Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for May: (5/4) Linda Norlander, (5/11) Connie Berry, (5/18) Mary Keliikoa, (5/22) Annette Dashofy, and (5/25) Rosalie Spielman.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

One Voice Instead of Many

 by Paula Gail Benson

Sadly, I’ve spent another year with very little access to theater (thanks to Covid and its variants). I saw a traveling company of the musical Anastasia, but opted for an aisle seat where I could leave easily if I felt uncomfortable amidst the crowd. I also attended two ballet performances, Dracula: Ballet with a Bite at Halloween and The Nutcracker just before Christmas. For those performances, I sat with a friend in the section for disabled or special needs. We had plenty of room and felt socially distanced.

My one opportunity to express myself theatrically was through submitting to an anthology published by Red Penguin Books. I highly recommend this small family-owned business to writers and readers. It is producing fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, poetry, and collections of material, both for youth and adults. In addition, once you have been published by Red Penguin, the publishers keep you connected with messages, podcasts, workshops, and writing groups. They are building a community of authors and it will be exciting to see how their methods help develop new and established writers.

The story that connected me with theater was for an anthology entitled, An Empty Stage: A Collection of Monologues. Since it was my first submission, I wanted to make a good impression. I also wanted to select a character that resonated and could be empathetic.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
I had just watched Cross Creek, a 1983 film featuring Mary Steenburgen, Peter Coyote, and Rip Torn. It was based on a combination of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ autobiographical work and her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Yearling. A lot of what became the film story did not accurately reflect life. Rawlings did not leave her husband to come to Florida. They arrived together, but Charles Rawlings did not take to the lifestyle as Marjorie did and finally left. Marjorie didn’t meet her second husband, hotelier Norton Sanford Baskin, as shown in the film, with her car breaking down and him fixing it.

What is interesting about the film, in that first scene, as Marjorie walks into town, an old timer sitting in a ladder-backed chair outside the general store directs her to the hotel and tells her she needs to talk with Norton Baskin. That old timer is in fact the real Norton Baskin, who is thanked in the film credits for all his technical assistance.

I began reading about Marjorie and Norton’s relationship. They spent a great deal of their married life separated since Marjorie bought property in New York and Norton remained in Florida. Norton resented being called “Mr. Rawlings” and Marjorie could be difficult, depending upon her mood and needs. In “The Man at Cross Creek It Wasn’t Easy Being Married to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Just Ask Her Husband--Whose Story Isn’t in Any Book or Movie,” Danielle Flood, writing for the Sun Sentinel, spoke to Norton Baskin in 1985, learning about his impressions of the film as well as his tempestuous times with his wife. What is clear is that Norton ended up using all those people pleasing skills he learned in hotel management to help Marjorie and keep her on an even keel. After her death, he upheld her literary legacy. He also wrote her epitaph: “Through her writings she endeared herself to the people of the world.”

Norton Sanford Baskin

Red Penguin published my monologue, which I styled as being spoken by Norton Baskin. I placed him in the lobby of a hotel greeting guests and offering them a cool beverage. When he is recognized, he admits to having a brief role in a movie and then reveals he was married to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. He speaks about the tension in their relationship and says maybe what she liked best about him was that he kept to the hotel business and let her do the writing.

He says: “When my time comes, it will be enough to lie beside her, with only my name on the stone. Of course, it would be pleasant to have ‘Beloved Husband’ after my name. I think she might have considered me that.”

If you visit Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ grave in Antioch Cemetery, Lochloosa, Florida, you’ll see the words Norton Baskin had inscribed for her. His grave is beside hers. Below his name and the years he lived are the words: “Beloved Husband.” That became the title of my monologue.


Marjorie Kinnan Rawlingsgrave
Find a Grave

Norton Sanford Baskins grave
Find a Grave

Have you ever written or memorized a monologue? What did it tell you about the character?


Susan said...

What an interesting topic! Great title.

KM Rockwood said...

Always interesting to hear about the variety of possibilities for both our expression and our appreciation of literary work.

Shari Randall said...

I'm looking forward to reading this. It's so cool that you stretch yourself in so many writing directions.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Fascinating! Yes, I just wrote a monologue for a writing class. I dug deep and came up with usable results.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Your monologue sounds fascinating! How wonderful that our writing can take so many forms.

Molly MacRae said...

I love this glimpse into the lives of Rawlings and Baskin. Congratulations on the monologue. I look forward to reading it. Good information about Red Penguin, too. Thanks, Paula!

Debra H. Goldstein said...

Thanks for introducing us to a little known, to many of us, publishing house.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Susan, Kathleen, Shari, Margaret, Marilyn, Molly, and Debra, thank you so much for your kind words. I really enjoyed learning more about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Norton Sanford Baskin and appreciate so much that Red Penguin Books gave me a chance to have the monologue published.