Why am I doing a booksigning in Wellsboro, PA?
I grew up in the small town of Painted Post, New York, a suburb of Corning, and actually our house was in Riverside between the two. We didn’t have a swimming pool but went to the local park pool and every summer my parents took us to Wellsboro beach in Pennsylvania. When I started to write Breadline Blue, I wanted to place him in the Appalachian region but not too far south because I wanted to be somewhat familiar with the territory. I chose the Wellsboro area as his birthplace and childhood home to fit my needs and also for personal nostalgia.
Now, I’m no spring chicken but I can walk four miles inside the local mall in under an hour, so I figured Blue could do that too. His home is a small farm about four miles outside town. His family owns a truck, of course, but as with my during the Depression, he and is father put it up on blocks and the family walks to church, and into town when they need anything. They grow most of what they need on their farm. They have a cow and a few chickens, trading eggs and chores for what they can’t buy.
I’ll be telling you more of their back-story and more about the book (no spoilers) in the days and weeks ahead. For now, I wanted to break my exciting news. Blue is going home! That’s right. From My Shelf Bookstore in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania is hosting us for a book event. And we’re really excited! It will be Friday, September 4 at 6pm. Our theme is all about Hobos and people are invited to dress down to the part.
FYI: The slang for the Hobo was “Bo.” A Hobo is someone who travels from place to place, not staying anywhere for long. He is homeless or has a wanderlust. A tramp is considered less than a hobo, unscrupulous, a cheat and often a criminal. Never call a bo a tramp unless you want a fight.
The idea for Breadline Blue came from when I sang with a band that did music from the Great Depression, The Blue Eagle String Band. I always wanted to sing with a band! One day, I saw an ad in the paper that they were looking for a female singing. I auditioned with "You are my Sunshine" and got the gig.
There were three of us, two men and myself. One of the guys played guitar and banjo, the other played guitar and mandolin. My fiddling wasn't good enough, or at least my confidence wasn't. I tried autoharp but I guess they didn't think that was so good. But I think I sang pretty good. We had a radio spot with WXRL and when we heard it played back, I did sound a lot like Rose Carter.
I convinced the guys to get dressed up and so did I. We looked and sounded the part. We played often at a local cafe. The whole idea was that was practice because the program was intended to be a historical presentation for schools and museums.
Anybody who has ever been in a band knows the whole band culture, and even though small and educational, stuff happens. I wasn't really privy to the "stuff," and just got notified that we weren't a group anymore. I was saddened by that, but enriched by the experience.
One of the tunes we played was titled Breadline Blues. The subject matter, other than being from the period, had nothing to do with my book, but I loved the title. I talked at length with our group leader who didn't think I could pull off the delicate issues of a young person riding the rails. He read the book and disagreed with himself. I DID pull it off, and with his blessing. For all the difficulties a band can have, he was well studied on the subject.
I learned a lot about the time period from the songs, from the band, and from my own research, too. It's a very important part of American history and my hope is Breadline Blue will inspire young people to know more about it. Did you know: At least 500,000 youth were homeless and on the road? That's relevant.
Mistakes happen. But when you are writing historical works, readers expect you to have done your homework. They trust you and they trust your facts. Nevertheless, authors are not mystical oracles--all knowing and all seeing. A responsible author will do everything in her power to make sure readers get the correct information, but mistakes do happen. It is so heartwarming when readers bring these to the author's attention without bad-mouthing the writer. Alas, for all my hard work and diligence, I too sometimes get it wrong. A reader recently contacted me to inform me of some facts gone awry in Native American and Pioneer Sites of Upstate New York. Two of the cited facts are still being checked by me, so I won't put them here, but one mistake was so glaring and so important to me that you know the correct information, I do want to share it. Chief Skenandoa was a great Iroquois leader and should be known by everyone for his work. But I said he is buried in Hamilton. You won't find him there because I was wrong. He is buried at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. An easy mistake as you can see, but a biggie. I apologize and hope you can now find him where he rests in the grave beside his good friend Kirkland.
Some writers I know only work on one book at a time. Others work on several diverse projects, such as a book, a poem, an article, which helps them keep things seperate. Still others juggle multiple projects of the same nature. I'm doing the latter now, with three book projects, two others working on the old back burner, and several on my to do list. Friends sometimes ask how this is possible, and I'm not sure I know exactly, but I'll give what I believe is the correct answer for my work.
One of my books is under contract right now. That is the New York State book for History Press and as such, it receives first priority. I know I have to do a predetermined amount of work each week, or even I feel guilty. The second book is a local man's biography. I have a verbal agreement of sorts with his wife, but no contract and no deadline. It would be easy to shirk on that one, but I am responsible and finally found the key to unlock the story. I give that project one day per week right now. It may get more as other projects subside and the biography begins to gather speed. The third book project is for the Crossroads series. These books are written, under contract and have deadlines, but are currently in the publisher's hands. When edits come in, it will be at the top of the list. In the meantime, I have a bibliography to work on right away. I expect the bibliography to be finished in two or three days. The back burner projects are additional books in the Breadline Blue series and many other stories and books on my list that I would like to work on when I have time.
The issue of time is important. If you're serious about being a storyteller or an author, you fill empty work allotted time with creating something new. That's what self-employed people do. Work time is work time, not shopping or sports or computer game time. Do make sure you schedule some "play" time and some self-maintenance time each week..
So in a nutshell, this is how you work on multiple projects, stay on task, meet deadlines, and still manage to create something. When a project is hot, such as the New York State book and the upcoming edits for Crossroads, many other things in life must take a backseat. I do very little, if any socializing at these times. However, the terrible experiences of the past three years has taught me how important health and relationships are. They do get some of my time also. Writing is my work, the rest is living. Always remember to do some living.
I have found, whether writing historical fiction or non-fiction, the amount of research is about the same. You need a firm foundation on which to build the story, but the "mapping" process may be slightly different.