The Workshop

I went to my workshop this morning and it was amazing. I kind of just want to sit here in the quiet and think about it.

Alice Randall, who led the workshop was amazing and the people in the workshop were really thoughtful and lovely. I’m definitely feeling like I have some good ideas what to watch out for on my next (last?) pass over the manuscript.

But one thing that doesn’t have to do with race–the subject of the workshop–that Randall talked a lot about is how she would have some idea about each of her characters, like maybe she’d want one to just give people a bad feeling, like he was creepy like a bug, even though, maybe at that part in the story, he’s not doing anything wrong, and she gives those characters a motif. Like guy who makes you feel like he’s a creepy bug gets a bug motif. All the words she uses to describe him carry through that motif, even if it’s just making sure that, instead of him wearing “blue” he wears some kind of blue that you get from bug shells.

She said that, even if a reader doesn’t consciously know the derivation of a word, if they’re well-read enough, they’ll pick up on it subconsciously.

I love this so much, but I have to tell you, it feels like writing at a skill-level I’m not sure I have yet. Still, I kind of want to try it.

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I’m Starting to Get a Feeling

So, the Franklins were up there in what is now Sumner County since white people started settling there. As were the Douglasses. These are old, old families. As were the McKains and the Cages. The Douglasses married into the McKains and the Cages and the Franklins married into the McKains and the Cages.

The Franklins and the Douglasses, though, did more than just intermarry. They REALLY intermarried, generation after generation, to the point where I don’t think that you can really talk about the Franklins and the Douglasses, but it’s perhaps better to think of them as the Franklin/Douglass clan.

One way that this history is shaped that I don’t have a good sense of is who all served with Jackson during the War of 1812. That seems to be a structure in the background of this history that would help to make sense of it.

But I’m starting to get a feeling there’s another structure semi-related to Jackson in the background.

Okay, so keep in mind that Jackson has a kind of faction–him, Sam Houston, James K. “Young Hickory” Polk, Judge John Overton, and, perhaps, the Winchester dude who founded Memphis with him and Overton (I haven’t found any evidence of this, but I mention him only because he’s from Sumner County).

And even though I would say that the Franklin/Douglass clan was not politically opposed to the Jackson faction, I’m starting to get a feel that they may have been socially opposed.

There are two questions a person must ask after looking long enough at the Franklin/Douglas clan. 1. Why was Eliza Allen allowed to make such a good second marriage? By the time she married Dr. Elmore Douglass, her parents were dead and she was a divorcee at the heart of a huge political scandal. Why does she get to marry a doctor from one of the oldest families in the area? 2. Why does Isaac Franklin marry Adelicia Hayes? He’s in his 40s. He has a palace of debauchery. And he has a ton of nieces and nephews he’s made rich–either by hooking the nephews up in the family business or by marrying the nieces off to his business partner.

But Eliza Allen ran into trouble with the Jackson faction. Adelicia Hayes’ brother was killed by Polk’s brother. Having the Allen family tied into your clan gives you a lot of banking money and politicians on your side (and note that at least a few Franklins went into banking after slave trading) and it gives you sympathetic folks all up river.

The Hayes family gets you in with them and the McGavocks. Adding to your influence with the McGavocks, we know that John Overton’s wife was first married to Andrew Jackson’s doctor, May, who’s first name is not coming to my mind. She liked Jackson enough at first to name one of her sons with May “Andrew Jackson May.” But, the family story is that, after the Dickinson duel, after Jackson told May to lie to Dickinson as he died, Mrs. May came to loathe him. And she loathed him through her marriage to John Overton. Her kids with Overton also married into the McGavocks.

I don’t know what to make of it, but I feel like there’s the shape of something there.