Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What-I'm-Reading-Wednesday: Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott

Originally printed in 1863 Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott recounts Alcott's service as a Union nurse in Georgetown in 1862. Published in installments for The Commonwealth newspaper, the author explains her decision to volunteer and details the hazards encountered during her journey from Concord, Massachusetts to the Union Hospital in Washington, D.C. Her portraits of fellow travelers demonstrate her keen skill observing and describing the social culture of her day.

After arriving at her duty station dubbed "Hurly-burly House" Alcott encounters the wounded from the Battle of Fredericksburg. She washes, dresses, feeds and pays vigil to a succession of soldiers during the next two months that include patients from both armies. Wards of 40 beds include both wounded and diseased. Alcott describes hospital staff, the crude medical instruments and the prevailing medicines.

She recounts her impressions of individual patients and their stories of gallant heroism and devotion to duty. She remarks about the camaraderie of men on the ward and their courtesy toward her. Before the end of her three month tour, Alcott contracts typhoid but stubbornly refuses to leave until her father arrives to escort her home.

The library's copy is available on Floor 4 in E621.A34. This edition, published by the University of California, Irvine in 2004 includes an extensive introduction by Alice Fahs, draws on documented primary sources to introduce the Alcott family, describes the historical period and elaborates on the roles adopted by women during the Civil War.

If you are inspired to learn more after reading the sketch, plan to visit the National Museum of Civil Medicine in Frederick on your next day trip.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Nightsun Writers Conference and Reception

The Ort Library hosted Nightsun Writer’s Conference and Reception Friday evening July 24.


Karen McElmurray, is greeted by Tim Wendel, writer-in-residence at Johns Hopkins University (left) and Gerry LaFemina, Director of Frostburg Center for Creative Writing (right). McElmurray read portions from her work that focused on the writer’s voice including a selection from Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey.
Award-winning horror author Michael Arnzen, who is also a tenured professor at Seton Hill University, read both prose and poetry selections during the evening. His newsletter contains the poem Zombifurcation that he chose for one reading. The Ort Library owns two of his fiction works: Grave Markings and Play Dead.

Poet Allison Joseph and non-fiction writer Tim Wendel attended the reception and read at the FSU’s Center for Creative Writing Conference the previous evening. Collections of Joseph’s poems, My Father’s Kites, Voice: Poems, Soul Train and In Every Seam and a copy of Wendel’s nonfiction book Castro’s Curveball are available at the Ort Library.