Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spreading the News!

It's up to us, you know. 
A book doesn't sell itself.

Unless you happen to be a famous author whose reading public has been waiting months for your next bestseller.

For the rest of us with a new book about to hit the shelves, it's time to get on with spreading the news. For me, this is the hardest part of the whole process. Most of us would rather just keep writing. But we owe it to our book and all the hours we've put into it, and to the publisher who has put his faith, not to mention his finances, into bringing forth our creations.

My publisher has assigned me a publicist, and I'm grateful for that. For a while now she's been alerting the media, sending out press releases and review copies. But she also has a hundred other titles to promote, this year alone. So, the rest is up to me. Hence the long list of places to send my author flyer, bookstores to visit, libraries to contact, family and friends to invite to my events, announcements to make both online and in print, updates to prepare for my own website, and dates to keep track of on when to post on social media.

 I'm officially launching Molly Brant on May 2nd at Lighthouse Books in Brighton, Ontario, between noon and 2 p.m. Above is the invitation, so if you live in the area, consider yourself invited. We tied the launch into the Authors for Indies event already scheduled for May 2nd. I think that was a great idea. Sometimes we need to join forces, and since there will be people coming to the store that day anyway, why not?

Today, I'm being interviewed by the local press, and on Thursday, by the radio. On May 16th from noon till 2 p.m. I'm doing a book signing at Chapters, Belleville. And that, I hope, is just the beginning. 

Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cover designs

As soon as I saw the cover of Jane Urquhart's new book, The Night Stages, due to be released in April, I was struck by how similar the cover is to that on my middle grade novel, Growing Up Ivy, published by Dundurn in 2010.

Do you see it? Or is it only me?

Both stunning covers, anyway.  And I am happy to be in any kind of company that includes Jane Urquhart.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mohawk Friend and School Teacher - Celia B. File

Finding Celia

While I was researching Molly Brant for my upcoming book, I encountered another interesting woman. I would loved to have met her in person, but she was of my grandmother's generation. She died in 1973.

Celia B. File was born Celia Vandervoort in 1887 in Napanee, Ontario. As an adult she was a farmer's wife as well as a school teacher. For six years she taught at the Mohawk Central School at Tyendinaga.

That experience turned her preconceived, racist opinions of Native people upside down, so much so that she called the six years she spent living among the Mohawk the happiest years of her life. She was given a courtesy title by the Mohawk at Tyendinaga —Kanoerohnkwa — meaning the loving-hearted, for her unselfish devotion as a teacher, nurse, and friend.

* * *

It had seemed only logical for me to begin my research on Molly Brant at the Tyendinaga Mohawk Library. It was an easy forty-minute drive from my home. It was here that I learned about author and poet Beth Brant, who'd grown up at Tyendinaga with her father's family, and who had fairly recently returned to the library to work on a special project, collecting stories from the Mohawk elders. The end result of this was Brant's book titled I'll Sing Till the Day I die: Conversations with Tyendinaga Elders (McGilligan Books, Toronto, 1995).

Kanhiote – Tyendinaga Public Library. Photo from library's website.

One of the elders Brant interviewed recalled that during the 1920s there'd been a white woman teaching school on the Reserve. AND this woman was writing a book about Molly Brant. NOW I was really intrigued!

Who was this woman? And where was her book now? Was it ever published?

During the course of my investigation I learned that the teacher's name was Celia File and that what she was writing would become her Masters thesis in 1930.

She'd been teaching at Tyendinaga about three years when she became an extramural student at Queen's. Eventually she made the decision to become a full time student and said a sad goodbye to her little school and all her Native friends. She admitted that the love of study had gotten the upper hand.

In 1929 Celia B. File earned an honours degree in English and history and won the Sir James Aikens Fellowship in Colonial History. That meant her M.A. She'd spent a summer working at the Public Archives in Ottawa and she wrote that Molly Brant kept "thrusting herself into the limelight." Celia knew she had found the topic for her thesis.

Bust of Molly Brant at Rideaucrest Nursing Home, Kingston. 

When the thesis was accepted File wrote that she wouldn't say it was completed, for "the woman will not let me go." She had become obsessed with her subject,

It was only natural that she would go on to write a book. How disappointing to learn that before the book was published the manuscript was lost in a fire, while Celia was teaching at Oil Springs, Ontario. She never felt well enough to rewrite it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Confession

It's a bit late in my life to confess this, but writing is hard for me.
It doesn't come easily. Stories don't fly off the ends of my fingers onto the computer — or in my case, out the end of my pen; computers are for later drafts.

When I was a kid my head was full of story ideas. Now, not so much. I wonder if it is because I've since learned about all the elements a good story is supposed to have — conflict, inciting incident, a story arc. Am I worrying to much about this and blocking my creative flow, being forced into deliberate thinking?

But even before all the how-to books, I was never one of those brilliant writers who could hardly wait to finish one story to start the next, because they already knew what the next one, or the next half-dozen, was going to be about. I am envious of writers with such skill, and honestly, I don't want to hear about it.
It used to take me agonizing months of Morning Pages before I'd finally discover a character taking shape on the paper, someone I could feel empathy for and work with.

Maybe that is why I've lately preferred writing non-fiction and have published two biographies, with the third to be released in a few weeks. It's the research into the subject that has opened the doors and let me start a new project. I love the research. And maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Write on!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Is Anyone Home at Molly's House?

This was Molly Brant's house, her home during her happiest years. I like to think her spirit is still there.

It was here in 1763 that she and her partner, Sir William Johnson, moved their young family, even though construction on the manor house was not fully finished.

Molly and William had two young children at the time — Peter, who was four, and Elizabeth, just two years old. Baby Magdalene would be born that same year; perhaps Molly was pregnant during the move. 

Over the next eleven years more babies would arrive — Margaret, George, Mary, Susanna, and Anne. 

Johnson Hall, closed for the season.

 The family had moved from their former home, Fort Johnson (pictured below), on the Mohawk River, three miles west of Amsterdam, New York.
Fort Johnson

The new house, north and west of Fort Johnson, was nine miles back from the Mohawk. It was bigger and more elegant than Fort Johnson. 

Johnson Hall is a New York State Historic Site, open to the public. Currently, it is having some of its rooms refurbished. I recently saw pictures on the Facebook page of Johnson Hall State Historic Site that showed painting and other restorations being done in the children's room. 

The first children ever to use that room were those of Molly Brant. I love to imagine the halls of the stately home echoing with the sounds of Molly's children.

It was at Johnson Hall that Molly Brant proved her mettle as Mistress of the Manor. She and William hosted elaborate dinner parties and entertained visiting dignitaries, both white and Native. Sir William was Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern District and frequently held meetings with the Six Nations, right there on the grounds of Johnson Hall.
View of the back of Johnson Hall, showing one of the two stone blockhouses.

Approaching Johnson Hall from the side, showing first of two stone blockhouses. 

 Molly lived at Johnson Hall until Sir William's death in 1774. After that, she took the children and returned to her Mohawk town of Canajoharie. 

Sir John Johnson, William's principal heir and the son of Catherine Weissenburg, moved his family into the manor house. In 1776, during the American Revolution, Sir John fled to Canada, and Johnson Hall fell into the hands of the Patriots.

For more on this story, Molly Brant, Mohawk Loyalist & Diplomat, available in April, 2015

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Molly Brant, Founding Member

St. George's Anglican Cathedral, Kingston.

Did you know that Molly Brant, the subject of my upcoming biography, was the only female founding member of St. George's Anglican Church in Kingston. Ontario?

The idea of such a thing would've have been beyond the wildest imaginings of the Native girl, born in 1736 in poverty, in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. But here's how it came about:

The Rev. John Stuart, a Loyalist refugee from New York and a missionary to the Mohawk community there and later, in Montreal, petitioned for land at Cataraqui in December 1783. He applied to become chaplain of the troops stationed at old Fort Frontenac.

Stuart arrived in the spring of 1784, around the same time as Molly Brant, then about forty-seven years of age, and her family. The Canadian government, in recognition and appreciation of the service Molly had given this country during and after the American Revolution, was building Molly a comfortable house in the town, and saw to her relocation from her former home on nearby Carleton Island.

There was no church building in Cataraqui (Kingston) when Stuart and Molly arrived, and the commanding officer allowed Stuart to use a large room in the garrison as a place of worship. Soon the local inhabitants, including Molly, began turning out for Sunday services.

Shortly, Stuart was writing his bishop that his congregation had grown so large that the room they were using above the barracks could scarcely hold them all. The Reverend began to raise funds for a new church, starting by donating the first ten pounds himself.

Among the names of those who contributed to the building fund was that of Molly Brant. She was the only woman in the 1792 founding charter of the first St. George's Anglican Church. A memorial plaque inside today's magnificent Cathedral Church of St. George tells the story.

You can read more about this remarkable woman in Molly Brant, Mohawk Loyalist & Diplomat, to be released in April of this year.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

"Molly Brant, Mohawk Loyalist & Diplomat" Lives!

Coming soon!

Available April, 2015.

Exciting News!! Last week I learned the production schedule for the publication of my latest book, Molly Brant, Mohawk Loyalist & Diplomat. 

It's been nine long months since I met the deadline for submitting the finished manuscript to Dundurn Press, my publisher. The contract between us had been signed early in January, 2014. I am really looking forward to getting back to work on it. I'm confident that Molly's story will come alive for me once more. She was a totally fascinating woman.

My editor tells me that the copy edit begins January 5, 2015, and that I will have the week of January 16–23 to review and approve of any changes. The book goes into design January 30th, and I will be able to review the typeset manuscript between February 6–13. This is the stage where it really starts to look like a finished book.

Late last summer, when I re-read the manuscript, fearing after all that time I might have forgotten what I'd written, I did a bit of fine tuning and began a list of subjects for the index of the book. The editors will complete the index, matching subjects to page numbers, February 20–27.

Then, it's off to the printers on March 9th. Further updates as I receive them. Stay tuned!