Following in Hannah Duston’s Footsteps: Reexamining the Evidence

Historical New Hampshire, Vol. 69, No 1, Summer 2015

Historical New Hampshire, Vol. 69, No 1, Summer 2015

I am happy to announce that my non-fiction article, “Following in Hannah Duston’s Footsteps: Reexamining the Evidence” will appear in Historical New Hampshire’s Summer 2015 issue. Included are many of my ‘finds’ that that I’ve researched over the past ten years (for my middle grade novel Look One Way, Paddle Another), new information that put the events in context and questions old beliefs. I look at the evidence for the timeline and disprove dates long held dear, reimagine her trip north and the location of the massacre, and dispute the claim that the bounty had expired!  If you’re interested in Hannah Duston or just a New England History groupie, I hope you’ll take a look.

Hannah Duston was kidnapped from Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1697 by Indians, her baby killed, and she was marched north through New Hampshire for 150 miles before she (and two other captives) killed ten of her captors (two men, two women and six children). She and her compatriots, returned home with scalps in hand and allegedly collected a ‘bounty’. (Honest. I can’t make this stuff up.) To find out which parts of the legend are true, you’ll have to read my article.

The Power of Rosemary

This weekend I attended the 2012 New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in Springfield, MA. I was totally surprised (and humbled) to be this year’s recipient of the Rosemary Frye Award. What is that, you are wondering? A Google search will come up empty. Oh, you will find many Rosemary or Rose Mary Fry’s but none were the inspiration for this award.

It all started one Friday night, several years ago, at the very same conference. A group of us had an impromptu dinner at the hotel restaurant and got to playing with our leftover fries. Soon, the rosemary and edible orchid garnishes were fashioned into a crown and the Rosemary Fry award was born. Due to the perishable nature of its components, the award has been replaced with a stuffed bunny and journal to record what Rosemary has meant to each of her guardians.

The initial recipient was a fellow writer in need of something special in her life. The following year she passed it on to another deserving writer, and so it has passed from year-to-year, from one deserving guardian to the next. Sometimes it’s given to someone in need of inspiration, or someone who’s paid their dues in hope that their dreams come to fruition, and for others it’s a celebration of their success. There is no criteria for winning, no applications or nominations, no SCBWI official presentation, no editor or agent attending the ceremony. Only writers celebrating writers. And that’ the power of Rosemary.

On Writing and Genealogy: Shaking the Family Tree

I recently sold several articles to SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) for their Bulletin, on using genealogy when writing. The most recent, Keeping Those Characters in Line, appeared in the January/February 2009 issue. If you’re a member of SCBWI, you can log in to their website and read it. In it, I discuss how organized genealogists are, and how they have a form for everything. I list my favorites and how to download them for free. But I should warn you that using those forms may lead to a new hobby—genealogy! Then you’ll have write your whole family history, because truth can be stranger than fiction!

Apparently someone at the Redlines and Deadlines blog liked it, and posted the links. Redlines and Deadlines is written by the editors at Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publishers. I found a lot good advice on writing, editing, submitting, etc. But children’s writers be forewarned! There’s a lot of frank discussion about writing erotic scenes! LOL

Other articles in the series are Using Genealogical Resources for Research (SCBWI Bulletin, March/April 2008) which discusses historical research, and Watch Out For Those Falling Nuts (SCBWI Bulletin, forthcoming, TBA) about interviewing family members as a resource for your writing.

I cannot say enough about SCBWI. If you are an aspiring children’s writer or ilustrator, do consider joining. Their publications are informative, and their conferences are first-rate.

On Writing Difficult Scenes

For the record, I have been keeping up everyday with WFMAD, Laurie Halse Anderson’s writing challenge for the month of July. Some days I only write 100 words but that’s okay. I’ve added over 5,000 words so far and that’s 5,000 more than I would have had without WFMAD.

Here’s a trick that helps me to want to write the next day—leave off in a place where you know what’s going to happen next. That way you’re not facing a blank page hoping your muse will show up.

So the other day I was writing a particularly difficult scene. By that I mean it was difficult for the main character, not for me as the writer because I was sitting someplace cushy, probably munching on something yummy. And yet it was difficult for me to put my character through that. It physically affected my body—I was tense and literally felt ill to my stomach. As a writer or an illustrator, these are the emotions I’m hoping to get across in my work. Whether I succeed or not is something for you to judge.

I’m one of those writers that finds it difficult to put my character in harm’s way, but I’m working on it. I heard Bruce Coville speak at a NESCBWI conference and he is the master of this. From the way he spoke, I would venture to say that he relishesgetting his characters in trouble. So I try to remember his glee when I need to do something bad to my MC.

Two Challenges

The Pirate Code of Writing
The first challenge has been put forth by Laurie Halse Anderson. It’s simple, merely write for 15 minutes a day for the month of July (or WFMAD). The whole idea is that it takes about 21 days before something becomes a habit. So our goal is to create a new, good writing habit. See more at her blog, Mad Woman in the Forest. I am happy to say that I’ve met my goal for today. I typically don’t have a good track record for these kind of things but I keep trying.

Second Challenge
Cindy Lord has a challenge on her blog to show a picture of your city every day for a week. I know I’m two days late but I’ve included extra to make up for it. Here’s a list of other bloggers joining in the fun. Enjoy!

Day1, Day 2 & Day 3
Here’s three days rolled into one. I live in the beautiful Lakes Region of New Hampshire. If you’re wondering why it’s called the Lakes Region, take a look at the aerial photo on the City of Laconia’s website. The land is like stepping stones across an expanse of water. It was taken by Bill Hemmel of Lakes Region Aerial Photo.

Last weekend, which happened to be motorcycle weekend, my hubby and son and I when for a ride in the amphicar. If you don’t know what that is, check out my son’s website about it–basically it’s a car that goes in the water. I know, how cool is that!

So let’s go on a tour of Paugus Bay and up through the Weirs channel. The first photo is a shot of the Naswa Resort and their cabins. They are typical of the many resorts that line the Weirs Boulevard. The other side of the lake has beautiful large homes and condos.
Here’s a photo of the Marine Patrol. They turned around when they saw us and followed for a bit. Sometimes they come to have a look at the car because . . . well . . . it’s interesting!
Here’s a picture of the helicopter that kept buzzing us. It was giving tourists a ride over the lake, but intimidating none the less to see it swoop overhead.
Here we are as we near the channel. Look how nicely that sky matches our car! (And Cindy, do you see that rubber ducky? He comes everywhere with us.)
Here we are just about to go under the Weirs bridge. You could probably walk across the channel on the boats. Hubby tells me it’s wasn’t busy that day. Usually they line up and have to wait to go under.

This is what you see as you come out from under the bridge onto Lake Winnipesaukee. The monument is the oldest monument in New Hampshire. In 1652, a survey party carved their initials into a rock and that of John Endicott, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, to mark the headwaters of the Merrimac River. The Massachusetts border was supposed to be three miles north of this point. (Thank God that didn’t stick! Though by looking at the license plates . . . I wonder.)

Right around the corner is Weirs Beach and docking for the Mount Washington. It gives lovely tour rides of the lake, if that interests you.

Here is the famous Irwin’s Pier at the Weirs. When I was younger there was mini golf and arcades. In my parents day, they swung to the sounds of the big bands!

As we were heading home we saw the train that was bringing people up to the Weirs.
Well, all good things must come to an end. And so does this tour. Come back the next few days for some of my favorite historic buildings downtown.

Some People Have Nothing Better to Do

Good Morning, Garden

Whilst googling my book titile the other day, I came across this post on the First Person Irregular blog, written John Ochwat. Now, John seems like an intelligent guy and he’s entitle to his opinion but . . . he is clearly in need of more interesting pursuits in his life.
In his post, John opines about the evils of the author bio being longer than the text in children’s books (yes, he counted them). He uses Good Morning, Garden, written by Barbara Brenner and illustrated by myself as an example. Ouch! He even shows the lovely cover (and thank you for that, if you’re going to slam a book, you can at least have it look good and sell a few copies, right? But I digress.) He even complains that there are duplicate bios on the back page and on the jacket flap, making the text to author bio ratio something ridiculous like 1:2.
Here’s the point, John: the text and author bios are written for two different audiences. The text is written for the kiddies, or to be read to the kiddies. The bios are written for the adults who buy and read the books to the kiddies. A few adults actually find them interesting. In a small way, it gives additional resources for the teacher using the book in the classroom. So please, take a deep breath. There must be worse evils in the world for you to cast your eye upon.


It’s that time of year again. Based on National Novel Writing Month, JoNoWriMo+1.5 is a little less intense and a lot more fun. It’s run by the very clever Jo Knowles. Head on over there if you’re ready to commit to completing your writing for children goals in 2.5 months!

Here’s mine: to finish the first draft of my so-called cemetery WIP. It’s a MG novel about a girl that wants to help her dying Grammy, so she sets out to discover what it’s like to die. She ‘haunts’ the caretaker at the cemetery, the under-taker, the grave digger and the monument people, only to find out that it’s not how you die, but how you live that matters. Stay tuned for more adventures of Lily!!!!!!!!

Shall we give this another try?

For two years I’ve been promising to post something on my blog! Two years! So what have I been up to, you ask? (I know you didn’t but thanks for playing along.)
Let’s see, family wise, one son has moved on to college, and another onto middle school. No big drama there. The hardest part was learning AIM and how to add buddies.
Work wise, there are no new books in the publishing pipeline, but a few manuscripts are making the rounds. I’ve written an upper middle grade/younger YA novel about a house I use to live in that was built by circus performers. A circus theme plays a major part in the story line. Since I’m the queen of the 2,000 word picture books (that’s too long for those of you that don’t know) I decided to try a novel instead. It was a blast! Who knew I had so much to say? Okay, that’s my family you hear groaning in the background. Cough! cough!
This summer I attended a workshop with Executive Editor, Judy O’Malley of Charlesbridge, on shopping around your manuscript and what editors are looking for. It was held at the Writer’s Studio, owned by my friend Joyce Johnson . That was very enlightening and gave me the push I needed. Next, I attended a Writer’s Schmooze at the Poland Spring’s Campground, run by my writing friend Tami Wight. The Editor was Andrea Tompa from Candlewick who was delightful and very down-to-earth. Lastly, I’ll be attending Kindling Words East at the end of January, a retreat for working writers, illustrators and editors. Should be fun.
Illustration work has been pretty quiet. I had a piece in the July 2007 issue of Spider, and illustrated a book cover for Random House. The novel is called “Love Me Tender” by Newbery Honor author Audrey Couloumbis and will be out April 22, 2008. I had great fun coming up with the Elvis figure. I also did lots of good work for a very large office supply company.
This is the newest addition to our family—an Amphicar! An Amphi-what! you ask? It’s an amphibious car made in Germany in 1964. My husband was in search of a hobby and has wanted one one of these cars since he was a kid. He’s been working on it for almost two years now and nearly done. In this photo you see the new white wall tires.
In this photo, you can see my husband’s car in the center, along with two friends and their amphis. If you look closely you will see the dual propellors under the rear bumpers. These kooky . . . er . . . kool guys get together and go for swims together (called swim-ins), stopping traffic and causing accidents wherever they go.

My oldest son, college boy, has become First Mate to my husband, the Captain. Hey! I thought that was my job! He’s also the videographer and webmaster. He’s even bought a sweet sun umbrella that matches the amphi perfectly. A chip-off-the-old-block I’d say! Picture to follow on another day.

And here’s my husband swimming (that’s what they call it) with his car in our local lake. In case you were wondering, the car can go 70 mph on land and 7 mph in the water.

Take a peek at the website my son (the college boy) designed for more amphi phun— Some of the videos there have also been uploaded to youtube.

More catching up to follow.

Writing Update

Today is the day that I send in my “Ocean Mary of Londonderry” manuscript to my publisher. Back on the research trail, I’ve been traveling around the state to various libraries and historical societies tracking down those elusive pieces of the pirate’s silk, to reconcile them with the differing descriptions. What fun! I also have appointments with the Museum of NH History and the DAR Museum in Washington, DC to discuss the silk and get their opinions.

None of this research will change the tale one iota, as I’m fairly confident that I have the facts correct. But I feel it’s important to list in the foreward which elements are fact and which are conjecture. Also, if I wait until the research is all done, I will never send it in! Mary Wilson is one elusive character! I have yet to connect Mary specifically to the pirate attack. There is only circumstantial evidence but it’s pretty overwhelming. And as far as the silk goes, it will be a leap of faith.

So my little manuscript baby, off you go! I wish you well. Godspeed. Bon Voyage.

Winnie Dancing on Her Own by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
A lovely little first chapter book with sweet illustrations by Alissa Imre Geis (love this girl’s website! I want to be her when I grow up.) Just perfect!

The Irish Dresser by Cynthia G. Neale
A great novel by a fellow Granite Stater. We met while doing book signing events.

The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
I liked the plot well enough but I had problems with the POV. It starts out in 3rd person omnitient. The next 4 chapters are in first person, one chapter for each member of the team, then switches back to omnitient for the rest of the book. Yet Mrs. Olinski didn’t get her own chapter, to tell her own story. And Julian’s chapter (probably the most interesting character in the book) doesn’t ring true to his character that was set up in other chapters. To be honest, most of the book is back story, which can be annoying when you want to get on with the real story. (Okay, I hear my crit group snickering because everything I write is backstory! That point isn’t lost on me.)

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Ironically, I read two survival stories in a row. Both were young boys, but in Hatchet the MC was on his own. In Beaver, the MC had an Indian help him out. I thought Hatchet would be boring since there were no other characters, but it wasn’t. A plot twist or cliffhanger at the end of each chapter helped. In Beaver, the relationship between the Indian and the boy was interesting to see develop, until the Indian finally respected the growth of the MC. It’s the same with Hatchet except it was the MC who finally found pride in what he had accomplished.

The only problem I had was with the ending. I wish it had been treated as part of the story instead of an epilogue. It was mostly telling, not showing. And the big secret was a bit of a let down. I would have preferred the MC about to tell his father, then decide not to because of the maturing he had done while stranded.

This is just too much fun. It’s loads of fun clicking on the words and dragging them around.

Books by Marsha Qualey


Earlier this year, I picked up several ARCs at ALA in Boston. One that I enjoyed very much was Just Like That by Marsha Qualey. I don’t want to give away too much but it’s about a young woman who was the last person to see a young couple alive. Their disturbing death sends her reeling, until she finds someone else that understands her feelings. A boy. The boy who found their bodies. The story of their relationship and bond is touching and poignant. I highly recommend this book.

I liked it so much, I checked out another book by Marsha. What do you get when you mix one ex-junkie, one Prince-someday-to-be-King and an all-nighter? One Night. I enjoyed it almost as much as Just Like That. If you haven’t read anything Marsha Qualey, give her a try.