where the writers are
Rainy Day Blogger
Nell Brinkley circa 1908

Outside it’s dark cold, and rainy -- in a word, miserable -- as it’s been for the last two weeks, and the San Francisco Chronicle predicts the same for at least the next week. Inside it’s almost as bad, as our 102 year-old Edwardian house has exactly one gas heater in the hall, and no insulation (They didn’t have insulation in those days) and I’m getting very tired of my cashmere turtleneck sweater collection. A perfect time to write that blog I keep putting off!

Let me tell you about what’s consuming my every waking hour: I’m putting together a full-color coffee table book on the art of Nell Brinkley. And whom, you may ask, is this Nell Brinkley? Ahah! That's Nell in the photo.

In 1907, at the tender age of twenty-two, Nell Brinkley came to New York to draw for the Hearst syndicate. Within a year, she had become a household name. Flo Ziegfeld dressed his dancers as "Brinkley Girls," in the Ziegfeld Follies. Three popular songs were written about her. Women, aspiring to the masses of curly hair with which Nell adorned her creations, could buy Nell Brinkley Hair Curlers for ten cents a card. Young girls cut out and saved her drawings, copied them, colored them, and pasted them in scrapbooks. The Brinkley Girls took over from the Gibson Girls.

Today, except for a small group of avid collectors, she is unjustly forgotten.

But no longer. In The Art of Nell Brinkley, I’m collecting her exquisitely colored full page art from 1913 to 1940. This entails painstakingly scanning in every beautiful outsize newspaper page. In those days, newspaper pages were humongous, and even though we bought an outsize scanner for the job, it’s still too small to scan an entire page, so I have to scan the pages in halves and then carefully put the halves together in photoshop, an exquisitely nerve-wracking procedure.

But Nell is worth it! Expect the book in ‘09.

When I can’t stand it anymore and have to take a brief vacation from scanning, I turn to my other project: I’m adapting Little Women into graphic novel form for Eureka Productions’ great Graphic Classics series. This one’s a graphic novel anthology of Louisa May Alcott. This is a fun but challenging job. For those of you who read Little Women when you were kids: do you remember how much moralizing is in the book? I didn’t remember any of it, and suspect that as a girl, I may have read an abridged edition. Good heavens, those sisters are always learning lessons -- don’t be vain, don’t be lazy, don’t even get angry! -- and I suppose this was a Victorian tradition for kid’s books, but it sure does get in the way of a good story, and I find myself cutting out huge chunks of the book. The artist is Anne Timmons, and if you’re familiar with my work, you know that Anne and I have worked together on a good number of projects since 1999, including our ongoing graphic novel series, GoGirl! For Graphic Classics volume fourteen, we worked together on an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

Hey, Bay Area people, or anyone coming to Wondercon, at Moscone Center from February 22nd through the 24th: I’ll be there, delivering a presentation on Sunday the 24th, from 11:30 to 1:00 PM. The subject is Feral Women in Lil Abner, and I can guarantee that my talks are as far as you can get from the usual convention panels on The Hulk versus The Thing. Come see it, say hello!

PS: Let me tell you a bit about Patry Francis. Patry is a talented author who was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. She's had several surgeries, and her prognosis is good. Her debut novel The Liar’s Diary came out in hardcover from Dutton last spring. Patry doesn't have the time or energy to promote her book, so we at Red Room are doing it for her. Please check out her page at Red Room and find out how to order the book!

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