Goldelse - Eugenie MarlittI recently read Eugenie Marlitt's 1867 novel, Goldelse. It was popular in its day, possibly the first ever world's bestseller, originally released in 1866 in serialized form by the popular German magazine, "Die Gardenlaube." I was attracted to the book because of its title. My mom's name was 'Else' which is derived from Elizabeth, and I was curious about her literary namesake.

Could this book have been read by my grandmother?  Considering its popularity, it's quite possible. The romantic storyline is rather predictable, but the book moves along quickly with lots of intrigue amongst its aristocratic characters. It reminds me of Daphne duMaurier's Rebecca—although the books are written seventy years apart.( Mind you, I read Rebecca many years ago and perhaps it's not a fair comparison.)

What drew me to Goldelse, like I mentioned, was the name. And then I was thrilled to find all three names of my grandmother's daughters (ie. my mom and her two sisters) mentioned as characters in this novel. So there is an Else, a Bertha and a Helene. There's even an Emil (one of my mom's brothers). The very same names my grandmother chose to name her children. Coincidence? It seems like a good possibility that grandmother Mathilde really did read Goldelse by Eugenie Marlitt. And knowing this, makes me feel a bit closer to this grandmother I never knew.

Goldelse is not just the name of a nineteenth century novel, it's also the popular name of a Berlin statue. Completed in 1873, it's a monument featuring the winged Roman goddess, Victoria, symbolizing victory over death and success in war. Due to a move in 1939 by the Nazis as they were redesigning Berlin into 'World Capital Germania' the statue missed the Allied bombings that destroyed its previous location in front of the Reichstag.

Goldelse the monument, weighs 35 tons. Hmm. How much does Winnipeg's Golden Boy weigh? Less than 2 tons. Wow. That puts things into perspective. How about height? Goldelse is 8.3 meters tall. The Golden Boy? Just over 5 meters. I guess our Golden Boy is a mere child next to her. Goldelse is considered one of Berlin's major tourist attractions.

No matter,  we're still pretty proud of our Golden Boy, even if he's not as big and strong as Goldelse. He did survive the First World War cruising about in a ship (after he'd been sculpted in France, the ship delivering him back to Canada was forced into combat) so perhaps he's a Victor. Golden Boy meet Goldelse. You both survived war. You're both victory statues, unlike the mere mortals beneath you.

The Anita Factor Writing Group

I've been privileged to belong to an amazing writing group. We call ourselves The Anita Factor and meet every second Thursday in between the books at McNally Robinson's here in Winnipeg. We've been meeting, sharing, supporting and celebrating for almost five years now.

So what makes a good writing group? Number one is the commitment of each individual member to the craft of writing. If you're not seriously passionate about being a published author, then the group dynamics can quickly peter out to being a social outing, a kaffee klatsch.

Here's our basic format. We take turns facilitating the meetings, offering pieces of advice that we think will be useful to the rest of the group. Sometimes we print up handouts. Often we will do a practice writing exercise, then share our spontaneous words.

After we've warmed up with a lesson and some unfettered writing, we turn to our works in progress (WIP). Writers share their latest chapter or story or article. Each writer shares approximately one to five pages.  Learning to listen as someone reads is a skill that takes time to develop. Often I'll jot down notes on what I like and what I think might need some work. Other members in our group seem to have photographic memories and don't need to make notes. Each of us has different listening ears. One person might focus on tension and plot development, while another connects to characters and dialogue. Some might critique the big picture stuff; others, the little details. We always offer each other positive support. Yes, writers must develop a tough skin. It's not an easy vocation. But like Mary Poppins once said, "A spoon full of sugar, helps the medicine go down..."

After we've done the work, we share our writing news. This is the sweet part, like dessert. Lately, there's been a lot of good news. But we also share the not-so-good news—the rejections, the frustrations, the 'so close but no cigar' moments. There are many of those and we've all been there.

At this point in our meeting, we look at the clock. If there's time, we head to Prairie Ink, McNally's restaurant, for tea and edible sweets. It's closing time when we head back to our busy lives, our families, our laptops, and our WIPs.

In between these regular meetings we meet at book signings—of the Anita Factor—and other local authors, at writing conferences, (most of us are heading to Prairie Horizons in the fall), and our annual writing retreat on the shores of Lake Winnipeg.

Finding the right writing group might take some time, but the synergy created when you do sync, makes the challenge of writing just a bit easier and a lot more fun.

We'll be celebrating all day at The Forks on Saturday, July 18th from 11 til 7. Come and say hello!

Celebrate The Anita Factor at McNally Robinson on July 18

Celebrate The Anita Factor at McNally Robinson on July 18

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