Publication: “Esther on eBay”

I am really excited to share the publication of my short story “Esther on eBay” in Open: Journal of Arts & Letters. First, the presentation of the story in the magazine is just beautiful. Esther really gets the star treatment: Esther on eBay .

Second, the story was inspired by the post “Rogue Gallery” on Katherine Griffith’s blog Photobooth Journal: A Life in a Photobooth. Kate’s blog chronicles her life in a series of photographs, beginning in 1973. I encourage you to spend some time on Photobooth Journal. It’s a fascinating way to chronicle a life.

In addition to her own photobooth images, Kate also posts other people’s photobooth images. And this is where Esther comes in:

I bought this page from an old photo album on Ebay recently.  The seller’s description was none too flattering to the subject, which was what attracted me to look at the listing in the first instance.  From notes on the back of the page (which has two dilapidated box brownie snaps still attached), I know this lady’s name is Esther, she had a sister or friend called Ethel and that these photos were taken around 1936, possibly in West Michigan USA.

I love Esther.  She may not be a classical beauty but she has style, poise and a serene dignity that I find very appealing. She obviously had a thing for photobooths, another reason to admire her!1

To meet Esther, click on the following link, then click on the image to enlarge it and see it more clearly: Rogue Gallery.

I hope you enjoy your time with Esther as much as I did!


1Katherine Griffths, “Rogue Gallery,” Photobooth Journal: A Life in a Photobooth, last modified September 22, 2011, accessed August 6, 2019,

103 thoughts on “Publication: “Esther on eBay”

  1. Beautiful story, I really liked it! Old pictures like that can be so intriguing. I remember being at Purdue University and stopping to look at pictures of old graduating classes, going as far back as 1890, looking at the faces and names and wondering what they were like so long ago. What were their interests? How did they feel about new inventions like the automobile? What kind of jokes made them laugh?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Peter! I’m so glad you liked it. I know exactly what you mean about old pictures. I’ve written other stories inspired by photographs from The Family Archives of which I became the keeper a few years ago.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m gobsmacked Liz! I loved the story and was thrilled that “my” Esther inspired you. (Thanks for the wonderful shout out, too!) There were so many poignant details that were heartbreaking to me. She was so disregarded by the males in her life. Her relationship with her job and the people she interacted with, was so much deeper than with her own family. I think you communicated that beautifully. I didn’t think you were romanticicising libraries. They are exciting, inspiring places. I really enjoyed the way you lead us into Esther’s story in the two parts, as well. May I do a post and include the story, rather than linking to an outside site? Perhaps that isn’t possible? Let me know.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I’m so glad you like the story behind “your” Esther’s photos, Kate! I was so hoping you would. I just checked the publishing rights, and they reverted to me after thirty days, as long as Open: Journal of Arts and Letters is credited as the first publisher. So, yes, I would love for you to feature the story in its entirety on your blog.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Blogging creates amazing opportunities for collaboration and sharing of ways in which to enrich our lives. You have brilliantly captured the stifling atmosphere of a family that views the contribution of vibrant, creative women as non-essential. Jim and the boys are simply the product of a society that relishes mediocrity. They are not “bad” people, just lacking imagination, and social niceties. Redemption in a photo! You gave me goosebumps!! Thanks for the introduction to another amazing blogger.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m delighted that you appreciated Esther’s story, Rebecca! And you’re right that Jim and the boys aren’t bad people, which makes Esther’s life with them all the lonelier. I’m also glad that you appreciated Kate’s blog. She’s a remarkable woman.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Pressing “Like” is simply not enough.. I was totally immersed in Esther’s life, what it is, what it could be and what she needs to feed her soul. A beautiful story, written with heart.

    It’s all the more poignant for me at the moment as I’m sorting through lierally thousands of photos from my late Aunt. You would think that they invented selfies… I am in the process of writing an article about those photos and what they meant to her and her husband…it will take me awhile, as I often have to catch the memories that tumble down my cheeks.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Chris. It means a lot to me that Esther’s story moved you so. I know just what you mean about the memories tumbling down your cheeks as you go through photographs of family members who are no longer with you. I’ve had many a memory tumble myself.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh, Elizabeth, your writing is just exquisite. You have such a knack of writing a word picture that deftly draws us, the readers, into the world you are describing. The fine detail, your grasp of every subtle nuance is just thrilling. I could feel her world. And the empty places that she endured. So powerful!! A powerful gift.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. What a beautiful way to honor the dignity and history of an individual whose life was so much more than a few photos! I wish Esther could read your lovely tribute. Ah. But maybe she can. Congrats on the well-deserved publication, and thank you for sharing this with us.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Hey Liz, how are you?

    Congratulations on your publication. Your signature style appears to grow from strength-to-strength. Beautifully written, tender and sympathetic with a witty last line exploiting the meanings and ambiguities of words. I trust you are inspired to write more.

    I found the story alive with wistful thinking, but yet, imbued with sentimental sadness and regret. Esther’s photograph is quietly haunting – as though her sorrow lingers in the black and white grain: in some way she reaches out (to herself) as reminder of who she is, what she is, and all that could have been. Of course one wonders at the choices she has made in her life and of the societal norms and cultural expectations that may have influenced her.

    As a consequence of reading, I was put in mind of a Philip Larkin poem, ‘Reference Back’ of which the following is the last stanza:

    Truly, though our element is time,
    We’re not suited to the long perspectives
    Open at each instant of our lives.
    They link us to our losses: worse,
    They show us what we have as it once was,
    Blindingly undiminished, just as though
    By acting differently we could have kept it so

    ~ Philip Larkin, published 1999 ~


    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s good to hear from you, Dewin! I’m well; thank you for asking. I’m glad you appreciated Esther’s story. Thank you for noting “Reference Back.” I hadn’t read it before. I found the complete poem online, and I can see how Esther’s story would have brought it to mind.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I was totally taken in by this story, Liz. You strike all the right notes in Esther’s personal melody. The telling little details bring her to life. And I don’t think libraries can be overly romanticized. At least Esther has her books and her photos. And the community seems to respect her, too.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Liz, this was a marvelous story. It was so true to life and written in a way that held me to the story, and to Esther. A picture is certainly worth a thousand words. Congratulations! Your publication is well deserved.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Hi, Liz,

    Excellent story! I loved all the details — from Rodney’s search through piles of crap in the antiques store, to Esther’s studious setting of the table and the hierarchy of table cloths and meals. Well done!

    I’m also a big fan of Katherine’s Photobooth Journal blog — so many amazing photos and Katherine ‘s thoughtful ruminations about the subjects are always wonderful.

    Pondering and giving life to the double backstories of Esther and Rodney and his putting those out into the world for Katherine to find is terrific storytelling and imagination on your part. And, as always, I love your expression.

    All the best,


    Liked by 4 people

  10. Wow Liz! I’m loving you and your blog already! ❤️
    I love old photos …. I get drawn to the emotions they evoke …. the stories they tell.
    And I love how you describe Esther.

    “I love Esther.  She may not be a classical beauty but she has style, poise and a serene dignity that I find very appealing.”

    Only a truly beautiful, profound woman can recognize such beauty. ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Hi Liz
    Ive done a draft of a post of your “Esther” story but the spot in the old editor, where I used to send draft copies to people, has changed. I cannot work out how to send you a draft from the new editor either. Do you know how to?


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