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.
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.
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.
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.