Brownies and new fiction. Here’s what I’ve been up to…

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New Fiction Coming Soon!

     Coming this winter from Kindle Singles: my new historical story, “Intuition.” The year is 1889—a boom time for American industry, fortunes and scientific discovery. Yet in New York City, thousands of babies are dying from the simplest of causes: spoiled milk. It’s a tragedy that Hattie Paige cannot abide. An overeducated young woman with a Vassar degree and a position teaching chemistry at an elite school for girls, Hattie determines to solve the “milk problem” herself. But book knowledge alone won’t ensure her success. She will have to enter into a new world far from the sheltered mansions of her youth, where testing her hunches requires risks she has never taken before, and the consequences of being wrong are greater than she can imagine.
     “Intuition” is a long-form short story: long enough to feel complete, but short enough to read in an hour or two. Or, as Amazon puts it, Singles offer “compelling ideas expressed at their natural length,” a length which is too short for traditional publishers and too long for literary magazines. The Singles library comprises only a few hundred titles, many of them by best-selling authors such as Stephen King, Amy Tan, Richard Russo and Margaret Atwood. You don’t need a Kindle to read it; Singles can be downloaded to your iPad, your phone, or even your home computer.  I’ll be sending a special e-mail notice in a few weeks when “Intuition” becomes available.


Upcoming Events

February 28, 2014
Presentation, 7 p.m.
Goshen Public Library
Goshen, CT

April 23, 2014
Guest lecture, time TBA
Marist College
Poughkeepsie, NY

I do book club visits, in person and via Skype. For more information, send me an e-mail.


Kodak and the Brownie

          I’m working on my second novel, chipping away at the research stage in which I have to learn a little bit about a lot of things in a short time. One of those things is photography. My protagonist is a photographer, old-fashioned advertisementwho starts out in 1929 as the owner of an old-fashioned portrait studio she inherited from her father but who, over the course of the story, will learn much more about her profession (and about life, but that’s for another time).
            Recently I took a trip to the George Eastman House and its International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, New York. George Eastman was the founder of Kodak and the man who brought photography to the ordinary person. Before Eastman came along, cameras were big and bulky and expensive, and exposures were made on glass plates. Eastman introduced the concept of film on a roll, and so it began. The company’s slogan, “You press the button, we do the rest,” was true. Amateur photographers took their shots and then mailed their Kodak cameras back to the factory in special wooden shipping boxes so the film could be processed. The prints were mailed back with the camera, loaded with a fresh roll of film. Kodak’s first camera, introduced in 1888, cost $25 and was essentially a little black box with a small lens inset in one end. It had a “stringset” shutter, meaning the shutter was cocked by pulling a string on a spring mechanism, and then released when a button was pressed to take the photograph. (For a great video of how this works, visit
            What really brought photography to the masses was the introduction of Kodak’s Brownie camera in 1900. This little box camera cost only $1, and a roll of film cost 15 cents. The camera was named for the “brownie” characters invented by author Palmer Cox and was marketed to children. The Brownie was in production for the next sixty years, and many people today still fondly remember it as their first camera. I will have to find a place to honor it in my novel.

Image credit: Advertising Ephemera Collection-Database #K0430; Emergence of Advertising On-Line Project; John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History; Duke University David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library;


I just read. . .

a book worth recommending to that man in your life who insists he “doesn’t read fiction.” You know the guy I’m talking about. Robert Olmstead’s The Coldest Night may be the book that will change his mind. Olmstead is one of the most masculine writers I know. His prose is spare and compact and yet absolutely stunning. He doesn’t flinch in the face of war or death or everyday tragedy, and he expects that you won’t flinch either. Or, if you do, that you will stick with him anyway. In a “note from the author” at the end of the paperback edition, Olmstead talks about what fiction can do. At a reading of his earlier (and similarly themed) novel, Coal Black Horse, a woman said she admired the novel, but she found some passages to be too graphic. Then a man spoke. As Olmstead tells it, “He said that he did not mean to give offense, but he was a soldier just back from Iraq where he experienced war…and when he hears people say they cannot read the passages in question, it makes it hard for him and the others to come home, because these are things they saw and things they did.” A powerful discussion ensued “about who we are supposed to be as a people and what we are supposed to mean to each other… On this occasion, it was my book that gave us reason, and in a small way I was gratified.” The Coldest Night tells the story of seventeen-year-old Henry Childs, in love with a girl who is not his to have. That loss drives Henry to enlist in the Marines, and he is promptly shipped out to Korea. This is one of the few Korean War novels out there, and the story is as brutal as the prose is beautiful. Read this book on a winter night, while Henry is out on the “frozen plane” of a reservoir, where “near the shoreline lunules of snow waved across the ice” and “the air was metallic with cold and tasted like a mouthful of gin.” 
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Copyright © Kathy Leonard Czepiel