The Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetary Memorial, 1001 S. Washington Street, Alexandria, Virginia
My husband and I were driving through Alexandria and noticed this cemetery. Our interest in Civil War history compelled us to stop and visit the memorial. First of all, I was struck by the sculpted narratives of newly freed people, such as the one depicted above, which evoked a deep reverence and respect for those represented there. During the Civil War, self-emancipated people sought Alexandria as a refuge from the violence of slavery.
The opened in 2014 at the burial site of over 1800 refuges to honor the memory of freedmen, women and children, the hardships they faced and the contributions they made to the City of Alexandria.
It’s my guess that the sculpted scene above shows a teacher in the process of educating young children. Acquiring an education was one of the most important tools the freemen, women and children could obtain, marking a path to higher economic and cultural achievement.
I can imagine their joy at reaching safety and being thankful escaping a life of poverty and degradation. As we gather round the table during this Thanksgiving weekend, let us remember those who have come before us, who laid down the pavement by which all of us walk toward enlightenment today.
Each year our chapter holds a writing contest called the Golden Nib Contest. There are three categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction and Poetry. The submissions of the first-place winners are entered into the Virginia Writers Club state-wide Golden Nib contest.
I have been a member of the Fredericksburg chapter for at least five years and have never submitted an entry. This year was different. I entered the fiction category and won first-place.
1st “This, Just in” by Malanna Henderson
2nd “Duels with Dollars” by Beth Spragins
3rd “The Coolness of Water” by you, Carol Horton
Now and then I read books on the craft of writing. Last year, I read Stephen King’s book, “On Writing.” The first half chronicles his relationship with writing. The second half gives writers practical information on many aspects of the craft. He even went so far as to suggest writing prompts for a short story of suspense and asked writers to send it to him! I was so excited at the prospect of Mr. King reading my story, I started on it right away. I hit all the marks and then checked the book to make sure I had the right address. I must have missed the paragraph where he said don’t send any more stories. I checked the copywrite, the book was published over 20 years ago. I bet he is still getting stories from writers in the mail. Well, I wasn’t going to be one of them. So, I just filed it away until I heard about the contest.
I’m a meticulous editor. I’ll read a story over and over. Re-write a few sections, if it’s necessary, and do more editing until I’m satisfied. Before I submitted the story, I asked two friends who are avid readers to read it. They both gave me a few pointers which I used.
This is the first contest I’ve won in a short story category. I’m going to send them both an email with my thanks for their input.
My two previous first-place awards were in one-act play festivals. As a matter of fact, I am preparing a one-act play to enter into a contest. The deadline is in October. I need to get busy because the deadline will arrive before I know it.
I am so happy for the occasion to participate in this local author’s reception. Two years ago, I had signed up for the 2020 event. Yes, you’ve guessed it. COVID-19 but an end to all in-person events at the library and pretty much everywhere else. Those were tough times when we all were forced to forego all of our social plans. Although, we’ve been vaccinated and boosted COVID is still a threat. Today in most public places masks are optional.
What a lovely flyer my granddaughter made for me! I am so proud of her. Not only did she create two flyers for this event, but she is in the process of designing resin bookmarks! I can hardly wait to receive them in the mail. These bookmarks will be my personal give aways to patrons who purchase my book at the reception. I am so looking forward to this.
If you live in the Fredericksburg area, please stop by, purchase a book, and receive a bookmark especially designed for my readers. I’d love to meet you.
I have been very busy this summer. Writing and acting opportunities availed themselves to me and I enjoyed these experiences, immensely.
In the spring, I wrote an original one-act comedy based on a fictitious encounter between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Charlie, a good friend and fellow parishioner, asked me to write a play to entertain patrons at the annual SAWs fundraiser. SAWs is a non-profit organization that builds wheelchair ramps free of cost. Many of their clients are military veterans who have been wounded in battle and have lost a limb.
Charlie, his wife Marcia, and I sat around a table at a restaurant and brainstormed about the focus of the play. We tossed out ideas while enjoying a Sunday brunch. The name of the event, “Dueling Pigs,” referenced the barbecue contest between a host of vendors, of which the patrons would decide who had the best barbecue. Marcia suggested the play be about a famous duel. Well, right away, I thought of the duel between Hamilton and Burr. I said, “I know just the pigs I wanted to cast in the roles.” We all laughed. The actors I had in mind were Trip and Anne. The married couple have a litany of acting credits between them. Moreover, I had seen them play opposite one another at Ferry Farm (George Washington’s boyhood home) in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Trip portrayed King George III and Anne, Thomas Jefferson They had a heated discussion about the colonies’ objectives for independence from England.
Unfortunately, Anne had a scheduling conflict, so I had to find another actor to play Hamilton. Trip suggested Michael who he had worked with on many occasions. Well, Trip’s recommendation was good for me. Michael filled the bill. Both were excellent in their roles.
It took me about two weeks to do the research and write the four-page play. They cajoled, insulted and challenged one another about their reputations, common sense, fidelity, and their importance as leaders in America.
Below is an excerpt.
Egad! It’s Alexander Hamilton, a swine whose come to dine on swine. I’d rather sit amongst a swarm of bees.
Touché! I’d rather be shot by a firing squad, Burr.
Funny you should say that. You just might get your wish, Hamilton. I’m despicable, eh? The insult you used to describe me at Judge Taylor’s dinner party.
Well, yes, but it was a private conversation. Some old crone felt compelled to run and tell that. A pox upon him!
The play referenced the Broadway production of Hamilton by Burr, who was disappointed no Broadway play had been written about him. After all, he surmised, it was he who was the highest achiever, with the title of Vice President during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency.
Instead of dueling with swords, they dueled with long barbecue forks. Instead of the confrontation ending in Hamilton’s death, they tossed their differences to the wind and decided to dine on barbecue and ale.
Several months ago, the owner of the Renaissance Faire, Cornelia, met me at a popular restaurant for lunch. She and her business partner were ready to produce Virginia Renaissance Faire 2022. The event had been suspended since 2020 due to COVID-19. She had agreed to assist me in producing my musical “‘Tis All a Game of Chance,” at a later date, so I felt it was only right to participate in some capacity in the Faire.
I attended the auditions in March just to get the lay of the land, to see where it was being produced (Lake Anna Winery) and see what the Faire was all about. Cornelia asked me to audition. When I told her I had nothing prepared she responded that all I had to do was tell a story. The “bit” performances at the Faire are not memorized. Cast members at times may agree on a subject in advance but the actual delivery of the performance is strictly improvised. More often than not, it’s wholly the creation of one actor whose “bit” player is unaware of what drama he/she is about to participate.
This scared me to death.
I had taken acting classes as an undergrad at the University of Detroit, and improvisational scenes were part of the class requirement. Years later after I moved to Fredericksburg, I performed in Annie, and Oliver! Both musicals were produced by Stagedoor Productions who awarded me first place in their second annual playwrights festival, for a comedy called The Eclipse.
After four weeks of rehearsal, my role as Lady Penelope Stafford, Host Noble, fit like a glove. I can hardly relate how much fun I had. Surprising myself, I concocted a charge against Baroness Hunsdon (who called me her best friend) for sending me on a wild goose chase in a segment called “The Court of Common Pleas.” She plead guilty, after many histrionics. I was asked what kind of punishment would satisfy me. Well, I had Lady B apologize while she danced a gig. The Baroness outdid herself. It was hilarious.
In the photograph above, I’m wearing gloves on that very hot day because I had on red fingernail polish. An oversight, I had neglected to remember that by the end of the week, I would be “living” at the Faire in the 16th century. Huzzah!