Friday, December 29, 2017

Following the example of Saturday Evening Girls with Jane Healey

HALLIE EPHRON: I had the pleasure of meeting Jane Healey at a Christmas fair. She was talking to fans and showing off her brand new book, The Saturday Evening Girls Club

And she had a piece of Saturday Evening Girls pottery on the table in front of her. It often has the sweetest, most whimsical design and was handmade by mid-century immigrant women at a time when there were few other ways for them to make a living. 

(PS: TSEGC was named  one of Redbook Magazine’s “20 Books You Need to Take to the Beach this Summer”)

JANE HEALEY: A huge thank you to the Jungle Red Writers for letting me be a guest blogger for the day!

My debut novel is called The Saturday Evening Girls Club. It’s based on an actual group of young Italian and Jewish immigrant women in Boston’s North End at the turn of the 20th century

I first learned about the club when I wrote an article about their namesake pottery for Boston Magazine years ago. The club was founded by North End Librarian Edith Guerrier and Boston philanthropist Helen Storrow. It changed the course of many of these young women’s lives in the best possible ways.

There is so much going on in the world today to feel anxious about, but for my own sanity, I try to focus on the more positive news. And one thing to celebrate? Every day, I am reminded of the spirit of The Saturday Evening Girls Club when I witness the many ways women in this country are uniting to help each other and improve the lives of those around them. 

To cite a couple of examples in my own life, my dear friend Susanna’s kids go to a school where more than half of the children are below the poverty line. The school’s principal asked her if she could help raise some money so that the school could discreetly purchase coats for some of the neediest children. A team of moms from the school banded together and not only raised money, but started a non-profit to anonymously give many of these children desperately needed new coats, boots and winter clothing. Their efforts have been so successful that they’ve started to expand to several other schools in the area. 

In an example that I think is representative of what’s happening around the country politically, Jen, a mother at my daughter’s school, decided to run for school committee this year. The number of her female friends in our town that held signs, knocked on doors and hosted coffees, was nothing short of extraordinary. The best news is that she won. Jen is part of a tidal wave of women across the country that are seeking office in unprecedented numbers, many for the first time ever. This, in my opinion, can only be a sign of good things to come. 

In my own journey as a writer, I continue to be blown away by the generosity of other women writers, including the ones on this blog. From my writing group, to my “sisters” at my publishing company, to the established authors who have encouraged me since the early days, I am so grateful for the continued support.

In my novel, I include an Italian or Jewish proverb at the beginning of each chapter.  One reader favorite is the Italian proverb, "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle." 

In these volatile times, I think one of the best things we can do is support and lift up the women in our lives. To keep lighting candles. I’d love to hear stories about how a mentor or friend or group of women have helped you along the way, or how you have helped others. 

HALLIE: Keep lighting candles! I'm going to put that at the top of my New Year's to-do list for 2018... and on into the future.

My favorite sisterhood is of course the Jungle Reds. And  by extension, the fabulous women in the mystery writing community. You couldn't find a more generous bunch. And in the spirit of giving, this final week of December is when I write checks to all my favorite charities... another way of lighting other candles.

Please, share your stories about women helping others through good works, political activism, and sisterhood of all kinds, and...

ABOUT The Saturday Evening Girls Club: For four young immigrant women living in Boston’s North End in the early 1900s, escaping tradition doesn’t come easy. But at least they have one another and the Saturday Evening Girls Club, a social pottery-making group offering respite from their hectic home lives—and hope for a better future.

Ambitious Caprice dreams of opening her own hat shop, which clashes with the expectations of her Sicilian-born parents. Brilliant Ada secretly takes college classes despite the disapproval of her Russian Jewish father. Stunning Maria could marry anyone yet guards her heart to avoid the fate of her Italian Catholic mother, broken down by an alcoholic husband. And shy Thea is torn between asserting herself and embracing an antiquated Jewish tradition.

The friends face family clashes and romantic entanglements, career struggles and cultural prejudice. But through their unfailing bond, forged through their weekly gathering, they’ll draw strength—and the courage to transform their immigrant stories into the American lives of their dreams.

THE SATURDAY EVENING GIRLS CLUB is available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

54 comments:

  1. This is so inspiring, Jane. It hurts to think that so many children are without the basic necessity of a coat to keep them warm. And knowing that the need is so widespread . . . the ladies in our church run a free clothing ministry because there are so many in need; the heartening thing is that our Lydia’s Closet is overflowing, thanks to so many generous donors who want to help.

    The candle quote is amazing . . .
    I’m looking forward to reading your book.

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    1. What a source of inspiration! Thanks, Joan.

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    2. Thank you so much Joan. And thank you for sharing your story, it is so heartening to hear that Lydia's Closet is more than full - there are so many good people in the world willing to help. Yes, the candle proverb is my favorite. My other favorite, and a reader favorite, is a Jewish proverb "Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven." Thank you again!

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  2. I'm also looking forward to reading this story. Sounds very inspiring.

    I would not be a writer without a local community of women who encouraged me to write their monthly local newsletter. They allowed me to interview a member for each issue, then voted to pay me to continue, eventually doubling my payment. When I decided to write a book inspired by their stories, they all generously helped by opening their businesses to me, and helping me in innumerable ways. A famous author in that field, who also consented to an interview, introduced me to several of the many editors I submitted the manuscript to, and when none of them chose to publish it, she helped me decide to self-publish, and insisted on paying for a book. Later, when publishers came to me to write on the same topic, that author gave me invaluable advice about contracts that made an enormous difference in how much money I was to make from them. And the very successful owner of a catalog company asked to carry my books in her product line, which not only sold hundreds, but increased my exposure and broadened my credibility as a speaker.

    So many women friends and I have helped each other in these ways. My favorite way to describe the symbiosis is by the example of the two mice helping each other carry the key up the steps to the garrett where Cinderella was locked away by her stepmother. Alone, neither could do it, but together they both could.

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    1. What a great story, Karen -- love the mice. And Cinderella's wicked stepsisters? A good counter-example.

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    2. Hi Karen,
      Thank you for sharing your story. Your community of women friends and writers who have helped you along the way reminds me of my own. And I love the Cinderella example. I hope you enjoy the story!

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    3. Perfect, Hallie!

      Thanks, Jane. It sounds as though I will. The book has gotten great buzz. Best of luck.

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  3. The book sounds wonderful, Jane! The story is cool enough, and the "girls" sound like interesting characters, but then you add pottery! I love pottery. All you have to do is look into my cabinets to see that, since nearly all the dishes I use every day are handmade pottery.

    And women? Women rock. While the men all seem to be sitting at home, watching the game, women are out in the world quietly or not so quietly making things better. Animal rescue networks? Organized by women. The high school mentoring program I volunteer for? Founded by women. Band booster clubs? Run by women. Rape crisis centers and shelters for battered women? Yep, those too. I know women who organize everything from voter registration drives to programs that donate quilts to sick children. If all the women of faith decided to just sleep in one week, churches, temples and mosques would be in deep, deep trouble.

    In my own life, my female friends have lifted me out of my sorrows, encouraged me to make the big moves, and kicked me in the butt when I needed it. Not least among that circle is the Reds' own Deborah Crombie. I am constantly amazed at the blessings these women bring to my life.

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    1. I so agree, women do amazing work. W-O-R-K... as opposed to ordering other people around, though I confess I'm pretty good at that, too.

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    2. Thank you re: the book Gigi! Oh you should check out some of the Saturday Evening Girl Pottery on eBay - it's become highly collectible (and can be expensive) but if you love pottery it's really fascinating to see what's out there. I window shop on eBay daily :). And I love your post and I could not agree more. As one of my friends says, women get it DONE.

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    3. Oh, my! I just looked it up, and it's lovely! I have a bit of Rookwood, but nothing as pretty as the Saturday Evening Girl's Club.

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    4. Gigi, Rookwood is a Cincinnati company, which was revived several years ago. If you ever get here, come to the Cincinnati Art Museum and see the incredible friezes and Rookwood fireplaces in the exhibit next to the huge room of pottery. Many homes here still have those fireplaces in place, and they are exquisite. Ohio has had more than its share of incredible potters.

      But the SEG pottery is so charming! Thanks for the reference, Jane.

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    5. I was just going to say it reminded me of Rookwood! And Moorcroft, which is English but similar. (Ooh, I started looking at vintage Moorcroft on eBay and am now in big trouble!!!)

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    6. Yes it's really lovely - my favorite are the ones with the whimsical animal motifs - bunnies and chicks etc. Oh yes Rookwood! I was speaking in Toledo, Ohio a couple of months ago and there were a couple of collectors of Rookwood at my talk. And now I have to go check out Moorcroft on eBay!

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    7. Bunnies: Dedham pottery, which I always confuse with Saturday Evening Girls except it's smooth and usually blue and white. And they still make it.

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  4. Congratulations on your debut novel, Jane! Very inspiring.

    The women network and support system is vital everywhere, and it is heartening to see their generosity and desire to make things better for all.

    In my city, I am supporting Cornerstone which is a women's shelter and network. The four residences support over 500 women with emergency shelter and help transition them to a more stable environment. For the Christmas holidays, I also participated in the Shoebox Project to create and distribute gift boxes for women in need. The Ottawa branch is part of a nation-wide charity that has distributed over 90,000 shoeboxes since 2011.

    And personally, my local group of women friends have been there for me by being my "legs" and helping me function alone at home these past months. I could not have done this without their kindness and generous help.

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    1. If anyone wants to know more about Cornerstone: https://www.cornerstonewomensnetwork.com

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    2. Thank you Grace! And thank you for sharing the details re: Cornerstone, what an amazing charity. That's wonderful about your friends - so happy you had a tribe to help you!

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  5. Congratulations on the novel. It is on my must read shelf, and like Hallie, I'm putting the candle quote at the top of my New Year's to do list.

    In my Maine hometown we regularly have coat drives which I am pleased to say are successful. It is sad to see the need and oftentimes, it is the women who see it and find ways to fix it.

    Women from Sr. Marie Therese, to the Guppies, to SinC, to the Reds, and Mysteristas have encouraged my writing. When I bought my first house as a single woman, it was a renovated and updated with a group of friends. We spent time taking courses and reading books ("hold that wrench, I have to turn the page") and as each of us bought our houses we returned the favor. We ended up calling ourselves Girl Power and all it took to rally us was a call, and later a quick text, with just those two words to get the group to show up.

    Having been brought up the lone girl in a neighborhood of boys, I think the difference is men are competitive with each other even in a team situation. Women on the other hand, mesh together to form one whole and accomplish goals.

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    1. Kait, your comment about men strikes a chord, though there are exceptions. My daughter played soccer... on all girls and on coed teams. She much preferred playing with girls because, she said, they played like a team. The boys hogged the ball, even from their teammates. It's got to be something about that Y chromosome.

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    2. Thank you for the kind words Kait. Also, I saw the word wrench in the third paragraph and it made me break out in hives ;). Renovating your own home with friends? That is serious girl power, I don't think I would even attempt - so impressive!

      I completely agree regarding women and teams. My girls have always hated playing on coed teams for that reason.

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  6. This is so wonderful, Jane! And I just realized every time someone opens this blog this morning you are lighting another candle! Now I am imagining those little lights popping up all across the US and Canada… So lovely! And what a treat to meet you at that event!

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    1. Thank you Hank! That candle proverb has really become my mantra this year. It was so lovely to meet you and Hallie at the event. As I told my husband when I got home from the event that night, I felt a little like a freshman at the senior prom - being with authors I've long admired! But you were both so welcoming, thank you - and thank you for having me on the blog today!

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    2. Awww...so lovely of you! And such fun to have you here!

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  7. Congratulations on the book. I'd have to say Sisters in Crime was so instrumental in getting me where I am today with my writing.

    Hallie and Kait - yes. I once remarked to my husband (who is generally a good guy) that something wasn't a competition and he replied, "I'm a guy. Everything is a competition."

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Thank you Mary! I saw the same thing about my writing group - we all met at Boston Magazine years ago and we've supported each other in writing and in life ever since!

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  8. Jane, your book sounds enthralling--and the connection to pottery would reel me in no matter the storyline!

    Wasn't there a call for women to stay at home one day? To show the contributions that women make everyday to keeping the world going 'round? That wouldn't work, on reflection--women at home would simply get busy doing something that needs to be done. So, how about women meet up somewhere for a day off from work whether at home or in the workplace? But, see, what would happen when you get a bunch of women together like that is they'd start talking about stuff that needs doing--like a coat drive, or safer routes to school, or running for office--so they'd all just pitch in and get to work.... Women Power!!!

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    1. Hi Flora, thank you! Yes, women always get busy doing what needs to be done! I have to tell you I never really had an interest in pottery until I learned the story of 'the Girls. But now any time I go to an antique store or flea market, I have to look for their pottery or really anything from the Arts & Crafts time period (early 1900s).

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    2. Jane, do you know about Clarice Cliff? She was an English Arts and Crafts pottery artist. Her stuff is stunning--and very collectable.

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    3. You know I have not heard of her, but I just Googled and wow! SO interesting, really stunning, I love the colors too. Another one to add to my eBay alerts - this thread is getting dangerous ;).

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  9. What a wonderful story, thank you Jane for sharing it and Reds for bringing it to us. I had never heard it but I do know of other stories, though, about women who could not yet vote but saw a need and got the job done. I'm ordering this book today. Activist women, history ,Boston AND pottery! Loving the saying about the candle too. Women working
    together? Every day. Sisters in Crime of course.But women friends in every way and all my life.

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    1. Thank you so much Triss! I hope you enjoy the story. I loved the history of 'the Girls and I think when it comes to women in history, sometimes stories like this one are left behind. I also tell people it's a bit of a love letter to Boston too. My husband was actually living in the North End when we met so the North End will always hold a special place in my heart :).

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  10. Welcome Jane! I've had this book on my pile since Hallie began raving about it several weeks ago. It's a curious thing about the difference between the way men and women operate--are we born this way, or socialized to be this way, or some of each? (probably the latter...) I would like to see the attitudes and stories that I'm hearing here translated into our leadership at the highest levels. I hope we're headed in that direction!

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    1. Preach Lucy! I could not agree more re: leadership. And I really do think it's a combination of nature and nurture when it comes to how women operate. Thank you for having me here today and for adding the SEGC to your pile! Lovely to "meet" you. :)

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  11. I, too, love the way mystery writers support each other. I hope it is the same way in other genres, but I’ve seen it first hand in this genre.

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    1. Hi Mark. In my limited experience it has been that way in historical fiction/women's fiction too!

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  12. Thank you for sharing the beautiful candle quote and the inspiring stories of women working together to make a difference in the lives of others. There is so much we can do for those like the children needing coats if we band together. It makes me realize how much more I need to do.

    The Saturday Evening Girls Club sounds like an amazing read, and it's now on my TBR list.

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    1. Thank you so much Kathy. I feel that way too - like I could always be doing more.

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  13. Thank you, Jane, for the lovely and inspiring post. TSEGC is going on my to-read list right now. I have the most amazing circle of women friends, so positive and supportive and always ready to do what needs to be done. And my Jungle Red sisters!!!! I can't imagine my life without the women in it!

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    1. Thank you for having me on the blog today Deborah! And thank you for the interest in the SEGC. My mom is a huge crime fiction reader (I love the genre too) so I can't wait to introduce her to Jungle Red Writers and all of your great titles. I feel the same - not sure what I would do without the women in my life!

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  14. Jane, I love the candle proverb! What a wonderful concept to keep in mind as we head into a new year! Your book sounds wonderful. I've never heard of Saturday Evening Girls Pottery, and I'm especially interested since I'm from Boston.

    I've always thought girls and women were the ones who got stuff done; I'm one of four girls and no boys, so we were the ones getting stuff done! I went to a women's college where the same was true. The mystery community is very supportive, and there is no better example of this than our own Hank, who is exceedingly generous and gracious to her fellow writers.

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    1. Hi Ingrid, thank you for having me here today! I had never heard of SEG pottery either (I also grew up here) and that's one of things that intrigued me -here was this interesting story of women in Boston's history that I'd never heard of before.

      I continue to be so grateful for the writers who continue to support me on this crazy publishing journey and I try to do the same for others whenever I can. And Hank is an inspiration for sure!

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    2. Ingrid! I just gasped when I read your post. Thank you! xoxoo

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  15. "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle."

    So true. Thank you, Jane, for this positive post at the end of such a difficult year. My wish for the new year is that we will continue to band together in sororities of support and kindness, and understand that through steady effort we will prevail.

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  16. Welcome to Jungle Reds! I have an amazing story of women supporting women. For years, a friend had been trying to produce a TV movie based on a novel by Joanne Greenberg. Her agent was mad at Joanne because my friend bought the rights to her book for One dollar! That was in the 1970s or early 1980s? They were slated to start production when the company funding the production pulled out. This movie required the talents of Phyllis Frelich and Ed Waterstreet. My friend refused to hire actors who were Not Deaf to portray Deaf characters. It made sense because there are few roles for Deaf actors. I do not want to get into the politics of this. After the company pulled out the funds and halted the production, my friend went looking for other sources. There was this amazing WOMEN's production company that decided to support my friend's vision. They provided the financial support and the production went well. It was on Hallmark Hall of Fame and the title was "Love Is Never Silent". Hallmark decided to put the movie on their Hallmark Hall of Fane because Hallmark wanted to thank the Deaf community because during the Great Depression, many deaf people bought Hallmark cards and Hallmark stayed in business.

    I wish I could recall the name of the Women's Production company that supported my friend's vision for the movie adaption of Love Is Never Silent. Yes, my friend is a woman and she is also Deaf. She had met Spencer Tracy the actor when he visited her school as a child.

    I thought this was a great example of Women supporting Women. As far as I know, no one in that Women's Production company was Deaf and they still supported my Deaf friend.

    Thank you for a great post. Your book sounds interesting. Are you on Instagram? There is a big community of readers who share book recommendations there. Sometimes we see posts by authors too.

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    1. What an interesting story, thank you so much for sharing! That is such a great example of women helping women. And yes I am on Instagram - @HealeyJane - hope to see you there! :)

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  17. Just purchased the book Jane.........looking forward to reading!

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    1. Hi Helen - thank you so much, I hope you enjoy the story!! :)

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  18. Oh my goodness. I've just learned that Sue Grafton has died. This sad news doesn't at all fit in with today's post, but I don't know where else to share the sadness. Kinsey Milhone will live on as Sue's legacy.

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    1. I just heard it too, and like you I didn't know where else to turn. I think we are all reeling.

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    2. I also just saw this sad news on Twitter. I started reading her Kinsey Milhone series in high school and have adored her ever since. So sorry to hear she has passed.

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