Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Author Marie Benedict

Many of you know one of my biggest hobbies is reading. My favorite genre is one I have dubbed "grown up Nancy Drews," including Cleo Coyle, Carolyn Haines, Diane Mott Davidson, Jill Churchill, and many others where ordinary women solve the crimes the befuddle the professionals. A close second is historical fiction, including  writers Jacqueline Winspeare, Rhys Bowen, Lauren Belfer, and Marie Benedict. Last night I had the honor of hearing the latter talk about her writing, her books, and her inspiration as part of Princeton Public Library's third annual Soiree

Marie is a pseudonym. She also writes under the name Heather Terrell. As Marie, she has published two books, one called "The Other Einstein" and another called "Carnegie's Maid." Both tell the story of a woman whose history has been all but been forgotten. She is currently working on "The Only Woman in the Room" about Hedy Lamarr. When she announced that to the room at the Princeton Historical Society at Updike Farm, there was an audible "Oooo." She is contracted to write five more books in the next five years.

Marie talked about the differences between writing about historical figures (such as Mileva Einstein) versus writing about the purely fictional Clara Kelley. You have more flexibility with fictional characters, but since Clara was connected to the very real Andrew Carnegie, she still had limitations. Mileva and other real women leave behind real letters, diaries, and documents that ground them as well as help flesh them out when she writes about them. Clara was based on Irish immigrants in general who worked in "the big houses," such as Carnegie's mansion, including an aunt who worked in Henry Clay Frick's mansion in Pittsburgh (which Marie visited as part of her research).

I felt a kindred spirit with Marie when she spoke. We were both history majors in college. Unlike me, Marie was encouraged to become a lawyer and spent a number of years working in New York City as a lawyer. She has since returned to her geographic roots of Pittsburgh (where "Carnegie's Maid" takes place) and is now a full-time professional author.

Also our eyes light up taking about going down "rabbit holes" while conducting research.

I was thrilled to win her two books. When I entered the event I was handed five tickets. The person at the front table told me if there was a prize I really wanted I could put all five tickets in one basket. I heeded her advice and put them all in the basket to win her books. As a bonus, they pulled three winners. 

The first numbers were called ... and I lost. 

Then another set of numbers were called ... and I lost again. 

Then to my surprise and shock my number was called on the third pull!

After claiming my prize, I joined the line to have my new books autographed. Marie is very charming in person. She made time to talk to everyone about anything they wanted to talk about. I suspect she is a good friend.

It was a lovely night out. The Bent Spoon provided two sorbets: Dark Chocolate Orange and Mango. They were both to die for. There were also other treats I did not have a chance to sample because I was too busy talking to friends.

The Princeton Historical Society at Updike Farm was the perfect setting for the book talk because their permanent exhibit is on Albert Einstein, who lived in Princeton from 1933 until his death in 1955. He is a Princeton icon.

In 2016 the soiree was held at Labyrinth Books. Last year they held it at the Arts Council in Princeton because the book had an artistic theme ("Christina's World" by Christina Baker Kline. Time will tell where it will be held in 2019. I hope I can attend.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Pickets and Persistence

Seven years ago I visited Paulsdale, the home of Alice Paul. Alice Paul was a pioneer in the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment, which still has not passed. This New Jersey heroine pushed hard for women to get the right to vote. Another heroine in the fight for women's rights was Jeannette Rankin. Who was Jeannette Rankin, you ask? In 1917 she became America's first female member of Congress. Some of my history buff readers will say "but, wait, how did that happen since women did not get the right to vote until 1920?" NATIONALLY we did not get the right to vote until 1917, but some states allowed it sooner. New Jersey was the earliest state to allow women to vote, but they took it away. Some women in New Jersey voted as early as 1776, but in the 1790s and 1800s, large numbers of unmarried New Jersey women regularly participated in elections and spoke out on political issues. That changed in 1807 when our New Jersey constitution was changed (source: National Park Service's website)

Historian and author Carol Simon Levin told us many interesting facts about Jeannette Rankin and the women's rights movement. Rankin was from Montana. The year she ran her state was growing and they suddenly had two seats in Congress instead of one. Today they are back to one. Districts had not yet been drawn up so she ran on the platform of "vote for the incumbent and also vote for me." Using that logic, she beat the other men running for that seat. 

A life long pacifist, her first order of business was to vote whether or not to enter World War I. She voted against it (she wasn't the only one). A quick history, she lost her reelection bid because by then she was running for Senate (and was rather outspoken about women having the right to vote). She did not win a congressional seat again until 1941. Okay, history buffs -- what big issue did she have to vote on then? .... Whether or not the United States should enter World War II. She cast the only no vote that time, and again was not reelected.

A famous quote attributed to her: "I may be the first woman member of Congress," she observed upon her election in 1916. "But I won't be the last." (also on her Congressional the page linked above)

Carol shares the history of many other famous women: Abigail Adams, Juliette Lowe (founder of the Girl Scouts), and Emily Roebling. She is author of the coloring book "Remembering the Ladies." Yes, it is a black and white book with large pictures, but it is so much more. Every other page has a biography of why each woman is important to American history. She was writing it during the election and hoped the subtitle would be: From Patriots in Petticoats to Presidents, instead the last word was changed to Presidential Candidates.

If you ever have the chance to catch Carol's presentations, I highly recommend it. I've also seen her as Emily Roebling.

The event was only $5. It felt good to support the arts.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Art All Night 2018 -- Pictures of Artwork

Here are some of the artwork done by friends, family, and strangers that I want to share from Art All Night. Since the event was cut down around the half-way point due to gunfire, many people did not get a chance to go. Some of us are sharing our pictures in the hopes that people will be able to see artwork done by their friends and family. 

Art All Night 2018 Turned into Art for 12 Hours

This is one of those times when I wish I posted closer to when events happened. This is a completely different post than the one I would have written on Saturday night. Like many, I was shocked and dismayed to wake up to the news that gunfire erupted at Art All Night, ruining lives and destroying the event. For now here are some links from previous years to give you a sense of how fantastic this event, which ran for 11 years without serious incident, has been.





Clearly we are fans of the event. Many of our friends and family both attend and/or display art. Many have said this year something felt off. I'm struggling with how I define off. This year we dropped off on Saturday morning instead of Friday night, and had no line. On the one hand, we felt lucky because it was a busy day and this freed up some of our time. On the other hand, I felt gypped. Part of the fun is checking out each other's art work and both seeing friends and making new ones. Whatever. I can get over that.

We usually go more than once over the 24-hour festival as the mood changes, and who goes shifts. First up, we have to figure out where our artwork is hanging and share that on social media. Must pose for a picture with the artwork.

Ashley's is the one in the gold frame by her head.
Next year I'll encourage her to point, too.

Then we wander around looking at the other pieces and hanging out with friends. After about 45 minutes, we came to the conclusion we didn't know anyone there. Again, that was odd.

Two odd strikes on the event for us -- one we have attended and participated in nearly every year since it's inception.

I decided to go back and check out the artwork some more, and try to find some friends (really, I do have friends, I do know people in the area). It took me a while to find a parking space I felt comfortable using (ladies, you know the drill -- well lit lot, near other festival goers), and I scored a really good spot labeled compact car in the main shopping center parking lot. I even noted good police presence.

I went inside around 9 PM, showing my hand stamp (it is a free event, but they like to keep a tally of how many people attend) from earlier. I looked at more artwork. I can never absorb it the first, or even the second time. We often return about three times, and still see more at the Selects Night held a week later. I was still surprised I did not bump into many people I know. I did see Christina and her family (family from Ashley's old school), Brittney and her bridal party (Ashley's art teacher), Tarshia (someone I used to work with), and Barbara (another freelancer). Considering how many people we normally see, that was really odd. Most people were outside. It was a warm night, and inside the Roebling Works building can feel like a furnace.

I left around 10 PM. As I was leaving I saw two white suburban couples walking about as if to say "Look at us ... can you believe we are in the 'hood at 10 PM!" Wonder what they thought when they heard the news.

Ashley had to wake up at 1:30 AM to meet up with her school mates heading to Alaska (poor baby). The bus left at 2:40 AM from the school parking lot. To the left meant going home. To the right meant returning to Art All Night (yes, the event runs for 24 hours straight, so a good way to spend the evening). We debated, but in the end sleep won out. The plan was to wake up early so we could go to Knoebels Amusement Park for their biannual convention of mechanical instruments (carousel organs, calliopes). A future blog post. If our artwork did not sell, then we were to return by 6 PM to pick it up. Knoebels is a three-hour drive for us.

Not too often a decision to go left vs. right could have changed our lives.

Before 3 AM shots rang out at Art All Night. Less than 12 hours after the event started.

When I woke up at 7 AM I checked Facebook (yeah, a habit) and heard the news. I was stunned, and disappointment, and upset, and rotating between all the stages of grief. Why? Who would do this? Is everyone okay? Do I know anyone there? Are my friends safe? What did it mean for the future of Art All Night? Would we be able to get our artwork back? How will ArtWorks recover financially from this? Will ArtWorks be able to recover at all? 

Early reports stated the gunman was killed, and 20 innocent bystanders (including a 13-year old child) were injured. Some critically. It sounds as if they are going to survive. The second gunman is in custody. All indications are this was gang related.

Hindsight is 20/20 they say. I can stand on my head and swear I felt the vibe was off, but it would have had more validity had I blogged about this on Saturday night. Other friends said they didn't stay as long because something felt off.

One friend said he smelled marijuana (something absent in the past when he has gone), the music was more rap (but, all types are encouraged, and he was only there an hour), more people were looking at their phones than the artwork (sign of the times?) and being rude when they bumped into him. He, too, did not see many people he knew (and he knows just about everyone) and left about an hour later -- less time than normal.

Reports are there were about 1,000 people at the event at that time. One report today said the police were telling the organizers to shut down the event because of fighting they had witnessed when the gun fire went off. A freelance friend was there when it happened and came out safely. Another friend was wounded and suffered a sprained wrist and some bruises. She is a reporter and has promised a first-person account which I will link to later. She was interviewed by the New York Times for 30 minutes, but they did not include her positive thoughts on the event. A scary comment made today was that this was a planned attack between two warring gangs.

Moms Demand Action, a group of people (mostly women) advocating for gun control had a table at the event. Their presence wearing bright red shirts was strong both times I went. I wonder what is going through their heads.

Now we wait. Art All Night finally sent out an email tonight (they posted a statement on Facebook yesterday, but not everyone is on Facebook) saying once they are allowed back in the building they will let people know how to pick up their artwork. No word on how many pieces were damaged or destroyed. Only reports there was a lot of blood.

Last year we displayed one of Honey Bunny's pieces for the first time. We talked about doing one this year, but for whatever reason did not (Too disorganized? A shady premonition? Uncomfortable displaying work at this event by a deceased artist?). I'm glad we didn't. The pieces we all displayed were photographs in Dollar Store frames -- completely replaceable. Hers would not have been replaceable.

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who reached out to us to make sure we were okay. Hug your family a little tighter. Realize that sometimes small decisions can make huge changes in your life.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Princeton YMCA 5K/10K

I did it. I signed up for the Disneyland Paris Semi (half) Marathon for the third year in a row, even though if you were to ask me in person I would say I hate running that far. I hate long training runs. I hate leaving my comfort zone.


Or in my case...ahh...Liege, Belgium. The TGV stops at Disneyland Paris. From there it is a three-hour train ride to my other home. The place where I first lived without everything I knew -- my family, and even my language and culture. The place where I learned I can do it. I returned last year for the first time in nearly thirty years and found that feeling again. 

But I am getting ahead of myself. 

My usual training for fall half marathons is the 10K Rev Run in Washington Crossing, PA on July 4th and RunBucks' 15K in August. We'll be in Ohio celebrating my cousin Allie's marriage to Doug on the Fourth of July, and RunBucks does not seem to be offering their 15K this year. Time to look for plans B and C. There are a lot of nice parts about doing a sanctioned race -- top one being water stations, after that is camaraderie, a finisher's medal (=bragging rights), motivation to actually do it and do it well because I paid for it, and the focus. 

When I realized the Princeton YMCA was holding a 5K/10K race in early June I realized I should sign up for it. The Y is a good cause, so I knew the moneys raised would go help people.

The drawbacks? The weather -- we have had a very wet Spring, especially on weekends, and course -- it is the 5K route done twice. We actually went through the start line three times. Without awesome volunteers pointing us in the right direction, I'm sure I would have lost track of where I was supposed to go when. We went through the finish line twice. 

As for the weather, yesterday was near 90 degrees with thunderstorms. Today was 60 and overcast, but no rain or lightning. Much better!

A bonus I had not counted on was that Girls on the Run was doing their end of the season run today, too. They did the 5K, but since the 5K and 10K routes were the same, I got to cheer on the slow runners as I was finishing up my 10K. I did not see nearly as many familiar faces as expected.

I loved the signs along the route cheering me on.

Love the GOTR spirit!

I even received a finisher's medal. The 5K medal was orange.

A note to anyone from the Princeton YMCA, or any other group running a 5K in conjunction with a 10K, a volunteer said it would have helped her if the bibs were someone different -- say a green one for the 10K runners and an orange one for the 5K runners. This would help them direct where people who ask "which way should I go" to the right direction.

As for my time, I finished at 1:11 and change (need to look up the official time) -- about two minutes faster than my time at last year's RevRun. Go me!