I’ve written only one historical novel, Walk to the Bridge, a middle-grade book set in a small New England town around 1910. Although this book has gone through numerous, extensive revisions and has been sent out to many editors and agents, including those I’ve met at conferences, so far it has not found a home. However, I’m still proud of this book and have faith that some publishing company, large or small, will find it “right for their list.” Meanwhile, I’ve learned many valuable things while writing this book.
The plot centers around Charmaine,a 6th grade girl of French-Canadian immigrant parents, who yearns to go to high school but is destined to work in the textile mill that supports the town, when she turns 14. This was the norm for immigrant families, most of whom were illiterate, in the mill towns at that time. They saw little value in education and needed the income their children brought into the home. The book is based, in part, on my mother’s stories of working in those mills and how she, as one of 12 children, wanted to continue on to high school but was not allowed to do so.
In doing the extensive research needed to be historically accurate, I learned so much about how these textile mills were organized and how difficult working in them was. My book is set in a slightly earlier era than when my mother worked there, but I came to a new appreciation of everything she had to endure and feel I understand her better. Walk to the Bridge has a happy ending. Charmaine does convince her parents that a high school education is valuable. In some way, I hope this story has achieved that goal for my late mother.
Writing this book was a great experience in many ways. Because these French-Canadian immigrants were Catholic and their lives outside the mill centered around the church, I was able to use a number of experiences from my own Catholic school days. I also had fun naming some of the minor characters after various relatives from years ago. In addition, I learned the value of continually revising, changing the direction of the plot line and sometimes eliminating some characters (and subplots) but not losing the focus of my main story. I also gained extensive experience in dealing with various editors and agents and their methods of working.
While I waited for news on this book submission, I decided to send a manuscript copy of it to my aunt (my mother’s younger sister who is 97 and the last of the family still alive.) She is quite active for her age and her mind is still very sharp (my role model!) I was delighted when she told me she thoroughly enjoyed reading it and even passed it around to her children and grandchildren! So, even if this book never makes it any farther than that, I’m very glad I “Walked to the Bridge.”
Contributed by Marjorie Flathers