When a Picture is Worth a Thousand (800) Words . . .

I am always fascinated by the first moment of inspiration–when that spark, even if it is only a glint in the periphery, makes itself known. It may take only a moment to be acknowledged and acted upon, or it might take years of quiet gestation. Regardless, it is a gift and one that I am always grateful to receive.

Last year, I entered my first writing contest–a short story competition hosted by the Historical Novel Society. I thought it would be fun to try my hand at a short story after years of novel writing. I don’t think I even had a moment of doubt that I would write about Consuelo.

The inspiration for the story came from this portrait by famed American artist John Singer Sargent. I first saw the portrait on a family trip to England after my high school graduation. I wasn’t overly impressed with Blenheim Palace (my tastes at the time ran more medieval) but when I passed by this painting, I could not move. Consuelo Vanderbilt’s long neck and proud, pleading eyes stopped me in my tracks. From our tour guide, I learned she was one of the young American heiresses forced into a loveless marriage by an ambitious mother desperate for a title (think Downton Abbey without the lovable Lord Grantham). I wanted to write her story and boldly began my first novel.

Cut to twenty-(ahem) years later and I never finished the story. There was college, and life, and marriage, and children. But through it all, I never really forgot about Consuelo. 

So I researched a bit and began my short story, The Pearl of Blenheim. I had such fun writing it and was honestly shocked when it was short-listed for the contest. The HNS has recently published an ebook of the top twelve stories and, having read them all, I am even more shocked that my story received second place. These are some really great short stories . . . and if you are looking for some inspiration in this new year, I would highly recommend giving them a read. 

About elizabethcarden

A wife, mom and writer of historical fiction (but sadly, not of thank you notes).
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2 Responses to When a Picture is Worth a Thousand (800) Words . . .

  1. stephanie conner says:

    Congratulations! I can’t wait to read this!

  2. Laura says:

    It is so good to hear the neat story behind your fabulous short story. I can’t wait to read the next one!

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