Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mary Pickford Postcards

Ever since I began work on my book, Mary Pickford: Canada's Silent Siren, America's Sweetheart (Quest Biography), my cousin, who collects vintage postcards, has been on the look out for cards featuring portraits of Mary. The other day I was delighted to receive in the mail a package of several postcards from my cousin.

I never paid much attention to postcards before this, except to enjoy those sent by friends and family visiting far away places, or those I purchased myself to augment my own vacation pictures. But collecting postcards -- buying, selling and trading them -- is right up there with collecting stamps and coins as a popular hobby . I decided I should learn a little more about this fascinating pastime.

The collection and study of  postcards is called deltiology. When the first postcards to use real photos appeared around 1900, many featured portraits of entertainers or family members. For a while, in the "undivided back" era (December 24, 1901 to March 1, 1907), anyone sending a message on the card had to write over the picture on the front. The back was reserved for the address and postage. After March 1, 1907, postcards came with a divided back, allowing space for the message.  That fact could help to narrow down the year a particular postcard was printed.
Mary Pickford was just one of a number of early film stars to be pictured on vintage postcards. And now I'm going to pay a little more attention to the postcards I come across.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Postive Review

Just when I was wondering how much longer this cold, wet spring can last, and if there will ever be any good news, along comes a glowing review of my latest novel, Growing Up Ivy
 Four stars out of four; highly recommended! To read it, click on the following link:


One always hopes someone out there will take the time to submit a review of the book. After all, the publicity department sent out all those lovely, advanced reading copies.

The only thing worse than a bad review, they tell me, is no review at all. That would lead one to think his book fell into the proverbial black hole. Did no one read it??

But a good review in a well-respected journal does wonders for the writer's morale. And it was just what I needed during this less-than-springtime season.

Write on!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Another Canadian Star of the Silents

It was interesting to discover, while researching the life and times of Mary Pickford for my upcoming book, several other Canadians who were working in the silent picture industry at about the same time.

One who preceded Mary as "The Biograph Girl" was Hamilton-born Florence Lawrence. Born Florence Annie Bridgwood on June 2, 1886, she was billed for her earliest theatre performances as "Baby Flo, the Child Wonder Whistler."

Six years older than Mary, Florence was already a member of the permanent company at the Biograph studio in New York when seventeen-year-old Mary Pickford arrived, looking for work in the "flickers."

Unfortunately, Florence Lawrence's story has a tragic ending. She was seriously burned in a staged fire that got out of control at another studio in 1915, and as a result, she was in shock for months. Although Florence had already made hundreds of movies, she never fully recovered from the trauma and was never able to regain her previous stature as a star. She took her own life by ingesting ant paste just after Christmas, 1938. 

Look for mention of Florence Lawrence in Mary Pickford: Canada's Silent Siren, America's Sweetheart, available in September, 2011.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Discovering Ways to Improve the Writing

As I often do when I am between writing projects, I've been going back through my writing file and re-reading some of my early, unpublished pieces. I'm looking for ideas that might be worth salvaging, but what I'm really finding is one of the reasons why these stories didn't work.

In some cases, they weren't stories at all, but rather little slices of life. In real life, we may accept our fate and do our best to carry on. That's life perhaps, but it's not the stuff of novels. I realize now that there wasn't enough happening in the stories to keep my (the writer's) interest, let alone the reader's. That's probably the reason they were left unfinished.  I made the mistake of letting things happen in the story by way of coincidence or lucky accident.

There wasn't enough tension in these stories either, because I didn't give my character a big enough problem to solve. He needs to have a enough of a stake in the problem that he'll be moved to take action.

So now, it's back to square one. At least I'll have lots to keep me busy till we start the copy edit on Mary Pickford.