Life as I know It

My photo
San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bones of a Book

Native California Flannel Bush (Fremontia) in full spring bloom.

Spring, and the promise of the new season, has given me a new strength of purpose. Work hard! Don't quit! Immerse yourself! Enjoy every step of the dance! Do the best and most creative work you can! Those are my mantras to myself, but I'm happy to share them with you.

Opening hearts of redbud. I press these leaves in the fall and use them for placecards at family meals.

Dear Friends,

So many wonderful e-mails and letters from you. I thank you for your well wishes, and yes, I will write about the process of the book as I work through my revisions and illustrations.

I haven't had the time to visit many of you, and I do apologize. As my deadline looms, I find that I am most peaceful when I work toward the finish line. Writing, drawing, and a bit of spring gardening= pure bliss.

Today we drew from all the readers who sent in comments on my last (very long lasting) blog posting. Check at the bottom of this short post to see if you were the lucky winner.

The Beginnings

Someone wrote and asked where I get my ideas. Well, ideas have never been the problem; it is sitting down and actually writing them that is the problem. Most of the time when an idea pops into my head, I write myself a reminder note, because although I always think I'll remember, it will get as lost as a needle in my floss basket.

Start saving all your great ideas for your future work. Start a journal or a notebook on your computer, but save the ideas so you can mine them for your writing. You won't regret the little bit of extra time you've spent recording thoughts and experiences. They're gold for a writer.

The ideas for this pre Civil War book came from my thorough drenching in history as told to me by my Grandmother Lovejoy. This portrait is of my great, great, grandmother Mary Ann Mitchell Baker, who was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1804.  She was daughter of John and Abigail Harlan (see our connection Cousin Julie Marie of Idyllhours?). This portrait hung above my Grandmother Lovejoy's couch. As Grandmother tied my shoe laces each morning, she would tell me stories of Mary Ann (who is wearing Quaker garb and a muslin cap), my Great Grandpa, who fought in the Pennsylvania Old Bucktails in the Civil War, and the family's trials and tribulations as they moved from Pennsylvania and Virginia to Pasadena, California, in the 1800s.

Why this time period?

In the late 60s, I journeyed to Virginia, where some of my had family settled in Goose Creek (now Lincoln) in the 1800s. I began copying letters that were stored in my great grandfather's suitcase and kept in my cousin's attic. Day after day, I copied letters into my notebook. I resumed recording them  again when I returned to her home in 1974.

History came alive for me when I read through these amazing letters, filled with not only life, but also the deaths of friends and family who fought in the Civil War. Sometimes, as I copied letters stained with blood, I would see the tears mixing with the ink in my journal. I sobbed as I read how my great, great uncle Aaron Baker had only a few days left before being discharged from The Pennsylvania Old Bucktails. He was shot at Spotsylvania Courthouse and carried off the battlefield by his brother Edwin and three other friends, who buried him in a nearby field.

Through these original pieces of history, written in the Quaker dialect of the family, I also learned how to write the book with authentic dialect of the times, with many colorful phrases of the people of the Virginia countryside. 

I learned, as I worked through these family memories and tragedies, how powerful the telling of history can and should be. I'll have to admit this painful fact– I was guilty of snoozing through many history classes. Was it me? Was it the way we were taught? I do know that rote memorization of dates and events never worked, but hand me a historical novel, or tell me a story, and my mind and heart opened wide.

This is what I want for the children. I want their minds and hearts to open wide to the fabric of our history. To learn how hatred can be transmitted like a virus, but can be "cured" with knowledge and love. 

So, this is a short, short posting, but I must get back to work.

Sending love across the miles to you all,


p.s. And the winner of the random drawing for the double Mayan hammock from Serenity Health and Home Decor is...

Julie Marie of Idyllhours

Julie is Grimy Hands Girls' Club member so she'll be receiving a bonus gift from me.

p.p.s. If you are along the California Central Coast on April 9th, come hear me talk about "The Bumpy Road to Fiction along the Non-fiction Pathway."

April 9, 2013, 7:00 p.m.
Talk and booksigning
PG&E Education Center
6588 Ontario Rd  
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
Open to the public, but limited seating.


Anonymous said...

I always enjoy reading your blog and to hear of how you get your inspiration is a treat, so interesting.Congratulations to the lucky winner!, happy spring to you!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

What a treasure to know so much about your ancestors and have these precious letters, Sharon. You will be preserving their legacy forever in your new book.

Thea said...

Lucky Julie! Sharon, that's such an interesting story in and of itself of how you copied all those letters. they've probably been brewing in you mind for a good long time and influencing your path. Amazing! Like you! xo t

Julie Marie said...

Dear Sharon... first off, I have missed you!... but I know how busy you are with your book and I am sooo excited to see updates in this post!... it brings tears to my eyes to read about your family, and the letters and what everyone went through during that time in history... love seeing the photo of your great~great~grandmother Mary Ann... and I love that we share a mutual cousin in Veni Harlan... I am going to email her tonight more about your upcoming book... I know she will be as thrilled as I am... I am sure you have been happy to spend some precious time in your gardens too... Happy Spring to you!... and my goodness!... I can't believe I won your giveaway!... I am beyond excited!... and I am so happy I am a member of your Grimy Hands Girls Club too!... I actually got out in my garden yesterday and got my hands REALLY grimy cleaning up winter's debris, and loved every minute of it!... thank you so much for putting my name in the drawing and for me being the lucky winner!... can't wait to relax in that hammock!... much love to you and Jeff, xoxo Julie Marie

Primitive Stars said...

Hi Sharon, love your blog, so very interesting.....Always enjoy your books too, This one will be so good, love history......Blessings Francine.

Nellie said...

Congratulations to lucky Julie!

I love your posts, Sharon. This one is particularly informative.

Spring is later arriving here this year. Enjoy your California weather!

Pondside said...

Family stories are the best stories. I look forward to seeing what you do with yours!

Lorrie said...

I love hearing about your writing process. The subject matter sounds fascinating - real life histories usually are. Looking forward to seeing the end result.

Susan said...

How exciting to start this project; I know it will be wonderful and I look forward to hearing of its progress. I also love seeing how your garden is beginning a new season...I'm a sucker for flowers:-D XOXO

Anonymous said...

Sharon - What a wonderful story! I have old letters from the same period but they are in northern New York and Ohio and the family was separated while my great-great-grandfather tried to find work and a new home for his family. The people in the old pictures have really come alive for me. Best wishes on your newest journey! Sharon from Maine

Mim said...

what a treasure those letters are - and how wonderful to pull this all together into a book. very much looking forward to seeing the end product.

AnaGF said...

Hi Sharon, So good to read your posts again and hear about the progress of your new book! I wish you a wonderful Spring and the best inspiration for your work.

Vicki Boster said...

Dearest Sharon- it's so wonderful to take a peek into your creative insights. I've loved reading about your love of history and how you've channeled that into your projects. I love that your journal-- me too-- always thinking, always finding ideas everywhere I go-- in everything I do.

I'm so excited for your newest book-- I already know it's going to be amazing!! I'm happy that another dream is coming true for you.

Congrats to Julie-/ what a special lady she is-- I'm so glad she won!!

Sending love-

Maria said...

Sharon, I love your message: "hatred can be transmitted like a virus, but can be "cured" with knowledge and love". Beautiful.

Terra said...

How good family history is inspiring you to write this new book, and that you copied family letters to preserve family history. How sad a relative died in the Civil War just before he would have returned home.

jerilanders said...

As a lover of history myself, I am very excited for your journey through the past with the writing of your new book. Children need History, it helps to define us as a people, as Americans. My thoughts are with you as you create! I am just finishing up my book, 2 years in progress... I need a rest.

Dee Nash said...

Beautifully said dear Sharon. Just beautiful.~~Dee

Marcie said...

I become more excited about the book every time you post about your writing process. In your working frenzy, I hope you are finding a little time in the garden, dear Sharon. Take care!