Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I give myself permission to write the worst first draft in history!

Marion, Flo's boffo older sister, circa 1900, taking tea at Tighsolas in her white dress.

Flora in the City: Chapter 1 on pdf. www.tighsolas.ca/page10.pdf.pdf

Where 19 year old Flora Nicholson learns about the Child Labour Problem and the relation it has to her love of clothing.

As the centenary of 1910 approaches I am determined to start on my middle school novel Flo in the City, based on the letters of Tighsolas, my social studies website.

I thought I might do it in a blog. Why not?
It might prove excellent motivation and a platform for thinking things out.

When I first stumbled upon the Nicholson letters, I was overwhelmed. I did not quite know what to do with them.

When I approached a literary agent, he told me letters were boring but he'd like to work with me on something else.

I could see his point. But these letters, written at such a pivotal time in history, were significant, I felt.

They just needed to be worked upon. A formula had to be found.

But instead of writing a book, I transcribed 300 of the letters, from 1908-1913, and posted them on a website. Then I wrote essays around the events of the letters and added a great deal of background from the public domain.

The expert in Canadian Family history said the letters on the website were rare and worthy of being compiled in a scholarly book. The material on my website was all I needed.

I didn't do it. I knew I had to write something more accessible and for young people.

Today, 3000 people a month come to the site. (People, not crawlers)

Many visitors are obviously students.The most popular pages are fashion, transportation, cost of living, suffrage, and entertainment.It is rare that visitors read the letters. But it happens.

The School of Education at McGill has used the story of the Nicholsons as a preparation for when the teachers go on their work stages. They like Flo's story, as she 'is an ordinary student.'

Today, inspired by the book Nella Last's War, created from a diary and the Writing the Century series of BBC Radio Four, a historical program assembled from diaries and letters, I have decided to write this book.

All from the point of view of a young woman coming of age during 6 of the most pivotal years in history.

I am determined to find the perfect setting for these letters that will illuminate their universal themes and showcase interesting facts about life 100 years ago.

A few years ago I contacted one of Canada's foremost writers of historical fiction for young people. She advised me to go for the story and forget about the finer points of the history.

I don't want to do that.

I know my subject, that's for sure. All I need to do is give myself permission to write the worst first draft in history. Playwright Marcy Kahan had one of her characters say that in a BBC Four play.

Just a Change of Colour....that will be the title of my first chapter. That's a start, isn't it?