Works in Progress
The Irish Dresser Series, Screenplay for television
Logline: In turbulent, racist, and gang-mired 19th-Century New York, a young, plucky, visionary Irish woman who survived the Great Famine, achieves a hard-won identity as an Irish-American. Loving an Irish rebel, helping escaped slaves, and overcoming rape and loss, this gritty character is no pig-headed Bridie, and could be any woman, any immigrant, at any time in America.
In County Cork, Ireland, thirteen year old Norah McCabe crawls inside a dresser and finds solace during the ravaging effects of the Famine. It is in this dresser Norah is hidden when her father declares they must leave for America and there is no ticket for her passage. Separated from her family, Norah travels to America stowed inside the dresser. She steals food to save passengers and helps the sick and dying, avoiding getting caught and tossed overboard.
Arriving in Five Points, New York, after finding her family, Norah encounters further poverty, violence, and injustice as Irish Catholic immigrants. Norah meets Sean, a street tough boy who teaches her how to survive the streets. She becomes a newsie, meets Walt Whitman and challenges his views about the Irish, and visits Pete Williams Dance Hall. Norah is thrust into the first major theater riot when her beloved Da, a fiddler who is playing music for the Astor Theater when it is attacked during the riot, is missing and presumed dead. A wake is held and Norah buys a ticket for Ireland but days later, Da returns home. After this near loss, Norah learns that true belonging is in the human spirit and in the love of family and friends. Norah remains in New York and in the ensuing years, becomes an even more spirited and determined young woman. She buys a used clothing store, A Bee in Your Bonnet, and meets the dandy, Harrigan, who owns an Irish-American newspaper and is hired to work for him. Her childhood friend, Sean, leaves New York to work as a ship’s mate and thereafter Norah experiences passionate romance with Thomas Murray, an Irish rebel. Norah undergoes corruption and violence via a police commissioner who eventually abducts her and sells her to a brothel. After escaping the brothel, Murray convinces Norah to join a rebel organization that raises $30,000 to fight for Ireland’s freedom. Norah leaves New York with Murray, John Mitchel, the leader of the Young Ireland movement, and other rebels on a ship bound for England to purchase arms. Norah marries Murray on the ship, but soon after, the ship wrecks and Murray perishes at sea. Norah survives and returns to New York grief-stricken and finds she is pregnant.
Harrigan once again hires Norah to work for the newspaper and she comes into her own as a writer. Norah meets a feminist, Nellie, who invites her to the Seventh National Women’s Rights Convention. She seeks to understand the feminist movement. Harrigan proposes marriage, but as a homosexual, only a deep philia love exists between them. Norah eventually triumphs over loss, displacement, and poverty. Her solitary freedom becomes the colorful warp and weft in the fabric of her becoming an Irish-American. Sean, her first love as a teen, returns to New York from working on slave ships. He is humbled and deeply in love with Norah McCabe. Norah has her baby, learns millinery, and is in love with her new life. Embellishing this new life is the renewal of friendship with Sean O’Connelly, whom she steps out with on occasion to go dancing at Pete Williams Dance Hall. For now, it is enough, but will she marry Sean and continue to long for Ireland?
Tea on the Rocks, A Basket of Sumptuous Charm
I had a Victorian tea catering business many years ago called Miss Havisham’s Victorian Teas. Last summer, while sitting on rocks overlooking the ocean in Maine, I became ravenous for scones and tea, but there was none to be had for miles around. Later, I was inspired to create a new business to cater to those who, like me, yearn for tea and scones, but served with elegance and grace. Tea on the Rocks, A Basket of Sumptuous Charm, will be opening soon to a rocky shore near you!
Catharine, Queen of the Tumbling Waters
I never intended to write about a Native American woman who lived during the time of the American Revolution and shudder to think of this task before me. While visiting my home in the Finger Lakes where she once reigned over a Seneca village destroyed by John Sullivan in 1779, I felt her presence and encountered her on many walks on a trail named in her honor. I have dreamed of her and have researched many years in order to write this novel. I began the novel almost two years ago, however, after Norah McCabe came lilting into my dreams again (perhaps she never left), Catharine graciously stepped aside for me to continue writing Norah’s story. In fact, I feel her presence with me as I write about Norah.
In the early spring of 2005, I was at a Barnes and Noble book event hosting New England authors. Alongside me sat the robust and spirited Haywood Fennell, Sr., author of Coota and the Magic Quilt. As we connected, my mind began swirling with possibilities. Haywood is also a playwright and has written two theater productions, “From Gospel to Hip-Hop and All in Between” and “Harlem Renaissance Revisited with a Boston Flavor.” I shared with him about the scene in my sequel, Hope in New York City, where Norah and Irish immigrants dance with African-Americans at Pete Williams Dance Hall. We laughed and felt that his character, Coota, and my character, Norah, were meeting that very day! I pulled the scene from my novel, Hope in New York City, and wrote the musical play, Diamond Juba, with Haywood’s encouragement. Two young children (black and white) in New York of the 1850s meet Jack Diamond, the famous Irish jig dancer and Master Juba (William Henry Lane), the famous ham and bone dancer and all of them collide into dance in the midst of racial sharpness and honesty. It’s time to see this play produced, as we unfortunately still struggle with racial harmony and injustice.
Screenplays in Progress
The Blue Vega – Screenplay
Based on a short story about a small town in upstate New York, this screenplay expands on a single mother’s life and dreams to sing and raise her six children in the 1960s.