What I’m Working On

What I’m Working On

Mrs. Cole Porter Writing
Before she was Mrs. Cole Porter, she was Mrs. Edward Thomas

I’ve been “tagged” in the Next Big Thing Blog Hop (this meme-type thing that’s been making the rounds) by writer/editor Jill Talbot (who was tagged by Barrelhouse editor Tom McAllister, who was tagged by writer Katherine Hill, etc.).

I have never met Jill Talbot IRL, but we like to talk about the hazy line between fiction and nonfiction. She edited the anthology Metawritings and was kind enough to include me.

(I think she’d like that I describe my WIP as “nonfictional fiction.”)

Here are her excellent answers to the 10 Blog Hop questions.

And here are mine.

What is your working title of your book (or story)? 

Mrs. Cole Porter

Where did the idea come from for the book? 

Cole Porter and I share the same hometown, Peru, Indiana.

What genre does your book fall under? 

I like to think of it as nonfictional fiction. A biographical novel.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

Well, Cole and Linda have already been played by Cary Grant and Alexis Smith (Night and Day, 1946) as well as Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd (De-Lovely, 2004).

Whoever plays Linda in an adaptation of my book would have to be able to play her both old and young. I’m going to go with Laura Linney, who’s already played a similar character in The House of Mirth.

Don’t you think she’d make a great Linda?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

“During the Gilded Age, poor, beautiful, and naïve Linda Lee marries the playboy son of a robber baron, a high-profile match she survives by learning important skills which she brings to her second marriage—to a talented but unknown gay composer from Indiana named Cole Porter.”

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

If by this question you mean, do I have an agent? then yes, I have an agent, the amazing Sarah Burnes at the Gernert Company.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 

Still working on the first draft.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 

It’s got an outer and inner frame, and there’s a bit of archival detective work going on, a bit like A.S. Byatt’s Possession.

Maybe it’s also a bit like Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperonewhich I read this summer and loved to death.

This isn’t a novel, but it definitely inspired me: Coco Before Chanel. A possible backup title to my book might be Linda Before Cole. Or Cole Because of Linda Before Cole.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? 

There’s a little-discussed anecdote in every Cole Porter biography: he blew up his wife’s mansion in the Berkshires when she passed away. Not only that, he moved his bachelor’s cottage onto the foundation and expanded it to the mansion that’s there today.

His biographers all say Cole did this out of grief. I have other ideas.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?”

In the course of doing research for the novel, I discovered that 86 volumes of her personal scrapbooks were held at Harvard. I’ve made two research trips to the Houghton Library to study them.

And now I’m tagging four more writers. I wanted to keep it local; these are all writers who live within an hour of my house in Muncie, Indiana. You can read about the books they’re working on next week!

Ashley Ford

Michael Meyerhofer

Sal Pane

Kelsey Timmerman

For Cole Porter’s Birthday: My Personal Playlist

For Cole Porter’s Birthday: My Personal Playlist

Mrs. Cole Porter

If you think this is going to be all You’re the Toppy, ha! think again.


Miss Otis Regrets

[Follow the title links to hear the songs!] Supposedly, Cole Porter wrote this hilariously maudlin song on a dare: his friend Monty Wooley gave him the worst title he could think of and challenged him to make a song out of it. This was the result. It’s a “story song,” told by Miss Otis’ maid or butler (depending on the gender of the singer), and the plot is reminiscent of William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” I’ve linked to a particularly amusing rendition of the song performed live by Fred Astaire. Continue reading

Add it Up

Add it Up

Mrs. Cole Porter Writing

“Wait a minute honey, I’m gonna add it up…” — The Violent Femmes 

Everyone gets their picture taken at the John Harvard statue, so I did, too.

I just spent a month thinking and writing and reading and researching. I lived like a monk, haunting the libraries, completely focused. There were no distractions other than the ones I created for myself. Do you know what it’s like, someone giving you money to think about something for a month? I’ll tell you what it’s like: it’s pretty freaking awesome.

This is what I accomplished:

For my novel-in-progress:

I wrote two new chapters (25 pages) and completed a 10-page synopsis.

For my nonfiction project (for which I got the funding):

I read and/or reviewed 16 books and 15 articles or book chapters. I generated 100 pages of notes. Single spaced. I took 400 digital photographs of Linda Porter’s scrapbook pages. There are 86 volumes of her scrapbooks at the Houghton, and I reviewed all but a few of them, along with scrapbooks belonging to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Charles Eliot Norton, and Josephine Prescott Peabody, just to name a few. I also interviewed Daren Bascome, who owns his own branding business, Proverb.

How was this idyll made possible?

  • I received a Beatrice, Benjamin and Richard Bader Fellowship in the Visual Arts of the Theatre from the Houghton Library at Harvard University and an ASPiRE Research Grant from Ball State University. Thank you.
  • My colleagues at Ball State Tony Edmonds, Robert Habich, Mark Neely, Rai Peterson, Elizabeth Riddle, and Joe Trimmer looked over my proposal and/or showed me their own research proposals. Thank you.
  • My husband Eric Kroczek took care of everything during the month I spent hammering out these proposals, and he took care of everything during the time I spent at the Houghton Library. Thank you.

And because I couldn’t work all the time, I took breaks with my former TCNJ colleague Michael Robertson, my old college chum Karen DeTemple, and my new writer friend, Lise Haines. It was also great to meet Elizabeth Searle, who was kind enough to let me sit with her at a production of Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera, one of the funniest and saddest and most wonderful things I’ve witnessed in quite some time.

A typical day included 6-9 hours in the Houghton Library reading room, a very pleasant place to spend the day, especially when it’s 100 degrees outside. To save money, I’d bring something to nibble on outside rather than go out for lunch. Some days, I’d go to the Lamont or the Widener libraries to work and write, and a few days (not very many), I never left my little studio apartment. In the evenings, I found that I couldn’t read. I think the human brain can only absorb so many words in a day. So, I watched a lot of BBC and Masterpiece Classic series on Netflix or YouTube. My favorites were North and South (based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the Civil War) and Daniel Deronda. Many thanks to the Facebook group British Period Drama for the daily suggestions.

It was a great month. And now I return to real life with a purse full of receipts for the other kind of accounting that I will no doubt have to do.

Midnight in Paris & Fantasy Linda

Midnight in Paris & Fantasy Linda

Mrs. Cole Porter Writing

A sincere thank you to everyone who wrote me to make sure I knew about Midnight in Paris. This is the conversation I imagined having with all of you about the movie.

Hey, you said, do you know that Cole Porter is a character in this new Woody Allen film?

Yes, I do know this.

Continue reading

Linda Died 57 Years Ago Today

Linda Died 57 Years Ago Today

Mrs. Cole Porter The Biggest Things Writing

Note: If you’d like to follow the progress of my book, follow Linda on Twitter, @MrsColePorter. Believe me, if Linda were alive today, she would totally use Twitter.

Linda Lee Thomas Porter died on this day, May 20, 1954. She died in her apartment in the Waldorf Towers after a long battle with emphysema.

Linda described her illness as “smothering spells.” Imagine that: smothering to death over the course of a decade. She once said, “I suppose I shouldn’t want to stop coughing as I have coughed for so many years, if I stopped, the shock might kill me.” Continue reading