Photographer, ex-circus traveler, and free spirit to visit Wellesley today

My background doesn’t exactly raise any eyebrows here in Wellesley — I had a suburban New England upbringing, went off to college, graduated, lived in the big city for a while, found me a husband, had a couple of kids, and started blogging. Sure, I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants, but it’s all been terribly exciting. And yet, like many adrenaline junkies who crave even more drama, I’ve harbored a secret ambition, one I will dare share: to run away and fly through the air with the greatest of ease as a circus trapeze artist.

Elizabeth C. Wellington photograph
If you use your imagination and blink 10 times fast, you can almost see Swellesley in this E.C. Wellington photograph of a circus veteran relaxing on a hay bale.

So imagine my excitement when I found out that someone who actually has traveled with a small three-ring circus while photographing it and later writing a book based on her experiences is not only coming to town, but is right now displaying some of her vintage photographs in the Wellesley Library’s Wakelin Room. Not only that, Elizabeth C. Wellington will be be reading from her book Circus Girl on July 16, 3pm – 5pm.

At age 16, an adventurous Wellington left high school to travel around the world alone. She lived in India for a year, and one adventure led to another until the rolling stone had lived in five countries, learning three languages along the way. Eventually, Wellington settled down and gathered some moss by becoming a language professor, and has lived a quiet life as an academic ever since.

Elizabeth C. Wellington photograph
Elephant Girl performing in the grand finale.

Circus Girl, from which she will be reading, is a work of fiction based on Wellington’s experiences on the road and the stories of the circus people she knew. The novel starts off in the summer of 1971, when seventeen-year-old Sarah runs away with a traveling circus. On the road, she falls in love with West, a handsome performer and swamp rat from Florida with a gift for handling wild animals. When she is given a job as a roustabout in order to follow the show, she is privy to the secrets of jailbirds and misfits from the Deep South.  Just before the circus reaches the end of its tour, Sarah makes two unwanted discoveries: that her lover is a drug smuggler, and that she is pregnant with his child.

The book is a work of fiction. The photos hanging in the Wakelin Room and their brief accompanying narratives are as real and gritty as it gets. Step right up, folks, the author will be available to answer all questions, sign copies of her book, and tell the stories behind the photographs, all of which are for sale.