Libraries

 

Libraries

 

I’ve been in love with libraries since fourth grade, when a librarian from the Bathgate Avenue and Fordham Road Bronx branch of the NY Public Library came into our classroom and signed us all up for library cards. We could go any time, she explained, and take books home for free! Then she read us a story that we all loved and wanted to borrow and I was hooked.  My friend Susan and I walked the half mile from our homes on Hughes Avenue several times a week, and came back with piles and piles of books

 

Can you remember the books of your childhood?  Mine included a series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, starting with Little House in the Big Woods, and ending with These Happy Golden Years.  Little did I imagine that the characters would have another life, in the popular television series Little House on the Prairie.  Another favorite series for me was about the friendship of two little girls called Betsy and Tacy, by Maud Hart Lovelace. Later a third child joined them, and the triumvirate, Betsy, Tacy, and Tib depicted incredibly joyous childhood friendships at the turn of the twentieth century.  Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, recounted life during the Civil War. I read through all of the Alcott books, some several times over, and began to realize that although customs change, human nature does not. A few years later, Susan discovered books geared toward older girls, books such as  Boy Trouble and Class Ring, by Rosamond du Jardin. These books were about adolescence in the 1940’s and 50’s.  Still a little girl in sixth grade, I read them too, and wondered about what high school would be like.  Just a little while later, I discovered Jane Austen, who wrote about England in the early nineteenth centuries.  I realized that pride and prejudice were timeless qualities, and I copied Austen shamelessly in plotting Ms. Murphy’s Makeover, a Bronx tale.

 

Libraries have changed a great deal since I was a child. Now the children’s room is filled with educational toys and computers, a fun place to take a toddler on a rainy day, or any day. Along with programs for kids, book discussions, technology help, and other programs abound. I’m especially grateful for an informal writing workshop I attend, as well as for the technology help I’ve received. But most of all there are the books, and the librarians, a resource beyond compare. One of the highlights of my life has been to enter a library and see my own novel on the shelf.  Thank you to all of the librarians who helped make this possible.

 

 

 

   

 

Advertisements

Covers

 

Nothing in my life can ever compare to the thrill of meeting my newborn daughters for the first time.  However, seeing my manuscript become an actual book, with a cover that proclaimed me as its author, came pretty close.  Like Anne Bradstreet, who called her book the child of her brain, I feel a tenderness  akin to that of motherhood for my novel, Ms. Murphy’s Makeover.

I remember the morning that Jack, an artist for Black Opal Books, sent me some possible cover designs.  I had told him I wanted to explore the daffodil image in the book. These golden perennials, a symbol of hope and rebirth, and the subject of a beautiful poem by Wordsworth, seemed a perfect way to convey my story of a woman who blossoms into a new life. Following my suggestions, Jack produced a single open daffodil, pointing heavenward against a sky-blue background.  Underneath the title, Ms. Murphy’s Makeover, my name appeared.  I was an author!  My first name was misspelled, but Jack said that was easily corrected. Once the correction was done, I was over the moon.

My family was not.  My husband absolutely hated it. My daughter said the skyward- pointing flower suggested a religious experience, not a women’s journey.  But in the end, it was my sister Rosalie who cast the deciding vote.  She was scathing in her disapproval.  “Jacqueline. That cover tells me nothing, nothing, about your book,” she complained. “It doesn’t make me want to read it at all.”

As always, I listened to my sister. I sent Jack back to his drawing board.  “This is a book about sexual awakening, among other things,” I explained. “A collapsing marriage. A difficult work environment. And then, a cosmetic makeover. Perhaps an image of a woman’s hands with red nail polish, removing a ring?

A woman in a plunging neckline, wearing a dress as scarlet as Hester’s  letter, was the next option Jack sent!  I was crazed at the sight.  This cover proclaimed soft porn, or maybe not so soft porn.  My character, Charlotte Murphy, would never wear such a dress.

To my surprise and delight, Jack had read the book, and he agreed with me. In one scene Charlotte wears a black dress, over the objections of her husband.

A black dress silhouetted against a champagne background, Jack suggested, would be sexy, yet classy. Much better, my husband said. Daughter and sister agreed. And so, the cover was born.

Recently, seeing that familiar image in a stranger’s hand almost was a religious experience.  A perfect stranger had selected my book in a public library!  Rosalie was right. Perhaps, you can judge a book by its cover.