Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Long, Literary Day

Just got home from a long, literary day.

First, I went to the Thursday-morning-write at Barnes & Noble. I didn't actually get much writing done today, but I won't say it was unproductive. We chatted to catch up from the past two weeks and worked on my friend's query. I kept telling her to "slash and burn," tighten it up and tighten it some more - and I hope she does the same for me when I'm ready to try. I also worked a little on my timeline, going through genealogical records and jotting dates and background people into my manuscript.

Before I left B&N, I picked up a Writer's Digest special on getting an agent. I also found a novel that had tempted me in New York for about $25, The Day the Falls Stood Still, on the bargain table for $4. Score!

In the afternoon I went to the Friends Historical Collection at Guilford College. Instead of my usual family research, I was digging for the oldest photographs and paintings for an article I'm writing. There's never enough time in a great genealogy library, so I'll probably have to go back next week. It's amazing how many photos exist of our ancestors; but if you try to go back before the Civil War, finding anything gets harder.

I met up with a fellow member of the Publications Board, who handed me a large box (and thoughtfully, a luggage carrier to wheel it around). As I mentioned in a previous post, a fellow Quaker genealogist had died and left his cemetery research to the yearly meeting. My job is to go through the files and answer the questions: Can we publish it? How much work would it take? and What next?

After stopping at Jason's Deli for dinner, I went to my nonfiction critique group, which meets monthly. Only one person brought writing to critique, which is fine for the time period we have. But everybody is doing something: writing memoirs, transcribing old family letters, marketing a published book. One lady had just published her memoir and brought a copy to show.

It's after 10 p.m. I'm tired. But someday I'd like to be a full-time author/genealogist, with lots of days like this one.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Literacy and backstory

Yesterday I entered family tree information for the ROBINSON family into my Reunion database. Most of the wonderful things I have found about my extended family in County Westmeath, Ireland have come from either original Quaker records or from writings of the late Liam Cox, and this was no different. I found lots of information on Anthony Robinson's descendants (also Thomas ENGLISH's descendants, since Anthony married his daughter Bridgett) from an Irish Ancestry magazine article, written by Cox, archived in the National Library of Ireland in Dublin.

This morning I was looking over some of old Quaker documents that I copied during my research trip. A few entries weren't about my family, but I copied them because members of my family signed as witnesses and I wanted their signatures. I had noticed before, at a wedding, that Dinah English Clibborn signed with "her mark." But at that particular wedding, the handwriting is all the same (copied into the book by the clerk) and lots of people added their marks, including John Clibborn.

But this morning I saw a list that contained different handwritings (original signatures), and again, Dinah made her mark. And so did John Clibborn, and John's sister and a few other people. Which leads me to think that John Clibborn did not know how to write. That blows my mind (and my mental backstory), because John was wealthy, English, and an only son. But he was also a former soldier. So, even though the first son usually inherited everything (and the second became a soldier or clergy), the lack of education makes me think that John was not wealthy as a child. Perhaps he saved his army wages and then shrewdly sold better lands given to him in the Cromwellian settlement and bought cheaper land in the country - in Moate.

John and Dinah Clibborn's niece, Ann English, and her brother Thomas could write their names. In a previous post, I mentioned that, although I don't know where the orphaned Ann and Thomas lived, my book carries the logical conclusion that John and Dinah took them in. With no regular schoolmasters in the area during those years, I assumed the children were homeschooled. But, if neither John nor Dinah could read or write, who taught Ann and Thomas (and the Clibborn children)?

Here's a synopsis from four events (1670s) with signatures:
John English could write, but his sisters (Dinah, Margaret and Bridgett) could not. John's second wife Eleanor and Bridgett's husband Anthony Robinson could write.
Neither John Clibborn nor his sisters Alice Tuart, Ann Miller and Bathshebah England could write. John's brother-in-law Phillip England could write and Thomas Tuart made his mark in earlier years but apparently learned to write his name later.
There's also a mysterious Mary Clibborn that wrote her own name on several documents. She is not one of John's sisters or daughters and, as I said, he's the only son. Who is she?

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Serendipitous books in New York

Wednesday night I drove back to camp from lighthouse hunting. I crossed over the canal into Brockport, saw a book store and did an emergency parallel park maneuver (not quite James Bond style, and no pedestrians were harmed).

Brockport is one of those small towns that has a revitalized, active downtown with people walking around and sitting outside at cafes. The Lift Bridge Book Shop was reminiscent of a mall book store, with mostly new books and diversification into board games and gift products. One unique aspect, though, was that they actually sold a few used books. Only a few - a library edition was displayed in the middle of a new-books history aisle. Another neat thing was the regional collection. I was tempted by a historical novel set at Niagara Falls, but I didn't succumb, this time. I spent my money on take-out New York pizza in the next town, Hamlin.

My source for bookshops in Rochester (and for Buffalo, earlier in the week), was an outdated but free online index. So Thursday, on my way to the Eastman house, I looked for a couple of shops that don't exist anymore. But Rick's Recycled Books is still around, and has been for 12 years.

I walked into the small shop on Monroe St. and noticed lots of paperbacks, especially in mystery and sci fi. Hard covers appeared in the history section and other places. Bummer - I found a nonfiction book I'd been looking for but paid full price for it just last week. Everything I picked up to look at was less than 4 bucks, so bargains abounded. But you have to hunt; most topics are loosely arranged, at best. I overheard Rick tell a customer he had given up on trying to file the history section.

Other snatches of conversation revealed that Rick probably knows a lot more about books than I would have given him credit for, from the haphazardness and low prices. He was planning his third buying appointment that week, but I don't know where he'll put the hundreds of books he usually picks up. The place is crammed with books. There's not even a counter - when I bought a couple of mysteries, Rick gave me change from his haphazard office in the back. It works.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Eastman House - stories in the air

Thursday: None of my days in New York have been going according to "Plan A," and that's working out pretty well. Drove into Rochester this morning, not the most impressive parts of town. It occurred to me that my method of using a compass and a bad map - Oh, we should intersect this street eventually - would drive some people mad. But I come across things and sights I didn't plan on, like a Greek Festival in progress. I was starving and just about to reach for a pack of nabs when I saw it. The full meals were more expensive than I had planned on for lunch, but I happily bought a plate of dolmades - stuffed grape leaves. I was disappointed that they were the cold, rice (vs. lamb) kind, but I should have known from the low price. However, I enjoyed the serendipity and the live music as I dragged each bite through olive oil.

I had passed by one of the book shops on my list and missed the other two, intending to look for them again after I visited the Eastman house. The house tour was worth the $10 admission. I walked through this glass-sided colonnade that looked onto a beautiful garden, an aura of Great Gatsbian parties rising from the wicker furniture. My favorite part was the conservatory, a two-story room with lots of glass and plants, an elephant's head high on the wall (that George Eastman shot on safari - a rogue elephant, which makes me feel a little better) and a pipe organ in the far wall.

George ate breakfast in this room, awakened by the organ for an alarm clock, and also entertained with intimate lunches.

A grand staircase climbs up to the second floor, with views over the conservatory. One bedroom and bath have been decorated for that era. I could just imagine myself floating along the balcony and stairs on some formal occasion - oh, the stories you could write in this setting! (I later found out that George never married, but he entertained a lot.)

Another room had a safari tent set up, and a list of the groceries and accoutrements he would take with him to Africa.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Niagara Falls, Ontario

Niagara Falls was not at the top of my list of places to see, but I was "in the neighborhood" and decided to drive over. I'm very glad I did.

You start to see the falls as you drive along this long road that follows the river (on the Canadian side). They have this great, long walkway that's like a park, with people from all over the world just hanging out. Parking is outrageous, but then walking around and looking as long as you want to is free. 

When I got there, a huge rainbow rested over Horseshoe Falls, and then I saw a double rainbow as I looked over toward American Falls. The sound is the best part, that constant, thunderous crash of water. If you like white noise, here's a live webcam that has sound on it, although a little static-y.

Even with lots of people, the walkway wasn't too crowded (on a Tuesday). I saw families and tourists taking pictures, and heard languages from all over the world. I wrote about a really cute family on my SaveThePictures blog.

I took lots of pictures; walk a few feet and see a different angle. I saw the end of the rainbow - both ends, as a matter of fact! There wasn't any pot of gold, but there was a lot of water. The waterfalls are cloud-makers, with a constant mist around them. I didn't mind a little wet, as long as I could keep the camera dry.

I walked and walked. The near section of town is uber-touristy, a lot like Myrtle Beach, S.C. with wax museums and haunted houses. I got some fish & chips and a beer before starting the walk back to the car. The rainbow was gone, a pink glow just leaving the falls as the sun set.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Bookstores in Buffalo

Found a central spot to set up camp Tuesday and headed to Buffalo, NY. The first book store I ran across was Rust Belt Books. I had walked in and looked through an aisle before I remembered to go back and put a coin in the meter.

The atmosphere was "college town," with decor consisting of paper posters of local events taped to the windows and bare concrete floor, clientele with tattoos and peeking midriffs enjoying the stacks of books. And I mean stacks - sometimes books were the furniture. Books filled the place. A few boxes held new and interesting acquisitions that hadn't been priced yet. Simple wooden shelves about chest high turned the middle of the 1-room store into a pleasant maze, each dead-end nook furnished with a cast-off wooden chair to help with scanning the lower shelves. Easy to navigate, lots of subjects. As a potential bookseller I was thinking, low overhead, inventory coming in, a seemingly steady flow of people - and it's been here more than a few years.

I asked about an old dictionary that wasn't priced, and the proprietress looked it up. It was about 1890s and I soon realized that I'd get a retail quote, without my researching it, so I didn't buy it. I picked up a Science Fiction Book Club edition of Friday and a guide to Sci Fi authors.

I had been excited about visiting the Old Editions Bookstore. Their website showed a two-story store with cafe and I pictured myself enjoying lunch, surrounded by great selections and the buzz of people. I parked in a parking deck and walked in, immediately impressed by the giant map behind the young man at the desk. Unfortunately, they had closed down the cafe except for a rotating case of ancient pizza and bottled drinks. The place was empty.

The decor was very nice, as if professionally done. And they had artwork on the walls - for sale at three-digit prices. I scanned the shelves downstairs and started noticing the prices. Upstairs wasn't any better. They had 1980s works by Alex Haley and Barbara Mertz set at $25, books that are going on e-bay for about $8 lately. I could go on with examples of high prices. I kept scanning, but it wasn't fun. As it seeped in that nothing was going to be a bargain, the joy of the hunt was gone. I saw one other customer walk in the whole time I was there, but two employees. High overhead to run this big place, I thought. There were no chairs.

I was surprised to find a few Quaker genealogy books, and shocked to see one priced at three-digits! Did they really expect a lot of Quakers from Virginia to come sauntering through a bookshop in Buffalo? They even had one of Olive Goodbody's works, a skinny collection of Dublin will abstracts that I would have loved to take home, but not at $75. I walked over to the lady at the upstairs desk and asked if prices were negotiable. She told me she could take off 10%. I thanked her for the information and kept browsing. She came up to me a couple more times with tidbits of information; I think she may have called the owner at one point. Last week, they had a sale, she said over her glasses, 25% off of everything, the first time they had ever done that. Of course you did, I thought, smiling politely, because you're dying.

I left empty-handed, without even getting a lunch. The shop was like a stereotypical library: very quiet and with a great selection of collectible books, that they really don't want to part with.