At the beginning of my writing career I wrote a story fictionalizing the life of a thirteen year old boy, Joseph Onderdonk, an ancestor who lived through real events during the American Revolution. Joseph witnessed British soldiers occupying Long Island and was forced to serve as a carter for the British barracks. Joseph's father wouldn't allow him to fight with the Continentals because he was needed on the farm. His story gets to the heart of what it felt like to be a boy struggling between liberty and loyalty. His father was imprisoned on New York Island for tyranny against the crown, and I fitionalized Joseph's part in his rescue from prison. I created many other fictional adventures for him during the first year of the revoulution, but at the end of the war Joseph was an actual witness of George Washington and his army's triumphant return to New York; authenticated by true accounts found in letters and family books.
This book, entitled The Red Cockade, won First Award at a Southeastern Writers conference and was chosen by a small publisher as a component of a History Project proposal for an NEH grant. Discouraged when the grant was not received I put The Red Cockade on a shelf and began to write adult fiction. Though I have been successful with historical fiction and a contemporary series, the book of my heart, The Red Cockade never left my mind.
I applied for and received a partial grant to attend a four day Highlights Foundation Workshop in Honesdale Pennsylvania. The workshop was Editing For Writers taught by Stephen Roxburgh. It was a writer's dream come true. Only six participants in an intensive retreat, meeting for meals, sharing in group activities and each having four one-on-one meetings with Stephen about the material we sent in our application( mine was The Red Cockade). The exercises provided help with clarity, concision and impact of our writing. I learned much from our teacher and the group discussions. I was fortunate to be housed in the beautifull Boyd's Mills Press farmhouse where all meals and meetings took place. The gourmet meals, friendly staff and ambiance were long remembered.
Back home I tried revising The Red Cockade in first person. I submitted my polished edition to four children's publishers, with no takers. I came to the realization that it probably was the wrong time for a historical about the Revolution. The market was flooded with fantasies, witches and vampire stories. However, one thing bout editing stayed with me from the workshop, "your writing requires patience, practice and commitment." Even though I put my effort on the shelf again, I have not given up. I know I will add persistance sometime in the future for The Red Cockade. . . maybe when the time is right.