Alexander Hamilton, Gertrude Atherton, and John O’Hara Cosgrove

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 11.42.20 AMI’ve recently been reading through some letters from John O’Hara Cosgrove (link) , the editor of Everybody’s Magazine, to Owen Wister, the author of The Virginian (1902). My principal interest is Cosgrove’s connection with Frank Norris, who had worked at The Wave when Cosgrove was its editor, and his thoughts on Jack London, but this excerpt gives a good sense of what editors–or at least this editor–was thinking might sell in 1902.

In 1902, the California novelist Gertrude Atherton (today best known for her novel Black Oxen, 1922) published The Conqueror: Being the True and Romantic Story of Alexander Hamilton (New York: Macmillan and Company, 1902). By the time she republished it in 1916, the book had acquired a slightly less sensational title: The Conqueror: A Dramatized Biography of Alexander Hamilton (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1916).

Responding to the book, Cosgrove pitched Wister, as he often did, about participating in a series of articles “treating real men as though they were characters in fiction”:

I have just been reading Mrs. Atherton’s book on Alexander Hamilton. The form, which is really a departure, gave me a very clear impression of the subject’s individuality.  It represented a form of treatment that I have often urged using and treating real men as though they were characters in fiction.  I mean using the fiction method to project the personality of the individual.  This seems to have been done very well by Mrs. Atherton, and if we could have in the magazine a series of five-thousand word interviews with Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Daniel Webster Henry Clay and their like, selecting a strenuous moment in their careers & putting in an appropriate background, it would make a capital series.  Mrs. Atherton has the Hamilton one under way. (23 July 1902)

But apparently what worked well for a “romantic story” did not translate as well into the type of fictional interview that Cosgrove had in mind:

Entre nous, Mrs. Atherton tried Hamilton for us, and turned out a mighty poor thing, which I had to return.  It was slap-dash, rather common, frivolous, and quite outside the idea—rather crude journalism, in fact.  It is mighty difficult to get that sort of thing accomplished just as it must be done. (6 August 1902)

“Mighty difficult,” indeed. This raises a question for all those who would undertake biography or speculative biography: How much more sensationalism or sentimentality did Atherton’s unpublished draft contain to be labeled “common, frivolous” and “crude journalism”?

Farewell to a position: SSAWW VP for Publications

cropped-ssaww2I’ve been VP of Publications for the Society for the Study of American Women Writers since the summer of 2008, when Karen Kilcup told me about the new position and tapped me to serve.  This summer, as of July 31, 2016,  I’m leaving the position in the capable hands of Leslie Allison as the new officers take over under the excellent guidance of our new president, DoVeanna Fulton. (Please read her President’s Message in the new issue of the newsletter; it’s full of great ideas.)

I’ll miss working with SSAWW and with the stellar officers there–Karen, Deb Clarke, Dick Ellis, Kristin Jacobson, Heidi Hanrahan, Melissa Homestead, Karen Wyler, Rita Bode, Sarah Robbins, Maria Sanchez, Carolyn Sorisio, Koritha Mitchell, Beth Lueck, Miranda Green-Barteet, the late Karen Dandurand, Jordan von Cannon, and the board members, among others.

Except for the author society web pages and my 8-year stint as Regional Chapters Chair for the ASA, this is the longest-serving professional office I’ve had.  In the summer of 2008, I built the web site based on the originals from Dawn Keetley and Karen Kilcup and created a logo (above) similar to the original one.

In 2013, I moved the site to WordPress. Instead of a static repository, the site became more nimble and informational in nature as it pushed messages out to Twitter and Facebook; also, the news site is more collaborative, so that more of us could share in the posting. I chose the most minimal (and free) WordPress theme available to minimize the load time on mobile phones and modified it to suit our SSAWW needs.

So, for those playing along at home,  here are some numbers:

  • 13 newsletters
  • 2271 followers across Facebook, Twitter, and those following WordPress
  • 700 subscribers to ssaww-l
  • about 78,036 site views last year, up from 2014’s 47,586
  • number of new books announced, jobs, calls for papers, grants, fellowships: well, a lot, many posted by other SSAWW officers, especially Kristin Jacobson

I’ll be drawing back gradually as Leslie takes over and, I hope, that’ll give me more time to post to this neglected professional blog.  Thanks, SSAWW!