Category: Research


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I discovered mention of “Revealed Jesus” in the 1924 newspapers I used in my research. It’s important to remember that news was not reported in the way it is today. Though the 1924 newspaper referred to William Seymour as being both alive and in Texas, he had made the move to California long before his death two years earlier, in 1922. Perhaps the paper was referring to his movement and his followers more than to the man himself. I honestly can’t remember and my research is no longer in my possession so I have no way of reviewing the original articles that inspired the “Revealed Jesus” poems. My characters knew only what they read in the paper or what they might have heard in conversation. Authors must decide whether to be true to what their characters actually knew or to give them knowledge which would make the book historically correct though not an accurate portrait of the time. My choice was to keep the book true to what the characters would actually have known. An excellent question. Thank you.

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The names of the plants were chosen for their sound. I simply explored the names of plants that grow in Vermont and selected the ones I imagined would delight the ear of my character, Esther.

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1872 Lighthouse on the Hudson River (photo taken August 2017)

Although A LIGHT IN THE STORM was inspired by the very real lighthouse keeper, Ida Lewis, the book is a work of fiction. I spent over a year researching the Civil War, the particular complexities of living along the Mason-Dixon Line, and the duties and responsibilities of lighthouse keepers during the 1800s. Many of the details in my book are drawn from newspapers of the period…perhaps that’s what gives A LIGHT IN THE STORM its air of reality.

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While researching, I come across multiple articles on certain events. I also peruse numerous advertisements for everything from baby bonnets to basketball games. I make an effort to fold these bits and pieces from the period into my narrative in a way that reflects how often I came upon them in my research. So yes, the events in the book, from the accidental fire to the curiosity about the Dionne quintuplets received multiple mentions and attention in the media of the early 1930s.

A Time of Angels

A Time of Angels

While preparing for bed one evening, I flipped through our very small offering of cable channels. The remote landed on a documentary about the Spanish Influenza epidemic. At the time I knew almost nothing about this devastating piece of history and watched the program with rapt attention. The following day I began doing some research of my own and before long I’d stepped back in time to 1918; its pain, its kindness, its hardships, and its hope.

Aleutian Sparrow

Aleutian Sparrow

With joy, in 2000 I accepted an invitation to travel to Southeast Alaska and speak to enthusiastic students, librarians, and educators. The students in particular hoped I might write a book about Alaska but I shook my head no. I could never write with the authenticity of an Alaskan resident. However, while in Ketchikan, I visited Parnassus Books where I purchased  more volumes about Alaska than I could carry. Most of the books were shipped back to my home in Vermont. But I kept a couple out to read on the plane. That is when I first learned of the Aleuts and their story. To my knowledge, no one had told their story to young readers and I feared no one ever would. This was such a risky project. How could I ever do the tale justice?  I was very fortunate to have the assistance of several people with first hand experience who gave me honest criticism and helped me correct my misunderstandings and mistakes.

I fear the emotional, mental, and physical trauma of being relocated, of living in a refugee camp, has not changed significantly since 1942.

A Light in the Storm

A Light in the Storm

While researching in the 1911 New York Times, I came across a series of articles written about Ida Lewis as she lay dying. Ida Lewis had kept the Lime Rock Light burning off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island, during and after the Civil War, taking over her father’s duties when he became too ill to serve. Ida Lewis never hesitated to go to sea in a storm, placing her own life in peril numerous times to rescue those who would otherwise have perished. Her life was an inspiration. Amelia Martin was created in her image.

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Often, when I attend conferences, I walk around the exhibit hall looking at the thousands of books on display. I also attend talks given by other authors whenever possible. I carried home Bill Slavin’s TRANSFORMED: How Everyday Things Are Made from one of those conferences. While losing myself in the wonderful explanations and detailed illustrations I came across an entry on the invention of the Teddy Bear by the Michtom family in Brooklyn at the turn of the 20th century. The way the Michtoms came to create the stuffed toy and the idea that the teddy bear was invented by immigrants who had escaped the bear of Russia fascinated me. The more I read, the more intrigued I became. And BROOKLYN BRIDGE was born.

Safekeeping

Safekeeping

There are times when those campaigning for political office seem alarmingly unfamiliar with, and uninterested in, the American constitution; or even a general working knowledge of democracy. I felt compelled to begin SAFEKEEPING in 2010 when a small group of  dissatisfied citizens threatened to divide and destroy the balance of our entire nation. It seems we are in a similar pickle today, six years later, perhaps as a direct consequence of that same divisive element which has managed to shift the political discussion away from civility, tolerance, and functionality. My hope is that the American people will make a wise and informed decision in the upcoming presidential election. SAFEKEEPING is an exploration of what might happen if we choose a candidate who does not understand how to keep the fabric of our country from unraveling.

Stowaway

Stowaway

Our local library, Brooks Memorial, regularly brings lecturers in to speak on a wide range of topics. James Cook scholar David Bisno spoke in the meeting room one evening in late 1998 or so. On a table at the front of the room piles of primary source material beckoned. For me, primary sources are like sweets, I can’t get enough of them. When I started leafing through Beaglehole’s definitive edition of Captain Cook’s journal I felt chills of delight. It took me less than 24 hours to request a copy of this two book collection through Inter Library Loan. Once the books arrived I poured over them…and there I discovered Nicholas Young. At lunch a few days later, I shared with my husband much of what I’d learned so far about the Endeavour’s journey. As I related stories about young Nick, it suddenly occurred to me that I had discovered a perfect narrator. Writing this book was consuming in a way no other had been. I rarely left my desk…just as the men rarely got off  their ship. I slept with my head on my desk, I ate at my desk. I stopped calling (and taking calls) from family and friends. What a journey. But I’d take it again in a heartbeat. It was an extraordinary, singular experience.