Over the coming months I will be posting bits and pieces about Where the Light Enters to help tide you over until publication. This first time I’ve got a piece of my research to share. These real estate/rental ads are from the New York Times in 1884. The two outlined in yellow are relevant to the story.
And they are, in my view of things, just plain interesting. The rental market has sure changed.
On Facebook Suca Johnson pointed me to this website: Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery where Villanova graduate students in history are collecting newspaper classified ads that appeared after the Civil War. African American families broken up by slavery began the search for one another. Here’s one I found especially moving:
“Abraham Blackburn, Newburgh, NY, finds his mother after writing 256 letters of inquiry,” Newspaper report of family reunification, Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL)(reprinted from the Newburgh Journal), December 8, 1886. link
It often takes me a really long time to settle on a name for a character. For example: there is one young woman in Where the Light Enters whose name still is not right. I have some time to fix this — until the copy editing phase closes — but I’m at a loss.
If you had 100+ daughters, you’d likely run out of names, right? Think of it that way. Elizabeth, Hannah, Martha, Lily, Jennet, Anna, Sophie, Rosa, Lia, Laura, Margaret, Nora – all unavailable.
Sometimes I try to get my imagination going by looking at old census records, reading old newspaper stories, or considering fictional characters from 19th century novels. I also spend time looking at paintings from the right time period. This painting by the swedish artist Carl Larsson, (1853-1919, so just about Anna and Sophie’s age) is the kind of thing I mean — it really captures the detail of farming life in the later 1800s. Looking at the clothing of the women working in the fields.
Unfortunately, none of those methods has worked for this new character, who name, right now, is Betty Miller. And that is not right.
What I can tell you about her: she grew up in an orphan asylum, and will eventually come into her own. Where Carl Larsson’s Lisbeth is healthy and happy, my Betty Miller is not either of those things, to start. But hopefully will get there, one day.
So I’d like to hear suggestions, first names or even first and last names. Remember, this is somebody born ca. 1865 so Tiffany or Jordan or Montana won’t work.
Let your imagination run riot, please. If I use the name you come up with, I will thank you in the acknowledgements.