Peggy Ullman Bell ~~ Re-Versing History

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~~~~~  About the Author ~~~~~

       Born in the heart of the Great Depression, Peggy Ullman Bell grew up in books, dozens of books, as many as 12 a week the summer she was 15. 

     Reared in historic Gettysburg and York, Pennsylvania, Ms. Bell yearned to learn what women were doing while men were fighting battles and making revolutions.  The history books did not tell her, and thus her search began.
     Women at Gettysburg FIXIN' THINGS, a coming of age novel set during and after the Battle of Gettysburg was Ms. Bell's gift to her mother, Eva May Lightner, deceased.
     An accomplished poet in her own right, Ms. Bell became interested in Sappho, The Poetess of Lesbos in the flamboyant Hollywood of the 1960s when everyone around her seemed to know The Lesbian's name, but no one could answer any of Ms. Bell's questions about her.  Long hours in the library, and an endless supply of books obtained through Interlibrary Loan  showed Sappho to have been a woman of genius, so well respected that men quoted from her work three hundred years after her death, and yet what few of her words escaped the destruction of the Library of Alexandria were lost through the philosophical purges of an 11th century Pope.

     To Peggy Ullman Bell, the challenge was inescapable.  Psappha, as Sappho called herself, was an enigma calling to her across the centuries, begging for resolution.  How could a curious Aquarian resist?

     With her innate appetite for answers aroused, Ms. Bell spent so much time reading ancient tomes that an editor wrote "Forget your college education and write in English," on an early rejection slip.  Quite a compliment considering that she was a High School drop out with a night school diploma at the time.  She changed that when, in 1973 she matriculated as a Freshman at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock where she became active in Pi Gamma Mu, National Social Science Honor Society.  The youngest of her considerable contribution to the Baby Boom was 9 years old.

     Peggy Ullman Bell wrote the first polished draft of PSAPPHA, a novel of Sappho during her senior year at the University of Tulsa, Class of '77, where she was founding president of the Oklahoma Delta Chapter of Pi Gamma Mu. When asked why it took so long to get from first draft to publication, Ms. Bell smiled and said, "It takes a long time for an ancient culture to become a worthy tourist attraction."

     Published in Y2K, PSAPPHA sold out and is now out of print.  Because of her love for the story, Ms. Bell revised, expanded and augmented the manuscript for re-release under a new title.  Although Ms. Bell's concept of Sappho was subjected to over 40 years worth of re-writes and a myriad of editors and critics, she remained true to her original vision.   SAPPHO SINGS is the "author preferred" edition. 

     Though originally from scant miles north of the Mason/Dixon Line and educated as a child in Gettysburg, resided for a quarter of a century on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  "But, I live in cyberspace," she explains in sultry southern tones.



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Women at Gettysburg
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            Seventeen-year-old Megan Loren feels unloved, unwelcome and unwanted except by the one person who should not want her. She plans to one day leave the farm that does not feel like home and the elder sister who seems to see her only as a responsibility.  Then, the Battle of Gettysburg, the turning point of the American Civil War, comes to Loren Farm and Megan learns that home is portable, and that responsibility and love are interchangeable.     [more] 


ISBN: 0595218415    $12.95    278 pages
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A celebration of The Poetess, 

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sans apology, sans censure.

          In this superb page-turner reminiscent of the great Mary Renault, Peggy Ullman Bell brings to life one of the most exciting and fascinating figures of the Ancient World - Sappho, "The Poetess."



  (Simon & Schuster, N.Y., 1939)

“Sappho was a marvelous woman," said Strabo...

"Psappha, as she called herself in her soft Aeolian dialect, was born at Eresus, on Lesbos, ...Pittacus, fearing her maturing pen, banished her...

"After five years of exile she returned to Lesbos and became a leader of the island's society and intellect ... Eager for an active life, she opened a school for young women, to whom she taught poetry, music, and dancing; it was the first 'finishing school' in history....

"Her verse was collected into nine books, of some twelve-hundred lines, six-hundred survive, seldom continuous."

A new Sappho poem
Martin West
21 June 2005

     From these fragmented lines, Ms. Bell has created a novel rich in the textures of ancient Greece, yet modern as tomorrow's fashions.

     Bell has incorporated the fragmentary words and phrases still available into the novel in a way that makes them vanish into the fabric of the story like golden threads woven into an intricate tapestry so delicately that it becomes impossible to distinguish the imported threads from the weaver's own.

     Readers familiar with the myriad of translations may recognize a word here or a phrase there but, as one expert in antiquities discovered, the author has herself become the voice of The Poetess to the extent that invented passages seem like newly discovered wonders from the past.

Author's Note

Although long dead, Psappha, as Sappho called herself in her own soft Aeolian dialect is and has been the love of my life for over 40 years. In my heart and mind she still lives, loves and laughs.  It is my great privilege to call her my friend.

New Review by Margaret Leigh

Chapter One of SAPPHO SINGS 

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Last updated 01/16/13