the ID without a birth certificate.

In Texas, Jessica Cohen lost her documents in a burglary, soshe is unable to get a voter id. (Texas’ law was recently declaredunconstitutional by the Supreme Court.)

While the elderly and minorities are the most likely peopleto not have a birth certificate or a valid driver’s license, women aredisproportionately impacted by the new voter id laws because (news flash!) womenare far more likely than men to change their names, so that their birthcertificates don’t match their current documents.

Check out the National Women’s History Museum’s “Rights for Women” exhibit. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mentor Monday: RIP Maurice Sendak - and Thank you.

I have realized to my embarrassment that I was scheduled to post yesterday.  However, having missed that deadline, I am presented with this opportunity - to mourn, with the rest of the world of Children's literature, the passing of Maurice Sendak - and to suggest, for Mentor Monday, that we all remember this piece of advice he gave: “I never spent less than two years on the text of one of my picture books, even though each of them is approximately 380 words long. Only when the text is finished do I begin the pictures.”

I commend to you Sendak's essay in William Zinsser's Worlds of Childhood: The Art and Craft of Writing for Children. Published back in 1998, it is widely available, and in addition to Sendak's essay, includes insights from Jack Prelutsky, Rosemary Wells, Jill Krementz, Jean Fritz and Katherine Paterson.

Oh, and go read Where the Wild Things Are. Out loud. With feeling.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Poetry Friday: girl (three) and the black horse

i want to hold the horse's string
cried the girl (three) stamping her foot
told by adults she was much too young
the black horse stood staring at the wall

it worries us you may get hurt
the adults whispered - meaning to offer
comfort to the little madam (not convinced)
the black horse stood staring at the wall

i'm stronger than any old black horse
the child shouted parading round the ring
thinking she was the star turn at the circus
the black horse stood staring at the wall

well i suppose.....take care ....ok
the adults muttered full of apprehension
the girl (three) poised - flexing her muscles
the black horse stood staring at the wall

now take the lead and grip it tight
they sighed fluttering hands like pigeons
she scoffed at the soft instructions
the black horse stood staring at the wall

it's easy-peasy lemon-cheesy
she triumphed (but doing as they asked)
the adults tried to swallow their fear
the black horse stood staring at the wall

so off to the man in the moon
the girl (three) laughed jerking the lead
swelling to the size of a goddess
the black horse reared like pegasus's colt

don't wait for me - i could be ages
the girl (three) sang to the shrinking adults
as the black horse leapt above the wall
the flowering cherries and the church spire

when i'm a grown-up - then i'll come
was the last the adults heard as the horse
and the girl (three) changed into pinpoints
and the world collapsed to its dull old self 
                             --Rg Gregory
Elaine is hosting Poetry Friday today over at Wild Rose Reader. Gallop on over . . . quick now, before the world collapses into its dull old self!

Still . . . I think you have time for one more horsey post, which you can find below. Read it, and then git!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Women of Wednesday: The Accomplished Rider

One of the all-time favorite books I own is called: Etiquette for Ladies by Florence Hartley. It was published in 1873, and offers sage advice for women's deportment. I'll be dipping into it now and again.

Today, our topic is horseback riding. For those of you who already ride or if you are thinking about it, here are a few tips for appropriate behavior when seated upon your noble steed:

"There is no accomplishment more graceful, pleasing, healthy, and lady-like, than that of riding well. Avoiding, at the same time, timidity and the 'fast' style, keeping within the bounds of elegant propriety, gracefully yielding to the guidance of your escort, and keeping your seat easily, yet steadily, are all points to be acquired."

"To ride well is undoubtedly an admirable qualification for a lady, as she may be as feminine in the saddle as in the ball room or home circle. It is a mistaken idea to suppose that to become an accomplished horse-woman a lady must unsex herself."

"Nothing is more revolting than a woman who catches the tone and expressions of men. To hear the slang of jockeyism from the female lips, is very offensive, yet ladies who mix in field sports are liable, nay, almost certain, to fall into a style of conversation which is ten times worse than the coarsest terms from the lips of a man."

"In mounting you are desired, gentle Amazon, to spring gracefully into your saddle, with a slight assistance of a hand placed beneath the sole of the shoe, instead of scrambling uncouthly, to your "wandering throne" as Miss Fanshawe wittily calls it, from a high chair, as is frequently done by those who've not been properly instructed."

"Do not wear a skirt too long; it will be dangerous in case of accident, and it may prove annoying to your horse. Your habit must be made of a material sufficiently heavy to hang gracefully, and not move too much with the wind. . . . In summer, your hat should be of fine straw, and slouched to shade the face; in winter, of felt, or, if you prefer a close cap of cloth. The hat may be trimmed with feathers or a knot of ribbon, and the shape should be one to protect the complexion, at the same time, graceful and becoming."

You may want to check out more well-behaved ladies here at the United Against the War on Women Rally held in Concord this past Sunday. Thanks to Diane for these photos!