The Girls in the Picture
Today I spoke with author Melanie Benjamin, a NY Times bestselling author of historical fiction. Two of her recent works include The Girls in the Picture and The Swans of Fifth Avenue. Asking for her #1 tip on writing historical fiction, she said, “Write to entertain. Connect with readers on issues in the past that resonate in the present.”
Benjamin’s latest book, The Girls in the Picture, does just that. It’s about the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female legends—screenwriter Frances Marion and “America’s Sweetheart,” Mary Pickford. At the Golden Globe Awards‘ opening this year, Barbara Streisand lamented Hollywood’s status as a male-dominated industry, reminding viewers that she was the first and only female winner for the award of best director in the Golden Globe’s 75-year history. Hoping to nudge the change train forward, Streisand reiterated the chant, “Times up!” Thanks to Benjamin’s latest historical fiction novel, however, we see that Hollywood hasn’t always been this way.
Frances Marion was an American journalist, author, screenwriter, actress, and director who wrote stories and scenarios for over three hundred films, netted two Academy Awards for screenwriting, and also acted in, directed and co-directed several films. Her Hollywood career began in 1914 and ended in 1946 when she left to focus on plays and novels. Her close friend, actress Mary Pickford, co-founded United Artists film studio, was one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the group that presents the yearly “Oscars” award ceremony), and was awarded the second ever Academy Award for Best Actress. Mary once stated that her friend, Frances, was the pillar of her career. A co-worker once dubbed their bursts of creativity as “Pickford-Marion spontaneous combustion.”
Meeting Melanie Benjamin today and learning how Pickford and Marion’s friendship helped them rise to great heights in what has now become a male-dominated industry, I’m energized to seek out and deepen friendships with others who spur my pursuit of writing and push me to excel in all I do. I plan to follow Benjamin’s advice, writing historical fiction that entertains audiences as I unearth issues from the past that resonate with the present, and, ultimately, that inspires and enriches my readers’ lives both now and in the future.
How do your best friends inspire you? Do your friendships mutually encourage both of you to become your best selves? In what ways? I’d love to hear from you!