Gifts of Story
The first is the story of Jim Limber. I was as at a Civil War reenactment with my books a few years ago and visited with the reenactor who portrays Varina Davis, wife of the Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In keeping with her character she complained to me how unfair people are in their judgment of her. Southerners don’t trust her since she’s from the North. She writes letters to her northern family daily and it’s rumored she’s a Union spy dressed in petticoats. She turned to me and asked, “What do you say about Jim Limber?” I’d never heard of him and had no answer. “Well, let me tell you the truth about that right now,” she said. I listened to ...
The second was the story of The Blue-Eyed Doll. It went to contract in 2013, and will be out 2016. I was under a reenactor’s shelter in Buchanan, VA, on a cold rainy day, not selling many books, when a Japanese Haiku professor from Roanoke College told me about the Friendship Doll Exchange in 1929. I’ve no idea how that topic came up. She gave it to me like a gift! Monday morning I began the research and discovered a professor at Wesleyan University has an extensive website about the dolls. He sent me two out of print books, one I needed to return and one I could keep. He read my second draft, corrected data and made suggestions. His books were a gold mine for me. Before long I was in Roanoke visiting my new friend Kinuko, looking at dolls at Roanoke Fine Arts Museum and on to the Science and Natural History Museum in Raleigh to see one of the Japanese Ambassador Dolls. Though the book won’t be released until 2016, I already have four engagements at museum homes to the dolls in my story.
I’m so grateful to have heard these two stories and be able to write them. It’s a fun way to learn history, and for that reason I’m committed to writing good historical fiction for young readers, stories that creep up on them, history in disguise. I love it when they get to the last page and breathe, “Is that real? Is that a true story?” They are surprised to learn, “It’s history.”