Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

Words, Wisdom & Ghosts: Writing Advice From The Saturday Club

The Saturday ClubImagine  a gathering of authors who meet merely to exchange ideas, discuss their work, enjoy food, and share a drink.

Imagine these purveyors of words are Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and that’s just a few of the casual guests at the table.

The Saturday Club was formed in 1855 and held regular meetings at the Parker House Hotel in Boston the last Saturday of each month. The intent was to discuss literature, politics, science and share artistic insights.

Seating Chart for The Saturday Club
Seating Chart for The Saturday Club

When we planned our spring vacation, the Parker House Hotel appealed to us for it’s proximity to Boston’s Freedom Trail and historic sites. My writer indulgent activity was a planned trip to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for a bit of research. It wasn’t until that evening, that I discovered a framed document and the name Emerson caught my eye, followed by a tally of literary icons. A quick online search of the hotel’s history revealed details of the Saturday Club, a cheeky interview with Mark Twain during a stay at the hotel.

Knock Knock
The door to Charles Dickens’ room is on display in a small basement gallery.

In fact, Charles Dickens is reputed to haunt the the hallways. The elevators have a habit of stopping on the 3rd level, where he stayed, but when the polished bronze doors open no one is there.

As a rational adult, I have to say ghosts are not real. As a writer, I believe in the power of stories which you can also argue are not real.

Did we meet a ghost? My rational mind says, “Coincidence.”

My writer’s minds says, “Holy cow, did you hear that?”

Charles Dickens' Door at the Parker House HotelEncounters

I forced my 10-year to go on a ghost hunt with me. Let’s say she was not very excited at the prospect, but didn’t want to miss the possibility of meeting a real ghost. We started on the 3rd floor, all quiet and normal in every way. We walked to the ends of each hall before returning to the elevators. As we discussed heading to the 12th floor, the most haunted part of the hotel according to the desk clerk, the elevator door opened. It was empty.

“Did you push the button?” she asked.

I had not.

She pushed me towards the stairs., “We have to get out of here, now!”

After some coaxing, I persuaded her to take another elevator car up to the 12th floor. That excursion lasted only a few minutes as she was firmly done with ghost hunting.

A few nights later, I awoke around 5am to the sound of what can only be described as a howl traveling down the hallway and past our door. My first thought was that it was the elevators. We were on the opposite end of the hallway from the elevators. My next thought was that it was a delivery truck outside and I strained to hear the engines idling below. Only we were on the 5th floor and the street traffic was barely audible…. and the street was on the other side of the room.

I’d like to think creativity spews its own kind of energy that lingers in a place. Maybe voices can travel through time. I know I’d like to hear what they would say.

Here’s a free writing excerpt from my journal during our stay. It may be divinely inspired or just too much Boston Cream Pie. You decide.

If there are literary ghosts in this hotel, what would they say?

  • Learn where to put a comma.
  • Put your time to the page.
  • Follow your thoughts.
  • Drink with friends.
  • Have deep conversations.
  • Make light of life, it shouldn’t be heavy.
  • Gather.
  • Let your characters live their own life.
  • Live in the pages.
  • Words have flavors, make your story a full meal.
  • People see what they want to see. Readers read what they expect to read. Try to surprise them.
  • Why are you using long words for short meanings?
  • Can you record intent?

Thanks for hanging out with me. If you’re in Boston, stop by the Parker House for the Boston Cream Pie – they invented the treat and it’s worth the visit. If you’re wondering about the rolls, they invented those too.

And if you see gentle man in a morning coat with a top hat, let the desk clerk know the Mr. Parker is back.

JPG

Wired Judith GainesWired by Judith Gaines

Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past.