I recently had to handle a bully on Facebook. I ended up blocking him. However, back in the 1860s, there was no Facebook. Heck, there was no electricity! Relationships played out face-to-face, and only face-to-face. There was no such thing as blocking someone. You could stop speaking to the other person, but chances were good that you would run into them while out and about.
As Editor-in-Chief of the Register, Eli sometimes does things that anger others. This may happen because he has had his staff do an investigative piece, or he may have written an editorial that is critical of a power-figure in the town.
In Seeing the Elephant, we are introduced to a wealthy industrialist by the name of Josiah Norton. Josiah owns several textile mills in and around Paterson. Paterson is, by the way, where many textile companies began in New Jersey. Now, Josiah has set his sites on western New Jersey. While Eli and family were sojourning in Pennsylvania, Josiah bought an old mill to the south of Blaineton, restored it, and launched a woolen mill as well as a factory that produces uniforms for Union soldiers.
Eli does not come without his prejudices. We all do. The editor is heavy-set and not the most dashing among men. So he feels a bit of jealousy toward good-looking, fit men. In addition, an incident that occurs in the first book, Saint Maggie, has made it necessary that Eli use a cane to walk around. While he exudes external confidence, inside he mourns the man he once was and has questions about his ability to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other men.
It is no wonder that, when he meets Josiah, he has a predisposition to dislike him.
However, Eli’s suspicion of the handsome, tall industrialist grows into dislike when he sees that Josiah also is egocentric, imperious, and money-hungry. Worse yet, Norton does not seem to care about his employees. Rather, he sees them as living cogs in his factories' wheels. (This was not unusual among many 19th-century industrialists, or even among the general population – the poor and the working poor were often seen as “not quite human.”)
It is obvious that sooner or later Eli and Josiah will have problems. Things get challenging when, after touring Josiah’s factory and mill, and then visiting other factories located in Trenton, Eli writes an editorial, criticizing industrialists for dangerous working conditions, extremely low wages, and poor employee housing (when they happen to provide it). Josiah takes the editorial personally, even though Eli neither mentions Josiah or other industrialists by name.
Later, when Josiah takes over the Western New Jersey Hospital for the Insane and proceeds to make it a money-making venture, Eli does his homework, finds out what is going on in the hospital, and contacts Dorothea Dix, a real-life crusader for better treatment of those with mental and emotional illnesses. In her response to Eli, Dorothea excoriates Josiah and he publishes her response in the Register.
Predictably, Josiah is enraged. He marches into Eli’s office ready to do battle and wants to force the editor to retract the statements about the hospital. But Eli is ready for him and has letters to the editor on hand to show the town’s growing disapproval Josiah's handling of the asylum.
Eli’s strategy of handling Josiah is to remain calm, stick to the facts, and be ready for blowback. He does not want to get involved in a physical fight. He abhors violence and also knows he could not prevail in a fist fight. So, he lets any and all name-calling slide off his back.
These techniques come in handy again when, in my work-in-progress, The Good Community Maggie becomes convinced that she, Emily, and her sister-in-law need to start a school for the black children of the town. This occurs when they are shocked at the school board’s refusal to admit black children to the better-equipped school, which has only white children. The older school, located on Water Street, is run down. Since a number of black families have left the town for more friendly territory in Canada, the few children that remain are being taught by a fourteen-year-old girl.
Josiah, who has found a way onto the town’s school board, is infuriated that Maggie would deign to meddle with the schools. He even tries to bully Eli so he will force Maggie to cease and desist.
Little Bob Smith may be able to address a bully by fighting back as a last resort, but his father Eli deals with Josiah’s bullying by maintaining keeping his composure, knowing the facts, and trying to get at the root of what is bothering Norton.
Note: the conclusion of their conversation is less than satisfactory, at least for most of us in this day and age. When Eli states that white children probably will not be attending the school, Norton is mollified. He tells Eli that Maggie can do what she wants under the “condition” that she does not solicit children from Blaineton School.
Of course, if we think for one second that Maggie would turn any child away from the new school, or that Eli ever would force his wife to accept Josiah’s conditions… well, we’d be wrong, wouldn’t we?
And so would Norton.
See you on Friday.
Just thought you might like to visit Layered Pages, the blog site on which Stephanie Moore Hopkins writes about literature, art, photography, and fashion. Stephanie featured the artist/author collaboration I wrote about in my Friday blog.
Click here to go to Stephanie's blog.
Lee Davis can be found on Instagram and at his website
You learn more about Heart Soul & Rock 'n' Roll here at the Squeaking Pips Store.
At one time or another, almost all of us, as children or adults, have encountered a bully or bullies. A bully can threaten us verbally or physically. The damage a bully does not only can hurt the body, but also can have a lasting impact on the mind, heart, and soul.
Bullies have existed throughout time. They seek to gain power over others through physical violence, threats, humiliation, and other tactics.
And so, it should not be a surprise when bullies show up in the Saint Maggie series. Most notably they are found in Seeing the Elephant in the persons of Josiah Norton and Jimmy McCartney.
Let’s look at Jimmy first – or more aptly, little Bob Smith’s struggle with Jimmy.
Here’s how the problem is introduced.
Eli was raised in a Quaker household. Members of the Religious Society of Friends embrace pacifism as a way of life. Despite the fact that Eli no longer is part of a Meeting, the Quaker beliefs instilled in him by his mother still are very much with him. He hates war, even though in 1863 he served as a correspondent in the war. He despises violence and is ready to stop it from happening – even at the expense of his own safety.
But now his son has been beaten up by another boy. How is he going to handle it? What is he going to say?
Eli gives Bob three options: 1) walk away; 2) protect yourself; or 3) stand your ground. Does the boy follow his advice? We don’t find out until near the end of the book.
After Eli has been sidelined by an injury after trying to stop a fight, Bob comes to visit him in the front parlor where he is recovering. It is there that Bob reveals he has had another encounter with the infamous Jimmy McCartney.
I think Eli is right. When dealing with a bully, we should do everything we can to avoid violence or abuse, but if there is no other option, then we need to act, even if sometimes it means we must fight.
How does Eli himself deal with bullies? On Wednesday, we’ll watch him in action with the town’s new industrialist, Josiah Norton.
Last year, Stephanie Moore Hopkins of LAP It Marketing suggested that I do a project with an artist and/or photographer. After all, the "LAP" in the name of her company stands for "Literature, Art, and Photography." The idea was to take a scene from my novel, Heart Soul & Rock 'n' Roll, and have an artist and a photographer translate it into their media.
We couldn't get a photographer to sign on, but we did get graphic artist Lee Davis to join us, and my partner, Dan Bush, got into the mix when we went to Point Pleasant Beach, NJ to look for a suitable building to stand in for a sketch of the Flying Fish Club. (See the image at the top of the blog.)
When we came upon an old Victorian structure (currently a shop) on a side street, both of us exclaimed, "That's it!" Dan took photographs and did a sketch that turned the shop into the bar that serves as the catalyst for an unlikely relationship between a church's assistant minister and a guy who fronts a bar band.
Over the years, my story has taken two forms: a novel which I wrote and a spec script for a film which Dan and I collaborated on (it's not likely to hit theaters, TV, or the internet, but ya never know).
So let's start with the original thing, the excerpt from my novel.
A novel depends upon description (environment, characters, emotions) as well as dialog to move the story along. It allows the reader to use imagination to see the scene and the characters and to hear the dialog. Novel writing is a solitary pursuit until the editing process when editors and beta readers get involved. So as you read, look at how I use description to help the reader see, smell, hear, taste, and touch the elements of the story.
Now let's look at the same scene from the script Dan Bush and I are developing. Notice what from the novel we chose to keep and what we cut out. Also notice how scriptwriting differs drastically from novel-writing. A film script depends upon just enough description and emotional information for the director, actors, and the rest of the team to understand the story and interpret it on film. Unlike a novel, a film is a collaborative process. It also is highly visual and depends upon images, music, and rather terse dialog to tell its story. A longish monologue is okay, but most dialog needs to be on the short side.
Finally, Lee Davis took the excerpt from my novel and produced three pages of a graphic novel. Notice how different storytelling is in this medium. Also, look for Dan's sketch. Lee incorporated it into his work.
If you're like me, this part of the blog jumps out a grabs you. A graphic novel is exactly that: a novel told in images. It has a lot in common with script writing because the amount of description and emotional content is visual, and the artist provides just enough dialog to support the images and move the story along. But how the reader encounters the work is different from how a film goer encounters a movie. A certain amount of imagination is involved to support the images and the dialog in a graphic novel. I don't know how the characters sound, I don't know what the bar smells like, I don't know how it sounds. I have to imagine that.
While I have not studied graphic novels, I assume it is a solitary pursuit like written fiction, although I imagine it also must employ editing at some point.
I'm thrilled to see my characters brought to life! Although they don't look the way I see them in my head, it is fun to see how Lee has envisioned them. Lee took my words and built his idea of the world of the Flying Fish Club.
In real life, Lee Davis does a very different style of graphic novel. So, kudos to him for going outside his comfort zone! If you want to know more about Lee and his work, his links are:
You can find Stephanie Moore Hopkins at:
Hope you enjoyed this blog. I am happy that we all managed to get it together and want to thank Stephanie for the idea and for curating the project.
See you on Monday!
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder