Tag Archives: something new

The Murphy-Harpst Home: Writing About the Past

Rolling some ideas around in my head. I guess I should tell you where I am before I embark on something new. I have a tendency to get several projects going and bounce around between them.

It wasn’t like that when I wrote Red Clay and Roses. The idea for that story had rolled around in my head for twenty years. Having the time to put the words down brought it all together in a hurry. I didn’t really intend for it to become a published book. It isn’t set in a standard novel template and has its share of faults, but I’m proud of it just the same as if I had set out to accomplish writing a novel.

Naked Alliances was my first attempt at actually putting together a totally fictional story. There are things I like about it and things I don’t. I can’t say that I’m totally thrilled with it. I know authors are supposed to be very confident and write what they want to read and be all excited about putting it out there. I’d be lying if I said that I did not have any reservations.

At any rate, I know it has improved thanks to some wonderful beta readers and a couple of fantastic editors. I just got the novel back from its last pass through an editor’s hands and I am on chapter twenty-one of thirty finishing up those edits and I am much more excited about it now than I was at the start. I plan on continuing the Naked Eye series.

I have rough outlines completed for the next two novels. One involves missing elderly, and another involves development encroaching on wildlife habitat.

I still have Surviving Sister in the works, a 1950s-60 saga that continues with Hannah Hamilton’s family members, particularly her mother and her Aunt, who both suffer from mental illness during an era of major changes in how the mentally ill were treated. Concerning the Hamilton family members, it could be read as a sequel to Red Clay and Roses or a standalone. One of the biggest hindrances to writing this novel is the research required. There is so little documentation of treatment modalities in that era. My personal psychiatrist has given me some reference books that might help move things along. There is also a romance in that book that has slowed me down.

A nice lady from the orphanage that I lived in back in the mid-seventies has written to me. She found a blog post in which I mentioned the Harpst Home. That really has me thinking. I’ve done loads of research on Ethel Harpst and the Harpst Home and still have contacts there. Although it is primarily a treatment facility now, no longer an orphanage as most children are housed in foster care nowadays, it is still home to dozens of youth who would be at serious risk if the home did not exist.

Here is an excerpt on Ethel Harpst from “Georgia Women of Achievement”

 

Ethel Harpst
Ethel Harpst

 Perhaps Ethel Harpst’s biggest gift was the time and effort she gave to so many children in need. Harpst began her long career of caring for children at the McCarty Settlement House at Cedartown’s mill village. During her time teaching there, she took in a number of children who had been orphaned by parents who succumbed to illnesses. The Ethel Harpst Home opened in March 1924 and housed many children until the walls could expand no more.

Harpst traveled to raise funds for a new home, and in 1927 the first modern building, James Hall, was completed. And just in time for children who were displaced and orphaned during the Great Depression. An answer to prayer was the interest and attention shown by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Pfeiffer of New York. Through the Pfeiffer’s and several other friends, money was raised to allow more buildings to be constructed on the campus over the next 20 years, and hundreds of acres of land were contributed to the cause. All this is thanks to the dedication and tenacity of Harpst to continue fundraising. Today, the site houses the Murphy-Harpst residential program, where Georgia’s severely abused children can go for healing and therapy. In 2010-11, the program served nearly 300 children, which included 97 children in residential treatment.”

Sarah Murphy
Sarah Murphy

Long after her death in 1967, the Harpst Home merged with the Sarah Murphy Home. Sarah Murphy was a black woman in the area who had created a home for black youth.  Harpst Home became the Murphy-Harpst Home in 1976, during my last year there when it started integrating.

So, I’ve been wondering if I should write a book about them. It would either be non-fiction or a historical fiction based on their stories.

OR, Should I write a purely fictional story about a resident there and how she saw her world and the changes she went through?

Having been a resident there myself, I could better relate to a fictional character and write in the first person. There were so very many different coming-of-age stories to come out of that place during my short time there, I think it would make for a most interesting read.

What do you think?

What would interest you most?

Historical Fiction about the founders?

An orphan’s personal story?

I remember the first black girl that came from the Sarah Murphy Home to the Ethel Harpst home, and her roommate. I’d love to tell their story.

What would you, my audience, like to read?

Any ideas you’d like to share?