Happy 150th, Jo March! (and a giveaway)

Ladies and gentlemen, today’s word is “sesquicentennial.” Isn’t that a terrific word? It really rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Next Sunday, September 30, 2018, marks the 150th anniversary — the sesquicentennial — of the publication of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

I doubt she could have foreseen her book’s enduring popularity, or have guessed that her story of four young women coming of age in the aftermath of the Civil War would one day be considered a classic — reprinted countless times with countless covers, adapted for film somewhere around a dozen times already, with not one but two more movies heading to the screen shortly.

Nor could she possibly have known the impact that her book, and in particular the character of Jo March, would have on generations of aspiring young writers.

I was one of them.

I spent seven formative years of my childhood and young adulthood in Concord, Massachusetts, the small New England town where Louisa lived when she wrote Little Women.

I used to save my babysitting money (I earned a whopping 25 cents an hour back then!) and ride my bike the mile to her home — which is called Orchard House — and treat myself to the tour. The ladies who led the tours were always so nice to me, and if they thought it was weird that I was there all by myself, they didn’t say so.

Orchard House

It’s a wonderful old historic house, filled with treasures from the Alcott family, which is easy to mix up with the March family, her fictional characters, because so much of the book was inspired by her own life, and her own family. Anyway, I remember just standing there staring at the little half-moon desk that her father had made her, and thinking, “Wow, that’s where she sat when she was writing Little Women,” and thinking that maybe I would have a writing desk of my own one day.

I desperately wanted to be a writer just like Jo March, Louisa’s headstrong fictional alter-ego, even back then.

And now, here I am, lo these many years later, and I do have a writing desk of my own, just like Louisa did, and my dream of being a writer did come true, and there are books with my name on them sitting on shelves in bookstores and libraries and actual readers’ homes across the country and beyond! And I have Louisa to thank for it.

https://www.heathervogelfrederick.com/blog/2010/04/fan-mail-friday/the-mother-daughter-book-club-2/I did thank her, in the only way I knew how — by honoring her in a book. The Mother-Daughter Book Club is my homage to Louisa and her Jo. It’s the tale of a group of middle-school girls in Concord, Massachusetts, whose mothers force them to join a book club and read Little Women. They soon discover how timeless the book’s themes are, and are surprised to find so many echoes of the March sisters and their trials and triumphs in their own lives.

So happy sesquicentennial, Little Women! I fully expect you to be around for at least another 150 years!

To celebrate this remarkable milestone, I think we need to have a giveaway, don’t you? I have a complete boxed set of all seven books in the Mother-Daughter Book Club series that I’ll be happy to autograph and send to one of you! Just leave a comment below, letting us know your connection to Little Women, and the impact it’s made on your life. If you haven’t read it yet, that’s OK, you can just leave a post telling us that you plan to (we’ll hold you to it!).

The winner will be chosen at random at midnight on the September 30, 2018, the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women! Share this giveaway on your blog or Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or other social media for additional entries. (If you share on social media, please leave a link in the comments so that I can assign you an extra entry.)  U.S. and Canada only, please. Have fun!

Happy book birthday & a giveaway!

Happy book birthday to me!

LittleWomenXmas_1

It’s officially here! My new baby goes on sale today in bookstores everywhere!

A LITTLE WOMEN CHRISTMAS is so beautiful it practically glows, thanks to artwork by the gifted Bagram Ibatoulline. Seriously, I just keep turning the pages and smiling! Every picture book author out there knows exactly how I feel — it’s an amazing feeling to see one’s story come to life visually — but to have your publisher choose an illustrator like Bagram Ibatoulline for your book … well, that’s when you feel like you just won the Triple Crown.

(You also feel like you won the Triple Crown when Publishers Weekly gives your book a STAR and calls it “brimming with warmth … as crisp and clear as a snap of winter air.” Wow! Click here to read the full review.)

This story is close to my heart in several ways. First of all, of course, because it’s really Louisa May Alcott‘s story, and I’m just re-telling it in a different form, for a different audience. Louisa was one of my childhood heroes. I lived in Concord, Massachusetts, from fourth grade through tenth grade, just a short bike ride away from Orchard House, the Alcott family home where Louisa lived and wrote Little Women. Being an aspiring author myself, I was awestruck. I used to save up my babysitting money (a whopping 25 cents an hour back then) for the entrance fee, then ride over and take the tour as often as I could. I’m sure the nice people at Orchard House got a little tired of seeing my eager face!

Orchard HouseOrchard House

It was incredibly inspiring to me to see the rooms where Louisa lived and worked. The half-moon desk that her father, Bronson Alcott, built for her so that she could have a place to write! The dining room where she and her sisters put on plays, just like my sisters and I did! I couldn’t get enough of it.

(By the way, Orchard House is making a documentary about the home’s 350-year history, and needs our help to fund it. If you’re a fan of Louisa May Alcott and Little Women, please click here to learn more about how you can support this important project.)

Back to Louisa and me. Let’s fast forward a few decades. My childhood dream has come true, and I am now a published author, thanks in no small part to the early inspiration which Louisa provided. I poured some of my gratitude and love for her into THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB, which is set in Concord, and in which my fictional book club reads Little Women. There was plenty left over, though. Can you imagine how delighted I am to be able to pay tribute to her once again, with this beautiful book?

Let’s celebrate! It’s a birthday party, after all. I have two copies of A LITTLE WOMEN CHRISTMAS to give away. If you’d like to win one, just share your favorite Louisa May Alcott quote with us in the comments below. (Don’t know one? Hint: Google is your friend.)

Winners will be chosen at random at midnight on October 12th. US and Canada only, please. Share this giveaway on your blog or Facebook or Twitter or other social media for additional entries. (If you tweet or blog or otherwise share on social media, please leave a link in the comments below so I can assign you an extra entry.) 

BONUS:  Anyone who contributes to the Orchard House documentary Kickstarter campaign will be assigned TWO additional entries! Any amount qualifies — just let me know you’ve contributed. We’re on the honor system with this one.

Louisa May Alcott on PBS

What are you doing tomorrow night? 

I know what I’ll be doing.  I’ll be watching the premiere of Louisa May Alcott — The Woman Behind Little Women.  (Dec. 28th/PBS)   

Those of you familiar with my novel The Mother-Daughter Book Club know that I spent a good chunk of my childhood in Concord, Massachusetts, the historic town where Louisa lived when she wrote Little Women.  I used to visit her home, Orchard House, regularly, hoping perhaps that some of its magic might rub off on me, and that I, too, might grow up to be a writer someday. 

Surprisingly, that someday eventually came. 

 And even more surprisingly, I eventually had the opportunity to write about Louisa herself, for in my novel a group of sixth grade girls and their mothers form a book club and dive into “Little Women,” learning about the book, its author, and themselves in the process.

I learned a great deal about my childhood hero in the process of writing The Mother-Daughter Book Club, and I can’t wait to see how the film (based on Harriet Reisen’s acclaimed biography) portrays her.  Advance buzz promises a real treat.