Grasom Cox

After graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in English I began my career as a writer in public relations and advertising.  Several years later I decided to pursue a Master of Business Administration degree from New York University (in the top five in the US) and financed my education by writing a newsletter for a university department.  Following graduation, I embarked upon a distinguished financial career, during which several of my articles on institutional investing were published in the trade press.  I was also a frequent speaker in professional circles, which required writing to address varied audiences.

Some years ago, inspired by spending time with a family member living in a modern retirement community, I created the outline for a novel in a similar setting and revolving around and its diverse and accomplished inhabitants. Other professional demands required laying aside the initial effort.  Currently having a more flexible schedule, I decided to revisit the story and have now completed my first book.  As the central character is a 15 year-old girl making discoveries about people inside and outside the retirement community, I believe the novel best aligns with the genres of young adult and upper middle grade.  Additionally, I believe it could appeal to book clubs and senior citizens.  This is my debut novel.  I have entitled it Coolness to the Wind and am currently seeking publication.

I have begun my next book, which will be an historical novel set in nineteenth century Scotland and Vermont.  Its working title is The Todd Family.

David Todd is a successful fabric manufacturer in Glasgow. When his wife dies in 1804 he contends with raising eleven children, ranging in age from two to twenty, while managing a sprawling business empire and some far-flung investments. Based on a true story.
The Todd Family
My Submission

                                                     THE TODD FAMILY 

“Father, you don’t understand me.  You can’t possibly know what it’s like to be locked away in this prison while my fiancé is on a ship and won’t return for - what? Years?”

“Beth, you are right.  I don’t know what it is like to have my fiancé shipped away from me.  But let me remind you, child, that this is a prison of your own making.  I am not forcing you to stay in this room, day after day.  It’s not healthy for you, physically or mentally.  I think you are hiding yourself away to gain pity…”

“Pity?  From whom?  My family?  My brothers are so busy with your business that they don’t even know I am alive.  Jane?  My best friend?  Already married with a wee one on the way.  She at least has a home and married life to be busy with.  Not like me, with no life at all.  I am an old maid at sixteen.  With no wedding date set I am embarrassed in front of all of Glasgow society.  Where is my place?”

“My dear, no one thinks the less of you because his regiment shipped out.  You have no control over the British Army and neither did he.  He is serving his country as have many before him.   And there are plenty of places you can go and things you can do, if you’d only get yourself out of this room.  These are modern times, after all.  It’s 1805.”

“Father, there is something else.”


“Father, Jane tells me that there is a rumor that I am ruined because he and I sheltered in his barracks during a storm.”

“Bah, do you know how ridiculous is such a story?  Such storms kick up in Glasgow all the time.  If you were close to his barracks at the time then he was protecting you.  And I know well that any barracks I have ever seen affords little… eh, opportunity… for two young people.  Beth, you are beautiful and our family is wealthy.  Get used to jealous tongues.  They will exist for all time.  Just like the Scottish storms.”

“Thank you, father.  I was afraid that you might believe such tales and disown me.  But what place is there for me in the world?  Already you rely on James in your business, but I see no place for me.  I’ve begged you to allow me to go to London but you say that it would be no proper place for me with no family there.”

“Actually, I was thinking that there may be something you could do for one of my companies.”

“Really?  What?  I canna think that you would have me in the mills with the low women.”

“No, not in the mills.  And not here in Glasgow.”

“What other place is there aside from Glasgow and London?  Edinburgh?”

“Beth, you read well.  You were always diligent in your lessons.  You are good with your younger siblings.  How would you like to be a governess?” 

“A governess?  Away from home?  Where?  And what has a governess to do with your businesses?”

“Are you aware that I have an investment afar?  An investment in a rich land that can make others rich?”

“I have vaguely heard you speak of it to James… no, I think to Uncle Samuel.  Is that the one?  Last Christmas when Uncle Samuel was visiting I heard only scant words of it over the dinner table.”

“Yes, that is the one.  The son of the key man in the venture is living there and has a small child and would like a governess to assist his wife.  Their name is Whitelaw.  You could live with the family.  A trade, you might say.  You would assist his wife in exchange for your living with them.  It is an opportunity to learn a different way of life.  And, I expect you would enjoy the company of a couple so much closer in age to yourself.

“Mind, it would nae be the life of ease you have here, my child.  No servants to wait upon you.  The finery you are accustomed to wearing would be restricted to what you could carry with you.  Day to day you would no doubt wear plain linen.  Mind, I will not have you viewed as a servant.  I will compensate the Whitelaws for your board and see that you are well provided for in your own right.  There are means of transferring money from here to there and a reliable agent on the other side.”

“But, father, what has a governess to do with your business?”

“Ah, I always knew you to be intelligent as well as fair.  You do get to the heart of the matter, don’t you?  Beth, you would write me letters.  You would write to me of the quality of the land, of the weather as you see it, of the crops that are grown and the prices at market. 

“It is a stroke of luck that you may have a place with the Whitelaws, as it is Robert Whitelaw’s father, James, who is rightly called the founder of the town, and who placed Robert in a position of authority in the community.  You will see the comings and goings of the Whitelaw home; be able to gauge who is important, who is wealthy, who is influential.  You will be able to discern whether the community governs itself well or whether there is dissention; whether the people are well off or in need.  Hence, you may hear things, learn things, that I otherwise would not – and you will write that information to me.  That will be the real value of this venture, Beth.  I trust the business managers of the enterprise but the eyes and ears of family would be valuable.”

“You would trust me, father, to be your eyes and ears?” 

“Aye, child, who better?  Will you do this for me?”

“Of course, father, and gladly.  But, father, I know so little of this place to which you would send me.  What is its name?”


“Vermont?  Why, that is in the colonies, is it not?”


“So far away.  Tell me of your investment.”

“Ah, let me sit a while, for it is a complex story.  It is now more than 30 years past that I made this investment.  I was a young man at the time.  I had my first few pounds in my pocket and it sounded a lark.  Those older and wiser – including Robert’s father - told of this land and how rich the soil.  Many respected men of Glasgow spun visions of buying land and receiving the profits from the land that others worked.  Many men, they said, would be glad to emigrate since we could promise them much lower land rents and a larger share of their labors than the gentry of Scotland.  Or, even better, as the purchase price for the land is so much lower there, the original investors, like me, could later sell for a much higher price, for this was to have been a fine town, with a gracious square and townhomes around, and a school and church and mills.  And so I signed my name and paid my pounds and bided my time.”

“And the profits?”

“Nae, few profits coming this way of the ocean.”

“But why, if the land is rich?”

“Ah, the land may be different, but people anywhere are not.  Those folk willing to settle and to work the land also wanted to own the land, and so paid over their own pounds and now own handsome tracts, which are indeed profitable.  Yet mine stays wild with nary a harrow turning the soil.  Hence, mine also stays an unattractive proposition for a buyer.  At least that is what I think, and what you will help me uncover.” 

“But, surely, father, in so many years since, is there not some man willing to till your soil?  Especially if you offer him such modest rent and a grand share.”

“Perhaps, but there were other complications in Vermont.  Soon after the purchase of land ‘twas a dustup ‘twixt the king’s army and the settlers there.  Commerce was interrupted.  The sale of grain from Vermont to the Glasgow market, which was to have been an income source, never fully materialized.  Even if willing men could be found, Scotsmen were forbidden to travel there in those years; some were even turned back after reaching port.  Can you imagine enduring a voyage of months and then not even being allowed to set foot on dry land?  And then having to repeat that voyage?  There were hard feelings left on both sides.

“And then there was the great misunderstanding, as to who should pay for the mills to grind the grain and other common buildings to make a life for the settlers, the company in which I have invested or settlers.”

“And now?  Is your investment a loss?”

“Aye, that is where you come in.  Your brother James has the same quick mind as you and is enthusiastic at every task I set him to, but seems to have little passion for the design and manufacturing of textiles.  I have had an idea, that perhaps he could reclaim my land and start the vision afresh.  Or, better said, some newer vision.  Already he knows the daily price of cotton and of wool, and of every metal and every grain at market.  Perhaps he can find some way to turn a profit.  But I am loathe to send him on a fool’s errand.   Until I am more certain of his likelihood of success, it is better he continues his education by keeping my books and looking after my shipments.  And so, you see, I need to know many things that the settlers there do not write to their families here, wanting to put a cheer face on the life they have chosen.  I need to know of the health of the people, whether they are disease-ridden or hale.  I need to know how long it takes goods to travel from farm to port.  And the natives - there are people there who have inhabited the land long before the Scots and English arrived – I need to know whether they are benign or whether they do not take kindly to our taming the land for oats.”

“Certainly, father, I can write letters, if that will aid you and your investment.”

“Good.  Mind, you must write very thorough letters, and send them at every opportunity.  And when you write, repeat what you have written in the prior letter as but one in four from that land finds its destination.  Ach… let me take these fair hands in mine and remember them for, as I say, you will live a far different life if you decide to undertake this responsibility and they may never be this smooth again.  Will you be willing to sew your own clothes and sit with a sick bairn?  For the eyes and ears I need must live the life, not merely visit it.”

“Aye, father.”

“And carry a water pail if necessary?”

“If necessary, aye, father.”

“Think on this deeply, Beth.  It is no child’s task I ask of you.  It will begin with a voyage of nigh unto ten weeks, with little but plain food on board, and then further travel by carriage to reach Vermont.  And during all that time we know not what the weather will be and whether the seas will be smooth or tossed.  Do you think you can leave our warm fireside for such a journey?  Know well, there is no turning back once begun.”

“Am I to travel alone?”

“Nae, daughter, I will spare Jennie and Andrew to see you there and then bring me word of your safe arrival.”

“And am I never to return?”

“Beth, I could not imagine my life if I were never to see you again.  I believe one year a fair stretch of time to record the turn of the seasons, to judge the management of the enterprise and prospects in the new country.  And a year is a fair trade of your time with the Whitelaws, with whom you will live.  And, perhaps, to receive word from the king’s militia in India.”

“Father, as you mention the militia I see that twinkle in your eye that I have known since knee-high.  You do indeed understand me.  And now you have found me some life outside the walls of this bedroom.  No daughter has ever loved a father as I love you.”

“Ah, Beth.  When your mother died last year I worried of how to raise daughters, but if you will do this for me then I shall not worry after my daughters any more than I do my sons.  But do not decide in haste as, I have said, it is no child’s task.” 


“Sister, pull your collar closer.  I do na’ want the sea air to cause you a sore throat before you have even boarded the ship.”

“Stop your fussing, James.  If I am capable of crossing the ocean I am well capable of tending to my own collar.”

“Ach, Beth, he’s only concerned for you, as am I.  Here I am, sending my second daughter, the closest I have to my beloved Jean, to the wild.  Are you sure you will undertake this journey?  You have not yet ascended the plank.  It is not too late to change your mind.”

“Father,  I am stronger than you think.  I shall make you proud.  James, you shall hear from me as to whether this land is fit at all for turning a profit, or whether Father’s investment is better left untended.  And, James, you understand that you must assist Father in the raising of the younger ones.  As I am doing for you, you must do for me.”

“Aye, sister, aye.  Now off – they call ‘aboard.’  Here, take your traveling bag.  Your chest is already stowed.”


For all of my strength, the strength that I thought came to me the day that father proposed this plan, it is impossible not to doubt myself; doubt whether I can survive this crossing, whether I can thrive in the new world and meet my father’s expectations.  Let me wave until land is out of sight.  I miss them already.  Do they see?  Do they see that in the dock street behind them there is a funeral procession?  I think not as they are waving to me.  Hmph.  A funeral.  Is Glasgow is mocking me? Causing me to imagine that that is my own funeral, that I shall ne’er see my family again?  But… it is odd.  I feel no remorse; more like relief to be away from that stifling bedroom and away from those old biddies and their rumors.  And… something else, something new… I feel, dare I say, pride to be serving my father’s interest.  What other lass my age – any age - is so trusted?

“Jennie, in scarce minutes we shall be on the open seas.  The air is becoming more chill.  Is it possible for the ship to provide a warm cup of tea?”

“Aye, mistress.  I shall see to it.”

“Jennie, you hesitate.  Is there something else?”

“Aye, mistress, if you will permit my saying so, I think this change of scenery will do you good.  These past months since your solider shipped out you have grown pale and dull of spirit, but already I can see the roses coming back to your cheeks.  You shall have your health back again.  Come, now, into your cabin and settle yourself.”


jaidyngroth Sat, 25/09/2021 - 10:38

Congrats on being short-listed as well! Sending celebratory high-fives!

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