Saturday, November 14, 2009

Novel, novel, who's got the novel?

Having finished 26,000 words in this puppy, I am excited about the novel itself. Unfortunately, I like to read those epic novels that could double as doorstops when they are not being read and my writing reflects that, I recently read Pale Horse, Pale Rider, by Katherine Anne Porter, which is a book composed of three tangentially related short novels. The sort of short novel that you are writing in NaNo. I can't write like that, at least yet. So I've got chunks of novel that make sense in my head but probably only in my head because that's where the characters are living. Here's another chunk for your perusal, but don't feel bad if you don't understand it in context of the rest of the snippets.

I hope it is as beautiful at your place as it is at mine...November has been so lovely!

Although they would not normally have been long-term friends or even friends in the moment, the girls of Gall High School were close. Perhaps it was the utter impossibility that they would be educated, being women in the Edwardian age. Perhaps it was an exploit long forgotten by the group of them but which served to cement them for longer than just their high school years. Perhaps it was part and parcel of the mores of another time, where people kept closer contact than we do today. Whatever it was, the Round Robin Letter served a purpose both social and historical for the women who contributed to it.

The way it came together was this: a group of them were sitting around the Ladies' Lounge during Finals Week, discussing their plans for the future. One of them, no one could later remember who, suggested that they keep up with one another via letters after Commencement. This sounded like a marvelous idea to some of the others but the problem remained that if they wrote one another one by one, the news would probably not reach the others. It was then that Catherine mentioned something that some of her cousins would do. They called it a Round Robin Letter. Each would contribute an update, then pass it around to the others, in order. That way each would find out what was going on with the other women in the group and without writing tens of letters.

It was Genevieve who had the brilliant idea of putting the letters into a leather-bound journal, so that they would not become separated over time and mailing. She put in the first letter, then gave it to Catherine, who filled it out and gave it to Ruth. Ruth elaborated and gave it to Sarah. Sarah passed it on to Sophia after filling it in and thus it began. Though miles and life circumstances began to separate them, they knew what was going on in their lives and in the lives of some of their other classmates.

May 5th, 1910


Dear girls,

I scarcely know what to put into this volume, as we are not yet out of school! But it does seem important to put down a few things and get into the habit of correspondence prior to leaving the "hallowed halls". So here it is.

In a few weeks, I plan to leave school and go to Europe, at least for the summer months. My parents believe that it will serve a dual purpose: to lend me some polish which is sorely lacking and to keep me out of trouble. It is difficult to know now if they will achieve their hoped for purpose. I should be back to the United States by the beginning of September, so don't leave me out of the Round-Robin! I shall be very put out if you do.

It is now time for me to lay aside this volume in order to study for Fishbein's chemistry exam. How I long for the day when I no longer have to mix smelly chemicals to satisfy old Fishy! It won't be long now, for any of us.

Ever yours,

Genevieve Lodge

May 7, 1910

Washington, D.C.

Dear friends,

I will follow Genevieve's sterling example by putting down a few words before we go our separate ways. At this moment, I am supposed to be working on my Latin declensions for the Commencement ceremony but I will lay them aside for the moment. Why do you suppose it is of interest for the parents and visitors coming to see Commencement to see young ladies doing Latin? I feel rather like an animal in the Zoo.

At any rate, here is my excitement for the immediate future...did any of you get a copy of the picture that Mr. Hannigan took of us about six weeks ago? If you did, and you look at me in the picture, you may get an idea of my news. If you don't (or even if you do), here it is: I am engaged to be married! Please try to keep it as much a secret as you can. I have, for these six weeks now, but I have been fairly bursting to tell you all. That was the only day I wore my ring to school. You know how nastily the teachers discuss our futures. I did not want to hear about how I was wasting my education by becoming affianced so soon after (or before!) Commencement. Let them shake their heads afterward, the harmless old bachelors. I am getting married!

Thus far, our plans are for a Christmas wedding, so that we can take advantage of the holiday and take a trip. Gene would like to go to Mexico to an archeological dig and I shall accompany him. Between now and then, my Latin will be getting a run for its money with my trying to learn some Spanish. I suppose I should have taken that instead of French!

That is my news and as I am determined to not befoul my reputation any more than I already have, I must dig back into my dusty old Latin. As Genevieve said, it will not be long until we bid adieu to the halls of Gall High School.



May 10, 1910

Good day ladies!

I trust that we are all getting our pretty speeches prepared for our Commencement? I will take this opportunity to scrawl into our communal book, although I do not have any news nearly so exciting as that of Gennie or Cathy (and if you two call me 'Ruthie', I will see to it that toads find their way into your book bags!). How exciting...Genevieve and her European tour and Catherine and hers of Mexico. Oh, and the wedding of course. You two did get all the breaks, did you not?

I do not have any firm plans for the time following Commencement. I only plan to relax and enjoy as much of the summer as one can when one is trapped in the environs of Washington for the dull summer months. Perhaps I will have the opportunity to visit one of my many relations in another (and I hope cooler) city.

Best wishes to all from


May 11, 1910

Washington (as if we would be elsewhere!)

Ladies of the Round-Robin Society,

As you all know, my sojourn in academia continues past our sacred Commencement ceremony. I am thrilled and relieved to announce that I have been accepted to the Philadelphia Women's School of Medicine. I will need to get special tutoring in chemistry and physiology (no such luck for me as you Genevieve!) prior to my moving to Pennsylvania but you all know that I will not mind. I can not tell you how utterly delighted I am to have the opportunity to do exactly what I have wanted to do for so many years now--study to be a physician! I am not idiotic enough to believe that the work will be easy for me, but I think I have the brains enough and I know that I have the heart enough to make a good physician. So, off I go to more schooling! I know that you all are green with envy!

Keep me in the loop. This Round Robin may be the only opportunity I have to know what normal life is like, once I disappear into the halls of the Medical College.

Best wishes to all,

Sarah (not Sissy!)

15 May 1910

Washington, D.C.

My dear classmates,

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to join you in your special Round letter. You all have always been so kind to me, even when I arrived, as green as a stick, and did not know enough English to get by outside of school hours. I will delight in reading your exploits and will attempt to dress up my own so that they will not bore you when I write in my turn.

I do not have big plans of success following our Commencement. I mean only to gain employment somewhere so as to assist my parents in educating the remainder of my brothers and sisters. If any of you hear of a good job where they don't mind my Swedish accent, kindly let me know what it is. I thank you in advance, both for the job hints and the gift of your continuing friendship.


Sophia Admundsen




Sophia and Ruth

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