Saturday, April 15, 2017

HarperCollins celebrating 200

A focus of the March 6, 2017 issue of Publishers Weekly (PW) is about the 200th celebration of HarperCollins Publishers.
J & J Harper, Printers (later Harper Brothers) was started in New York City by James and John Harper in 1817. Two years later, in Glasgow, Scotland, Chalmers & Collins Bookshop & Printing Works opened and published a book by Thomas Chalmers.

Both Harper and William Collins survived and evolved. They merged in 1990 to form Harper Collins (HC), which is now the thirteenth largest book publisher in the world, according to PW.

The magazine includes several pages of publishing history, achievements, key transactions and other interesting facts. From the beginning, HC has published classic works by such authors as Charles Dickens, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nora Neal Hurston, Henry James and many others.

Among their publishing milestones are:

·         1839, license to publish the King James Version of the Bible

·         1924, Agatha Christie joins and later publishes her first Hercule Poirot novel

·         1958, publishes the first English translation of Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

·         1973, secures the rights to Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago
Harper & Brothers:

·         1848, publishes the first American edition of Emily, Charlotte and Anne Bronte’s books

·         1927, signs Aldous Huxley, later acquires the rights to other books including Brave New World

·         1956, publishes Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957

·         1970, publishes the first English translation of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The sidebar about Harper & Brothers’ relationship with Mark Twain and Herman Melville was especially interesting.
The PW article emphasizes that Harper Collins Publishing is not just about the past. The publisher’s current roster of authors includes Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, Barbara Kingsolver and Amy Tan.

They also published a piece of the world by Christina Baker Kline, which was the subject of my previous blog. It is historical fiction about Christina Olson, the woman who inspired Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting Christina’s World.
Congratulations to HarperCollins Publishers on this anniversary and best wishes for the future. We look forward to more great books from this publishing house.

For more information, check out or You can join the conversation at #hc200.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Christina's World painted again in novel

After spending An Evening with Christina Baker Kline on March 28 at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster, I knew I had to write something about her recent novel, A Piece of the World. I felt as if I had visited Christina’s World, as well as that of Christina Baker Kline.

This historical fiction is about the relationship between the artist Andrew Wyeth and Christina Olson, the subject of the famous painting Christina’s World.  Kline used slides to let us see and understand more about the book and her connection, the famous painter, his masterpiece and the real life subject of the painting.

After moving to Bangor, Maine in the 1970s, Kline’s parents wanted their children to know Maine. They took field trips, and had a picnic on the grass where Christina was lying in the painting. The author’s mother and grandmother both were also named Christina. Her grandmother was around the same age as Christina Olson and was raised in similar conditions.  

Kline was thinking of another book topic, when a friend told her she looked like the woman in the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina’s World. The painting depicts life in the early to mid 20th century America. Kline realized this was the subject she had been looking for and began to immerse herself in Christina Olson’s world.

As part of her research, she visited the Olson home and received help from tour guides and docents. They know their subject and are happy to share information, she said.

Christina Olson’s ancestors included a judge of the Salem Witch trials who never recanted his decisions. Gradually, most of his family moved away from that area to get away from the name, including Nathaniel Hawthorne. Christina’s family settled in Cushing, Maine, on a hill by the sea, named Hawthorne’s Point.

She showed sketches by Wyeth as the painting progressed. The painting shows Christina Olson alone in a sea of dry grass, looking toward the old, sad house.

Wyeth became good friends with Christina and her brother Alvaro. He used their eggs for his tempura paints and painted in the second floor of their house. She was 46 and he was 22 when they met, but seemed to have much in common. Both liked good conversation and silence. He added to their lives, Kline said.  Wyeth is buried in the family graveyard beside Christina, instead of with his family.

Interestingly Kline talked about how much a teacher or someone else can influence someone, during a Q&A session at the end of the talk. I also remember a teacher who put a large A+ and comments “short, concise and to the point,” on my paper. I felt as Kline did. Someone thinks my writing is good and like Kline, writing became a major part of my life.

She felt a responsibility to get the book right, because she was writing about real people; people who are famous and some who are still alive.

She drew on connections with her grandmother and the strength of Christina’s relationship with Andrew Wyeth. “He could see her in a way no one else had done,” she said. Reading this book could change the way someone looks at the painting. A woman, who didn’t let her light shine, became immortal through the painting.

 In her book, Orphan Train, Kline used information she had researched, but she created her characters. Also there was literally a train that helped keep the novel moving forward. In this novel, the movement is internal.

When asked what she hopes readers will take-away from the novel, Kline said that even an anonymous life has meaning.

What I learned at this author talk let me see so much more in Wyeth’s painting than I had previously. Still curious later, I found an article online by Jacqueline Weaver for the, Arts & Living Lifestyle. She included the quote, “When you write a literary novel you start with character and from character comes motivation. Motivation leads to action and action leads to consequences.”

My friends who attended with me, Betty Houck and Lois Halley, also were impressed with the presentation. We had our books signed and enjoyed cake, decorated with an edible copy of the painting.

Lynn Wheeler, Executive Director of the Carroll County Public Library, said the event was possible thanks to Harper Collins Publishers and members of the Artworld Bound Book Club of Carroll County Arts Council.

Kline’s 2013 novel, Orphan Train, spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list. She also wrote four other novels – The Way Life Should Be, Sweet Water, Bird in Hand and Desire Lines and several non-fiction works.

For more information you can check out and

Comments are always welcome.