Saturday, June 27, 2009

In the meantime...

While we are waiting to get some information from our last few vendors to show you what you can expect to see at the convention, I thought I would highlight a blog I have been reading, or rather viewing, called Shorpy.

According to their info -, History in HD is a vintage photography blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago."

This high school graduation photo is from "Washington, D.C., circa 1910. "Eastern High School." Points of interest in this unusually detailed portrait include caps and insignia of the High School Cadet Corps, Company F, and a cat."

They put up new photos nearly every day and they are all fascinating!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

And now for something completely gorgeous!

Melody Murray is a bead artist. These are some of her Betsy Tacy inspired work. The beautiful necklace above is called "Herbarium" and was obviously inspired by her love for Mr. Gaston. The necklace encircling Julia's return is named "Dramatic and Mysterious" which it certainly is. The extraordinary choker at the bottom of the page is called "Murmuring Lake".

You can see more of Melody's work like "Pink Silk Necklace" and my vote for best name - "Miss Fowler's Restrained Rhinestone Necklace and Earrings Set in Brass". Melody has little stories for all her Maud inspired jewelry. She has been published on Bead & Button Website, in Step By Step Beads magazine and in Beading Bead-A-Day Calendars 2009 & 2010 for which she won second prize in 2010. She has also participated in juried exhibitions in Oregon and Washington. And we are going to be able to see all of her beautiful creations at the Convention! If you just can't wait for more feel free to visit her bead blog or her esty shop.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mirthful in Mankato

In the continuing series of posts about the vendors for the convention - I bring you Mary Huntly. The picture on Tacy's porch is of the Blue Garter Gang. Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? I will let you read about it here.

Mary described herself and her books (which she will be selling at the convention) to the DVC like this:

I grew up in Mankato, MN and went to school here from nursery school through college, left for a few years, came back and have lived here full-time since 1970. From the age of 2 years old until 6 years old I lived in Tib's house. Some of us who lived there over the years are gathering May 9 to share stories from Tib's porch.

I retired early (2001) from my faculty position in the School of Nursing at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Since that time I have participated in writing and publishing three books, two of which I would love to be able to have on display and available for purchase during the July Convention.

One book is titled: A Mirthful Spirit: Embracing Laughter for Wellness, published 2007. My co-author, Edna Thayer, and I are both retired nurses and write about the benefits of laughter for healing and wellness. In February Edna Thayer and I did a presentaton at Tacy's House and I told some stories about the Mirthful Spirits of Betsy, Tacy, and Tib. In March I was invited to attend the Young Writer's Conference and assist with a breakout session related to Betsy, Tacy, and Tib books. I shared some of my writing and related it to BTT stories. More info is on our web site, A Mirthful Spirit.

The second book is titled: Amazing Attributes of Aging: Silly & Sacred Stories of Blue Garter Friends. My longtime friend, Judy Strand Appel and I are the lead co-authors of the book. The Blue Garter Friends consist of 36 girls who grew up in Mankato (Deep Valley) and went to elementary, junior and senior high school together. After graduating from high school we all planned to go to college. We wanted to stay connected as our friendships had grown so important to us over the years--just like the Betsy, Tacy, Tib girl friends. We formed the Blue Garter Group and the book tells our story. Now, most of us have retired and we have developed a unique section of the book that relates to aging. We have selected 3 words from each letter of the alphabet that depict aging women. Quotes from well known women enhance this dictionary style section of the book. Our group now consists of 27 women who stay connected. Fifteen of us wrote stories for the book. Recipes from our annual gatherings are included. One of our blue garter friends is a watercolor artist and created the painting of the blue garter used on the cover of the book. More info is on our web site Amazing Aging.

Doesn't she sound great? I personally can't wait to meet her at the convention. She had me at "I lived in Tib's house" - the great attitude on aging is just a bonus!

Next up, Melody Murray - bead artist and voracious reader.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Maud and Millenary!

For the next few posts, I am going to feature some of the vendors that will be at the convention and this one is a doozy! I received a wonderful story from the Saskatoon Star Phoenix about a milliner who was inspired by the work of Maud Hart Lovelace! The story is wonderful and after reading it, I emailed her to tell her about the convention. (The internet - just one more way for me make a fool out of myself talking to strangers...) But the wonderful thing is that she and her husband already knew about it and are planning to attend. And they are bringing hats!

Visit their website for a little taste of what is in store!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Coming soon - to a convention near you!

For the next couple of weeks, we will be highlighting events, vendors and other sneak peaks of conventionalia!

Today I bring you Deep Valley Vignettes! Well, I don't - but the Amboy Area Community Theatre does. They will be performing Scenes from Betsy's Wedding at the convention!

Here is the one-sheet from the play. The thing that amazed me was that I assumed Kelly Reuter (the director and I believe writer/adaptor of the play) is not in possession of awesome photo shop skills, but rather created the necklace and then photographed it! Gorgeous...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Second Place Essay!

Here is the second place essay, a lovely tribute to the best older sister in all of fiction - sorry Meg and Mary. The picture above is not actually Julia, but google's closest thing. (Sorry, can't get to the scanner and the internet is Julia-deprived.) The authoresses of the essays you have been enjoying will be announced at the convention and the first place essay will be read then, as well.

And now --

Julia Ray: Singer, Sister, and Ever-So-Competent Hair Stylist:
The Woman in the Betsy-Tacy Series That I Most Admire

While reading the Betsy-Tacy series, Betsy, Tacy, and Tib materialize as the obvious stars of the novels. Although these characters all showcase their own wit, charm and winning personalities, another female character has resonated with me on a most profound level. Julia, eldest Ray daughter and vocalist extraordinaire, is one of the most intriguing and complex characters — albeit overlooked — in the series, and her grand accomplishments should be considered more deeply. Maud Hart Lovelace’s early descriptions of Julia in Betsy-Tacy and Betsy-Tacy and Tib are few and far between; indeed, she is first viewed merely as the older, wiser sister: eight years old to Betsy’s six. As the characters grow older, Lovelace develops Julia’s character further, and readers benefit from meeting an intelligent, worldly young woman. For a more in-depth study, this analysis will focus solely on Julia’s presence in 1945’s Heaven to Betsy. In this book in particular, Julia’s magnetism as a character secures her position as one of the most inimitable characters in the series.
One of the first and most interesting passages of the entire series relates to Julia and transpires in Heaven to Betsy. Julia exclaims, “Bettina, I love the Episcopal Church. I want to be an Episcopalian…Just because Papa and Mamma are Baptists is no reason I should be a Baptist. People are different. I’m myself” (p. 99). For a girl of 16, especially in the early 1900s, this statement is a bit radical. Yet, how often is religion a hot topic among America’s youth? How often do people question their systems of beliefs? These are in fact common concerns, and Lovelace brings them to light with Julia’s early questioning. It presages later young adult fiction, like Judy Blume’s 1970 masterpiece, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, in which protagonist Margaret Simon grapples with a choice between Christianity and Judaism. Today, Blume’s book is often banned in schools across the United States due to its brazen references to religion, among other elements. However, Lovelace’s attribution of these feelings of confusion to Julia at an earlier time in American fiction is truly remarkable. Julia strengthens as a character with her Episcopalian outburst and stands in stark contrast to the sometimes frivolous Betsy.
Throughout the series, Julia is noted for her extraordinary talent as a singer. The reader first gets a taste of what is to come with a passage about Chauncey Olcott’s performance in Deep Valley. The entire Ray family attends the concert. Upon leaving, they are all glowing with happiness from the wonderful performance that they just experienced. For Julia, though, the concert was not so engaging. She coolly tells Betsy, “Of course, that isn’t great music.” An outraged Betsy exclaims, “Why, the idea! If that isn’t great singing, I’d like to know what is.” Julia answers confidently, “Grand Opera.” “Like that Pugliacci you sing?” Betsy questions. Julia replies, “Of course. But Chauncey Olcott is a sweet old thing” (p. 118). Betsy is aghast at Julia’s snub to Olcott, whom Betsy deems “the finest singer in the world.” This demonstrates an essential element of Julia’s personality. Whether it is a rebuttal of the Baptist religion or a singer’s talents, Julia knows what she likes, and she experiences no reservations about speaking her mind. Granted, there are many flighty teenage girls who might defend their favorite singers from time to time; however, when Julia abhors Chauncey Olcott, she does so with such grace and maturity that one could never question her judgment. Julia may have been only 16 at this point, but her wisdom exceeds her years.
Throughout the series, Betsy undoubtedly strikes a chord with most readers. She is the most flawed, and certainly the most lovable, character in the book. Nevertheless, Julia’s aspirations make her more admirable. While Betsy clings to high school — and the Sunday night lunches, outings with the Crowd, and holidays that go along with it — Julia longs for the Great World. In Heaven to Betsy, the reader learns that while Julia used to pal around with Katie Kelly, she has become less interested in high school friendships as the years have passed. Julia even grows more independent in terms of boys. After a quarrel with a beau, Fred, Julia refuses to accept his apology. Betsy pleads with Julia to forgive the boy: “This is pretty hard on Fred. He’s going to flunk everything, because he’s worrying about you.” In response, Julia “settles down to her Cicero” and reasons, “Very foolish of him” (p. 262). Certainly, Julia’s independence reaches epic proportions when she actually departs for the Great World. Even at 16 years old, though, Julia does not get swept up into dances and other typical high school fare. As Betsy describes her, “Julia loved the Great World. She loved to sing, to act, to study, out in the Great World. The Great World was more real and much more important than the Deep Valley High School” (p. 179). This life perspective is quite rebellious of Julia, particularly for the time. Rather than playing her music, it would surely be simpler to fantasize over handsome boys and gobble down sundaes at Heinz’s. Perhaps most importantly, when Julia continues to forge her own path, she does so with virtually no snobbery or condescension.
Finally, in an examination of the Betsy-Tacy series, a character’s ties back to Betsy are innumerably important. Julia flawlessly fills the role of Betsy’s older sister. Whether she is happily entertaining Betsy’s friends at the piano or adeptly twisting Betsy’s hair into perfect pompadours, Julia’s love for “Bettina” is always present. In the beginning of Chapter Two, the reader learns: “[Betsy] admired Julia without resentment. During the last year all big-sister, little-sister friction had miraculously melted away” (p. 25). Indeed, Betsy is in a vulnerable position as the middle sister, but seldom, if ever, does the reader witness any disparaging comments from Julia. One of the most loving displays of sisterhood occurs after an evening of skating, when Betsy witnesses Tony flirting and skating with Bonnie. As she remains in a state of depression the next morning, she wants to do nothing more than lie in bed. Julia walks in Betsy’s room, assesses the situation at hand and remarks, “It must be your ankle…I’ll explain to Papa about your ankle and bring you some breakfast” (p. 238). Naturally, Julia understands the real reason behind Betsy’s despondency, but in true Julia fashion, she does not say a word. Later, Julia returns to “beautify” Betsy by fixing her hair, rubbing a chamois skin across her face, and administering an impeccable manicure. Julia’s eagerness to help Betsy prevails as a significant example of sisterhood. In literature and in the media, quintessential big sisters are bossy women who tease and fool their younger siblings. Instead of subscribing to this view, Lovelace paints Julia as a compassionate young woman whom any girl would be fortunate to call a sister.
Julia Ray is based off Kathleen Palmer Hart, Lovelace’s older sister. Today’s readers will never know Kathleen; thus, they will never know if Kathleen’s persona really matched Julia’s benevolence and charisma. Luckily, readers can turn to any of the 10 Betsy-Tacy books and receive a full dose of the fascinating, multi-faceted character of Julia. Through her confidence toward her religious convictions and musical preferences and her selfless behavior toward Betsy, Julia is the most admirable female character in the series. As Lovelace writes in Heaven to Betsy, 16-year-old Julia has a sort of “diamond-bright precocity” (p. 25). Throughout the rest of the series, Julia’s diamond shines brighter than all the rest.

*The page numbers that were referenced in this essay can be found in the 2000 edition of Heaven to Betsy.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Essay Contest Honorable Mention - the last one!

The following is the last honorable mention essay. It is a silly one, with a gritty kernel of truth to it. Bonnie; Friend
or Foe? You be the judge! (Well, the judging has already occurred, but you know what I mean...) Please assume the words in brackets are delicately crossed out with a thin line so that they can still be read, but have obviously been excised from the poem in a fit of pique.

Bonnie Andrews:
The Woman in the Betsy-Tacy Series That I Most Admire

This poem is shamelessly dedicated to contest judge Darsa Morrow, because she once dedicated a poem, “Odes to Bonnie,” to me.

Bonnie the [Praying] Preying Enchantress
I think that I shall never see
A girl as [lovely] perfidious as Bonnie

A girl who [enchanted] stole beaux all day
While lifting plump hands to [pray] prey

A girl who strove [devoutly] deceptively to ensnare
[Converts] Tall dark strangers to her basement lair

A girl whose [sincere] alleged reforming line
Forced the Crowd on burn-ed toast to dine

Her departure shattered Christian Endeavor
Bonnie will be missed [forever] never!

(Note to judge: Please copy and paste this poem to the end of this essay until the required word minimum is met. Thank you.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Essay Contest Honorable Mention

Here is the second honorable mention essay. As an admirer of the heroine in question I must say that I thought the judges (pictured to the side) did a wonderful job in honoring it!

Betsy- Tacy Essay: The Woman That I Most Admire – Tib

As Betsy and Tacy approach the chocolate colored house on Pleasant Street “they saw what looked like a clothes pin, standing prongs up” and suddenly realize that the amusing image is actually “a little girl standing on her head” (Betsy-Tacy). That “dainty and small” girl whose “arms, legs, and face were tanned” with “round blue eyes” and “short fluff of yellow hair” is Thelma Muller, or Tib, as Betsy and Tacy come to know her. The character of Tib, a bright, independent, yet modest young girl enhances Maud Hart Lovelace’s novels by conveying a unique and innovative young woman living in a brand new century through her brave, courageous, and compassionate nature, her individuality, and her instinctive common sense.
Tib’s brave and courageous nature seems foreign to Betsy and Tacy as they have never seen such a small statured girl behave in a fierce, straightforward, and just manner before. From the beginning of their companionship, Tib assumes the role as the risk-taker of the trio as she often marches to the beat of her own drum. Lovelace depicts this unlikely attribute of such a “dainty” little girl growing up in the early nineteen hundreds in many instances throughout the series. In Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill, Tib’s ethical and principle minded conscience asserts itself as she courageously defends the little Syrian girl named Naifi, whom she and Betsy and Tacy had befriended upon the Big Hill, from a circle of tormenting, vicious, and cruel boys. Lovelace describes Tib in this heated moment as “a small shining comet” as she pushes her way through the circle shouting, “‘You let her go! You let her be!’” All of a sudden a boy named Sam pushes
little, but brave Tib backwards while simultaneously ripping the accordion-pleated dress which Tib had worn that day to perform her baby dance for the school entertainment. She felt proud of this lovely dress which her mother had sewn for her to wear, but “heedless of her dress, Tib pushed Naifi through a break in the circle,” thus proving her strength and ability to act in a compassionate nature whenever she finds a friend in need.
Though Tib loves to go along with Betsy and Tacy in school and around town, she does not, however, act as a follower. Lovelace depicts Tib as her own individual person, which perhaps is why Betsy and Tacy admire her so and find her a remarkable friend. Throughout the series, Tib has her own ideas and aspirations, and unlike Betsy and Tacy, whose mothers let them run and have fun as children, “Tib’s mother believed in children knowing how to work. Tib dusted the legs of the chairs and polished the silver. She was learning to cook and sew” (Betsy-Tacy and Tib). Tib’s different background and household upbringing resonates with her through her childhood and into young adulthood as she embraces her uncommon and individualistic ideas. In Betsy’s Wedding, Lovelace illustrates this characteristic attitude in Tib as she behaves differently from other girls when the thought of marriage arises. One can distinctly see this attitude in Tib when Betsy asks her, “’When are you going to settle down?’” and Tib replies casually, “‘Why should I settle down? I’m good at my job. Saving money. Like my boarding house.’” Later on in the novel, Tib explains her reasoning to Betsy as she says, “’Just because I’m small, men think I’m a clinging vine. They think I need to be protected. Imagine that! Why, I like to paddle my own canoe! I like adventure. I want to see the world.’” Though Betsy agrees with Tib’s notions, she becomes astounded when Tib says, “‘I’m saving my money to buy an automobile’” as “Betsy did not know an unmarried girl who owned an automobile.” But of course, the innovative, individualistic, headstrong Tib would be the first. Tib confirms this as she pronounces, “’I’m going to drive my auto all over the United States.’” Tib’s fresh, unique, and modern way of thinking allow her to separate from the mold of what a woman should be, and, in result, become a contemporary woman during the turn of the century.
Perhaps the best attribute which Tib possesses is her constant use of common sense and honesty throughout the many encounters and situations which she comes across with Betsy and Tacy. Tib always seems to say the most sensible, yet simplistic words, that have the effect of bringing Betsy and Tacy back to reality. In Betsy-Tacy, and Tib, Lovelace depicts this quality in Tib’s character in a short, simple conversation as Betsy says, “‘I wouldn’t like to be playing the piano today’” and Tib’s quickness of thought answers Betsy saying, “’Neither would I […] Of course […] we don’t know how.’” To convey the important distinction between Tib and Betsy and Tacy, as well as the dimension that Tib adds to their friendship, Lovelace writes, “Neither Betsy nor Tacy would have pointed that out. Tib was always pointing such things out. But Betsy and Tacy liked her just the same.” Tib’s sensible nature seems to emerge most in Betsy Was a Junior after she and Betsy and Tacy delay working on their herbarium project until the last moment possible. Tib announces quite honestly as they walk down Hill Street, “‘I think […] that this was an idiotic thing to do […] As a matter of fact […] we’ve had a pretty foolish year. You and I especially, Betsy. It’s been fun, and I guess it’s been worth it, but I wouldn’t want another year this foolish.’” Tib even goes on to say, “‘We’re getting a little old for this sort of thing.’” Even though Tib may seem a bit too frank, open, and honest about how she feels at times, Betsy and Tacy need her to pull them back to their own senses, and Tib does this well. Her open honesty though, is never meant to be rude or rash, but instead heartfelt as she confides to Betsy, “I like all the girls at the Sem very much, and I like my cousins, but there’s never been anyone like you and Tacy” (Betsy in Spite of Herself).
When I was five years old, my mom began reading the Betsy-Tacy series to me each night before I went to bed. I remember the night Tib was introduced in the book; I had so many questions to ask my mom about this interesting girl’s character. She seemed a bit like me, with a short, dainty stature, yet fun-loving and high-spirited. I could tell that this little girl was tough and I liked that. I, like Tib, hated when people would think of me as too small to do anything great, but Tib always managed to prove others wrong. With her bold, fearless, compassionate nature toward others, her knowing of self, independence, and individuality, and her levelheaded, reasonable, and sincere nature, I admire her to this day as she encompasses the idea of stepping out of the ordinary, breaking the original mold, and proving that sweet, dainty, little girls can still have big dreams, too.