Posts Tagged ‘Gunpowder and Tea Cakes’

Telling Everyone’s Stories

June 15, 2017

I have been visiting Williamsburg for 50 years. When I was a kid, most of the stories told were about the white men who struggled and took enormous risks in their effort to create an independent country. What our Founding Fathers did was amazing and important.

But there are other stories to tell, too. One of the pleasures of each return visit is seeing what new programs have been developed. A change I love? Having the opportunity to learn about all kinds of people who lived in or visited Williamsburg in the 1770s.

When I was researching Gunpowder and Tea Cakes:  My Journey With Felicity, I visited an exhibit that helped visitors understand the importance of religion and spirituality among black people living in Virginia, enslaved and free. Learning about the religious beliefs of enslaved people is challenging, because they left few artifacts or other records behind.

Sometimes sailors brought certain meaningful shells or other items from Africa, and sold them to black people in Virginia.

“Ritual Objects: When they adapted or crafted ritual objects from natural or found materials, slaves sought a direct connection to the natural world and its power.”

This gentleman talked with me about religion and faith among free blacks and enslaved people. Some became Christians. Others tried to keep in touch with African culture, or perhaps blended the two.

I also had the opportunity to attend a play that humanized the pain of an enslaved family torn apart. This black actress portrayed an enslaved woman who thought she had a close relationship with the woman who owned her…

…until she learned that she was going to be separated from her child.

A real highlight of my visit was attending a program where I learned about the importance of music within the black community—especially in slave quarters.  African music helped them feel connected to their homeland. For those who converted to Christianity, singing spirituals gave them hope.

African music is about rhythm. Large drums were sometimes prohibited by slave owners, who feared they might be used for communication (for example, to share information about an uprising.)

Some songs from the time period have lasted. Many songs were private, however, and have not been preserved.

It isn’t always easy to interpret difficult topics such as slavery.  The relationships among enslaved people, free blacks, and white residents in Colonial Williamsburg were complicated.  (Native Americans too! But that’s another story.) I’m grateful to all of the researchers, program planners, and interpreters who today provide a more complete glimpse of Colonial Williamsburg in all its complexity. Everyone’s story is important!

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Some of what I discovered became things that the main character discovered in Gunpowder and Tea Cakes:  My Journey With Felicity.  You can learn more on my website.

 

 

A Revolutionary Giveaway – Winners!

March 9, 2017

Congratulations to Chris Swoboda!  Chris’s name came out of the hat as a winner in my Revolutionary Giveaway.  The other six winners entered via my Facebook Author Page.

Chris, please contact me privately via my website form.

Thanks to all who entered!

For more information about Gunpowder and Tea Cakes:  My Journey With Felicity, click HERE.

For more information about Betrayal at Cross Creek, click HERE.

A Revolutionary Giveaway!

March 7, 2017

Did you know I’ve written two American Girl books set during the Revolutionary War? In addition to Gunpowder and Tea Cakes: My Journey With Felicity, I wrote a mystery called Betrayal at Cross Creek.

I’m celebrating by giving away seven sets of both books, signed and personalized. To enter, leave a comment below by midnight, Wednesday March 8. Winners will be announced on Thursday afternoon. Winners will be selected at random from all entries here and on my Facebook Author Page.

Good luck!

Colonial Girls At Work

February 23, 2017

While doing research for Gunpowder and Tea Cakes:  My Journey With Felicity, I discovered that a few girls in colonial Williamsburg may have been doing work I once thought was open only to boys.  Cool!

Certainly, girls were involved in traditional roles. I had the chance to ask interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg questions about cooking, for example.

The kitchen at Great Hopes Plantation.

The kitchen at Great Hopes Plantation.

And I saw several young women working in a dressmaker’s shop. Milliners specialized in making hats, and mantua-makers stitched gowns and accessories. Like all skilled trades, this work usually required an apprenticeship.

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An experienced seamstress would hire younger women, and teach them her skills.

Colonial Williamsburg has a modern program that allows men and women to become apprentices and learn a specific skill.  After learning the basics, apprentices graduate to journeywoman or journeyman status. The most skilled may one day become masters and run a shop.

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Hard at work.

 

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An example of the fashions produced in such a shop.

I also saw several women who were apprentices in nontraditional roles. The young woman below was in the 2nd year of a 7-year apprenticeship at a joinery.  Joiners produced things like window frames, doors, and shutters.

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Apprentices usually started at age 14. They had to be tall enough to work at the bench, and spent 12-hour days in the shop.

 

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A master craftsman would rule a shop like this. A journeyman, who had some skills but had not finished his or her apprenticeship, would help train the apprentices.

I discovered female apprentices learning to make wagon wheels,

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An apprentice watches as the master craftsman checks her saw.

 

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The final product.

and tinware.

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The man interpreting here told me that he’s not aware of official female tinsmith apprentices in the colonies, but he has seen women mentioned in records—probably all family members who learned the trade from their husband or father.

 

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Some of the finished products, ready for sale.

And this woman was helping a man make a saddle in the military artificer’s shop.  (An artificer, pronounced ar-TI-fi-cer, had the skills to make different items the army needed.)

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“There were women in almost all the trades, if help was needed and they could do the work,” one interpreter told me.

If you had lived in colonial times, would you have wanted to become an apprentice? What skill would you like to learn?

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Gunpowder and Tea Cakes

To learn more about Gunpowder and Tea Cakes:  My Journey with Felicity, click here

 

Gunpowder and Tea Cakes

February 15, 2017

Gunpowder and Tea Cakes is my first book about Felicity Merriman, the American Girl character who lives during the Revolutionary War. It also features a modern girl who travels back in time and meets Felicity in her home town of Williamsburg, Virginia.

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This was a special project.  I’ve been visiting Williamsburg for a long time!

That's me proudly wearing a tricorn hat in Williamsburg when I was about six years old.

That’s me proudly wearing a tricorn hat in Williamsburg when I was about six years old.

Colonial Williamsburg is a living history museum—the largest in the world! Historians saved many old buildings there and restored them to look as they did in Felicity’s time. Interpreters wearing reproduction clothing help visitors understand what life was like for the people living there over two hundred years ago.

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Williamsburg was the capital of the Virginia colony. Some of the things that happened there led to the Revolutionary War between Great Britain and the American colonies. After American Girl invited me to write this book, I went back to Colonial Williamsburg to do research.

In this picture, a man who is ready to fight the British is arguing with a man who wants to try harder to work problems out peacefully.

A volunteer soldier who is ready to fight the British argues with a man who wants to work problems out peacefully. This type of program helps visitors understand the conflict.

I learned a lot about the Revolutionary War, but I also needed to know everyday things, such as how to describe the city…

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Two riders travel down the Duke of Gloucester Street in front of old homes and shops.

and Felicity’s father’s store.

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The items on the shelves all might have been sold in the Merrimans’ store.

I visited busy kitchens,

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An interpreter demonstrating cooking over an open fire.

and shops.

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The shoemaker at work.

 

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This lady is an expert wigmaker.

I especially wanted to learn what life was like for girls like Felicity in the 1770s.

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Flying a kite on the Duke of Gloucester Street.

 

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The type of doll Felicity might have played with.

I also paid attention to what kids visiting today were most interested in.

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A young visitor asks an interpreter a question at the apothecary.

 

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Two girls getting into the spirit of colonial life in their pretty hats!

As I explored Williamsburg, I started imagining scenes I wanted to write.  Since Gunpowder and Tea Cakes is a time-travel book, I also imagined how a modern girl might react to everything.

And I asked lots and lots of questions.  The interpreters I met were great!

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Before writing the book I did lots of other kinds of research too. But we’re lucky that Colonial Williamsburg exists as a living museum, to help provide just a glimpse of an important time in America’s history.

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