Posts Tagged ‘Caroline Abbott’

Giveaway Winners

December 1, 2017

Congratulations to Bethany Davis, Deborah Schindler Dingledy, Stephanie Romig, Rosanne Tucker-Gilliam, Madelon Willard, and Michelle Vechinsky! Each of these Giveaway winners will receive a complete set of six signed, personalized, first-release Caroline Books, published by American Girl.

Winners were chosen at random from all entries here on Sites & Stories and on my Facebook Author page.  Thanks to all who entered!

Farewell Caroline

May 5, 2015

American Girl has announced that Caroline Abbott, the 1812 character I created, will be archived.

While I am, of course, disappointed with the decision to retire Caroline, I am grateful to have amazing and wonderful memories.

The Caroline books led me to many historic sites in the United States and Canada. Visiting Sackets Harbor, New York, has been extra special because it is Caroline’s home town.

Kathleen Ernst at Sackets Harbor NY

I’ve also visited American Girl stores from coast to coast. The store associates are consistently awesome.

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But the very best part of the experience has been meeting, and hearing from, so many incredible girls (and boys) and their families. I’ve had the privilege of meeting hundreds of young readers who are smart, kind, and excited about reading and history.

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From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

 

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When American Girl shares more details about their plans, I’ll pass them on.

I do have several Caroline programs on my schedule, including my final visit to Sackets Harbor in July! As always, you can find details on the Calendar page of my website.

Caroline’s Quilt – Part 2

March 24, 2015

It took a long time to piece or appliqué a quilt in Caroline’s day.  In Traitor in the Shipyard, friends help Caroline and Rhonda complete a beautiful quilt top. In the new Caroline mystery, The Smuggler’s Secrets, Caroline presents the quilt top to her cousin Lydia:

“Oh, thank you, Caroline.” Lydia’s eyes were shining. “Sometimes this little cabin feels quite dreary. Now I have something cheerful to look at every single day.”

But the quilt itself was not complete. A quilt is like a sandwich, and the pieced quilt top was the top slice of bread.  Caroline and Lydia also needed a bottom slice of bread, which was often plain cloth.

In places with cold winters, the middle layer was usually made of wool. In the spring, farmers sheared their sheep.  It was a lot of work to clean the wool, pick out snarls, and comb out the fibers.

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This 1883 painting shows a girl combing wool to remove tangles and get all the fibers running in the same direction. (Girl Carding Wool, by Maria Wilk)

Once enough wool had been cleaned and combed, the layers of the quilt could be put together. Women spread the bottom layer on a big wooden frame, arranged the combed wool, and then carefully put the pretty quilt top in place.

Then the three layers needed to be stitched together. These are called quilting stitches.

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The women who made this quilt stitched straight lines through the blue and white blocks, but added a pretty quilted pattern in the open areas.

The frame was propped up at a height that was comfortable for women to sit and sew.

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A Quilting Party, by Enoch Wood Perry, 1876.

A lot of stitches were needed to hold the layers together. In Caroline’s day, girls and women often invited friends to quilting bees. The work went faster, and everyone enjoyed catching up on the news while they sewed.

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Quilting Bee, by Henry Mosler. It was painted about 1890, but shows an earlier time.

With luck and hard work, the quilting might be completed in a day. In the 1813 painting below, the woman on the left is removing a quilt from a quilting frame, and it looks as if a party is going to begin.

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The Quilting Frolic, by John Lewis Krimmel.

Quilting bees aren’t as common as they were two hundred years ago, but  they still sometimes take place. The photo below was taken at my house in 1983, when I worked at Old World Wisconsin. My friends and I had pieced a quilt top at the historic site, but the season ended before we had a chance to finish it. It was fun, and the finished quilt was beautiful.

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Whenever I see an old quilt, I wonder about the girls and/or women who made it. I know it took a lot of hours to complete, but I hope they also took joy in producing something both useful and beautiful.

Caroline’s Pocket

March 5, 2015

Did you know that pockets weren’t always sewn into clothes? Girls in Caroline’s day most likely used tie-on pockets.

Temptation:  Fruit Stall, Victoria and Albert Museum

In this painting, the woman has pulled up her skirt so she can reach into her pocket, which is tied on over her petticoat. (Temptation: Fruit Stall, Victoria and Albert Museum.)

In The Smuggler’s Secrets, my new mystery, Caroline has a problem when she travels to Lydia’s farm:

Caroline climbed to the loft and dug through her valise. She had no trouble finding her handkerchief, but… “Oh, feathers!” she said, frustrated.

“What’s wrong?” Lydia called.

Caroline came back down. “I forgot to bring a pocket. I do wish that pockets were just sewn into our skirts!” That would be so much nicer. She had two pockets at home that she’d stitched of cotton and decorated with embroidery. She usually tied one around her waist so it hung over her petticoat, hidden under her skirt. A little slit in the seam of her skirt let her reach into the pocket.

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In this political cartoon, you can clearly see the big pockets two women are wearing on top of their aprons. (Scandal Refuted, or Billingsgate Virtue. Collection Guildhall Library, Artist C. Williams, 1818; Reference Number v9045412, Collage 18969)

Caroline usually wears her pocket beneath her skirt, but she chooses to wear one over her skirt during a quilting bee. Doing so let her keep thread, thimble, and needle case handy.

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In this painting, a girl has reached beneath her apron to get coins.

In The Smuggler’s Secrets, Caroline makes a new patchwork pocket using scraps of cloth. I was inspired by this original pocket, which is on display at the Genessee Country Village & Museum in New York.

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If you’ve read The Smuggler’s Secrets, you know that a pocket like this one got Caroline into trouble!  (Susan Greene Historic Clothing Collection, Genessee Country Village & Museum.)

Next time you put something in your pocket for safekeeping, think how much more complicated it was to tuck things away in Caroline’s time!

Coming Attractions – 2015

January 3, 2015

Happy New Year! I hope you have lots of good things on the horizon. Here are some things I’m looking forward to in 2015:

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1.  New books! I have three titles being published this year.

First, due February 28, The Smuggler’s Secrets:  A Caroline Mystery from American Girl.

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The War of 1812 is still raging when Caroline goes to visit her cousin Lydia and Uncle Aaron’s farm deep in the woods. While there, she finds evidence that someone is smuggling precious supplies to the British. She can’t believe anyone would help the enemy during wartime! Even worse: could the traitor be her own uncle?

Writing this mystery let me explore some fascinating topics that didn’t fit into the original Caroline stories. I’ll have lots more to share about Caroline’s adventures here on Sites and Stories in the coming weeks, and on my website too.

Second, due in September, A Settler’s Year:  Pioneer Life through the Seasons, from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. This book features lots of first-hand accounts from Wisconsin’s early Yankee and European settlers, and is illustrated by gorgeous photos taken by Loyd Heath at Old World Wisconsin. The combination is, I think, quite evocative.  This will be my first nonfiction title in over a decade!

And third, the 6th Chloe Ellefson mystery, Death on the Prairie, will be published by Midnight Ink in October. I haven’t quite finished that one, so—more later.

2.  Connecting with readers!

I love meeting readers in person, and am currently scheduling library visits and other events for the coming year. You can always see what’s going on by visiting the calendar page of my website.

I also have some new ideas about connecting with readers online this year, here on Sites and Stories and on my Facebook page.

All details will be shared in my quarterly newsletters. Not on my mailing list?  Sign up here.

And, if you haven’t visited my website lately, you’re missing lots of enhanced features to help readers explore the world behind every book.

3.  Thanking readers!

Tradition of Deceit:  A Chloe Ellefson Mystery, published last fall, was my 30th title. I was too busy to celebrate, and to thank readers for making that benchmark possible. Within the next week or so I’ll post details of a very special giveaway.

I’ll also be sharing more behind-the-scenes glimpses of the stories that inspired Tradition of Deceit here in the coming weeks and months.

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Thanks for staying connected, and happy reading!

It’s Up To You!

August 21, 2014

I’ve loved to read for as long as I can remember. When I was nine or ten, I decided that if reading books was so much fun, writing my own stories would be even better. In a few months my 30th title will be published!

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That’s me, lost in a book.

People often ask if my editors at American Girl tell me what to write. No, they don’t. Although I work with a great team of people who help make each book the best it can be, I make up my own stories. I decide what my characters should do.

Peg Ross, my editor, spends a lot of time combing through my manuscripts to make sure the stories are clear.  We've worked on 15 books together!

Here’s Peg Ross, my editor, making notes on one of my manuscripts.

Until now, that is. Catch The Wind:  My Journey With Caroline offers many opportunities for you to decide what the characters should do!

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Imagine yourself transported back to Sackets Harbor during the War of 1812. Would you want to leave at once, or would you stay a while? If you saw an enemy ship, would you give chase or go for help? If your best friend was going on a raid, would you tag along or decide it was too dangerous?

In Catch The Wind, you get to decide all of those things—and make lots more choices too. When you finish the book, you might even want to go back and see what happens if you make different choices.

Catch The Wind was the first Choose Your Own Adventure story I’ve ever written. I drew diagrams to help keep everything straight.

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Here’s one of my early diagrams. The numbers refer to different scenes.

Catch The Wind Outline

Here’s part of the graphic organizer my editor made to help us make sure the story flowed properly.

I loved having the opportunity to explore lots of plot ideas and possibilities. I was able to include some situations I didn’t have room to include in the original Caroline stories.

So settle down with the book, and settle in for an adventure that has lots of twists and turns. It’s all up to you!

Time Travel

August 5, 2014

I’ve been curious about the past ever since I was a little girl.

I can't remember if this was my first grade or second grade school photo.

I read lots of historical novels. When my family visited historic sites, I imagined myself living there long ago.

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That’s me, taking a carriage ride at Williamsburg, about 1965.

If you’ve read the original Caroline stories, have you ever wished you could actually meet her? When I was writing the first seven Caroline books, I often wished I could get a real peek at Sackets Harbor as it was during the War of 1812.

Well, that’s the idea that inspired American Girl to create a new kind of adventure for their historical characters.  Catch The Wind:  My Journey With Caroline is a story I wrote about a modern girl who travels back in time and meets Caroline!

Catch The Wind Can you imagine what it would be like to suddenly find yourself in Sackets Harbor, New York, after the war started? How would you feel? What questions would you ask? And after you made friends with Caroline, what kind of adventures would you have?

I had a lot of fun writing Catch The Wind.  I hope you have just as much fun reading it!

A New Look—and a New Book!—for Caroline

June 17, 2014

As some readers know, American Girl is giving the Caroline books, and books about their other historical characters, a new look.  Here’s the scoop.

A company spokesperson explains the update:  “Our new BeForever books feature our beloved historical characters in a new format designed to appeal to girls who like high adventure and contemporary fiction.”

The first six Caroline books will be repackaged as two longer volumes. Meet Caroline,  Caroline’s Secret Message, and A Surprise For Caroline will be presented  as Captain of the Ship:  A Caroline Classic.

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And Caroline Takes a Chance, Caroline’s Battle, and Changes for Caroline will be presented as Facing the Enemy:  A Caroline Classic.

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Those titles will be released on August 28.

On the same day, American Girl will release my brand new Caroline book!

Have you ever wished you could travel back in time and meet Caroline? A modern girl gets to do just that in Catch The Wind:  My Journey With Caroline.

Catch The Wind

What if you suddenly found yourself in Caroline’s world, right in the middle of the War of 1812? How would it feel to know your home is under attack—and how would you stay strong during such a scary time?

Join Caroline on adventures where the two of you could find ways to help the Americans win, confront a possible spy, or even plunge headfirst into ice-cold Lake Ontario! Your journey back in time can take whatever twists and turns you choose, as you select from a variety of exciting options in this multiple-ending story.

I’ll have lots more to share about Catch The Wind as the publication date draws closer. And as always, you can find information, photos, and behind-the-scenes news about the books on the American Girl page of my website. Happy reading!

 

Special Events for American Girl Fans

April 28, 2014

I’ve got some great events scheduled for American Girl fans in June, and I’d love to see you!

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June 6, American Girl Place, New York City

I’ll be meeting readers and signing books from 11 AM – 1 PM.

 

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June 7-8,  Sackets Harbor Battlefield Historic Site, Sackets Harbor, New York
I’ll be participating in a Lawn Party on June 7th, and leading a workshop for young writers on June 8. Come see Caroline’s home town!

Pre-registration is required. To register for either of these events: 315-646-3634; Constance.Barone@parks.ny.gov

Kathleen Ernst Sackets Harbor

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June 14, Fort McHenry National Monument, Baltimore, Maryland 
I’ll be participating in a special program, and signing books, from 10 AM – 12 PM. There will be other festivities as well. Come celebrate Flag Day at the site that inspired our national anthem!

Tickets are required. Visit the Friends of Fort McHenry site for more information.

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June 15, Riversdale House Museum, Riverdale Park, Maryland
I’ll be joining readers for a party at 1:30. Riversdale, a National Historic Landmark, was built between 1801-1807, and guided tours are available. I’m excited about visiting a beautiful home that was standing during Caroline’s time!

Registration by June 2 is required for the tea party. Call 301-864-0420.

 

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I’ll be visiting a handful of other American Girl stores this summer, so watch my calendar page for more information.  I hope to see you soon!

 

 

Brick Bake Ovens

March 12, 2014

After I posted instructions for making sourdough bread starter from scratch—just as Caroline Abbott might have done—several readers asked about the type of oven Caroline would have used.  She and Grandmother used a brick bake oven.

Women used these bake ovens for centuries.  While visiting historic sites that interpret the period, I talked with several interpreters about foodways during Caroline’s era.

Old fort Niagara Kitchen

This interpreter was cooking in a kitchen at Old Fort Niagara.

For anyone using a brick bake oven, building a fire inside the oven was the day’s first chore. It took hours to heat the bricks.

Old Fort Niagara Kitchen

Can you see the small oven door in the back of the fireplace?

The arrangement at Old Fort Niagara (shown above) made the best use of the fire itself. When the oven was hot enough, coals were raked into the hearth and could be used for other cooking.

Old Fort Niagara bread

These round loaves were probably baked directly on the bricks.

The interpreter at Fort George National Historic Site, in Ontario, had a slightly different arrangement (below). Her oven is off to the side, which meant she didn’t have to lean over the fire to tend the oven.

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The oven door is the dark shape on the right side of the photo. This was much safer, and more comfortable, than having the door behind the main cooking fire.

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Using a bake oven was a big job, so smaller things—like these small cakes (cookies)—could be baked on a griddle hanging over the fire.

I learned to use brick bake ovens in my own interpreter days at Old World Wisconsin. In the photo below, the oven door is open. When the oven was hot enough, I’d use a hoe-type tool to rake  the coals and ashes into a chamber below.  (In the photo, that opening is covered with the board below the oven door.)  Later I’d open the little floor-level door  below the oven and shovel the cold ashes out.

Old World Wisconsin Schottler

Old World Wisconsin Schottler Kathleen Ernst

That’s me, explaining the process to visitors.

I used the long-handled paddle leaning against the wall to the left of the oven to place the bread dough into the oven, and remove the finished loaves. The length of the pole gives you an idea of how big the oven is!

Experienced bakers knew how to get the most out of a hot oven. When the bread came out, smaller items such as coffeecakes went in.  When they were done, there just might be enough heat left to bake a pan or two of cookies.

This kitchen is at a farm restored to 1875, which has a modern cookstove. So why would someone still use a bake oven? Perhaps she needed a dozen loaves to feed a hungry farm crew, as we did the day this picture was taken.

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All from a single baking.

It took some practice to get the hang of using a brick bake oven. But one taste of hot, crusty bread spread with homemade butter made it all worthwhile.