My new book is out! The teenage characters in Siege dodge ghosts and smugglers during a War of 1812 re-enactment summer camp at Old Fort Erie, Ontario. For several months in the real War of 1812 (which actually ended in 1815), Fort Erie was occupied by US soldiers. One of the biggest and deadliest battles of the war occurred there in August 2014. (Siege is a short easy-to-read novel in the Orca Currents series for ages 10-14). (Review)
Posts Tagged ‘War of 1812’
Two hundred years ago, in July 1814, American troops attacked Fort Erie (in what was then British Upper Canada). The British surrendered with only a few shots fired (the fort’s commander was later court-martialled for giving up too easily). The British withdrew from the fort, but made plans to get the fort back. In early August, they set up camp outside the fort, just out of reach of the fort’s guns.
After dark, on August 15, 1814, about 2,400 British soldiers, Canadian militia and First Nations allies attacked. Under the cover of darkness and the heavy gun smoke that hung over the surrounding field, the British stormed the walls of the fort and captured the northeast bastion. Within the fort, the Americans turned a cannon around and fired at the British on top the bastion. The British turned one of the captured cannons and fired back. As this close-range cannon battle raged, a spark found its way to the powder magazine under the bastion. The explosion killed 400 men (mostly British and Canadians) and turned the tide of the battle in favour of the Americans.
The British retreated from the fort (with almost the entire column that had attacked the bastion, wiped out), but continued their siege for days. By the time the siege ended on September 17, 3,500 men were killed, wounded, or missing. It was the most devastating and prolonged battle of the war.
Today, Old Fort Erie is a museum, which I visited last fall to research the setting of my new novel Siege (for readers approx. ages 10-14), which will be out October 1. This coming weekend (August 9-10, 2014) hundreds of re-enactors from both Canada and the U.S. will be gathering at the fort to commemorate the 200-year anniversary of the siege. It promises to be the largest War of 1812 re-enactment in Canada. Unfortunately, I won’t be at the re-enactment, but I’ll be imagining the characters of my novel on top the fort’s walls in the middle of the musket and cannon smoke.
I’ve been “tagged” by author friend Laura Langston to join in a game of blog hop. The rules of the game: answer four questions about your writing and writing process, and tag three more people. Laura writes picture books, young adult novels and adult novels. To see her post on the blog hop, click here.
Here I go with the questions:
1) What am I working on?
I’ve just finished the final edits for a new novel called Siege (for ages 10-14), which will be out this fall with Orca Books. It’s about a teenage boy who reluctantly attends a War of 1812 re-enactment summer camp and discovers some modern-day criminal activity around the Niagara River and Old Fort Erie. As part of my research for the story, I watched the re-enactment of the Battle of Queenston Heights on its 200-year anniversary and also visited Old Fort Erie. I have a picture book story about the War of 1812 in the works as well.
I’m also working on two short non-fiction stories about dogs which will appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?, scheduled for release in August.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My newest book, Siege, mixes history in with the present day, which is a bit unusual. I don’t think I’ve come across any other stories about people re-enacting historical events. It was fun to write, partly because the main character doesn’t want to be where he is, and I enjoyed writing about his reactions to things like his musket misfiring, the old fort’s ghost stories, and trying to navigate the Niagara River in an old-fashioned row boat.
I’ve also written more straight-forward contemporary fiction and historical fiction. Flood Warning, for example, is a chapter book (for ages 6-8) that takes place during the Fraser River flood of 1948. There aren’t a lot of chapter books that tell historical stories (especially BC and Canadian history), which makes my story (and the others I’d like to write) somewhat unique.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write for kids because it’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a kid (about the time my dad made the hopscotch in our backyard, which appears at the top of this post). I fell in love with books such as The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis and the Emily of New Moon series by Lucy Maud Montgomery when I was in grade six and have continued to love books for children (both reading them and writing them). I also sometimes write poetry and nonfiction for adults, but writing for kids is my main compulsion.
As for what I write about: I like to explore the world around me and notice things that maybe nobody else is paying attention to. I’m always fascinated by history, nature, and unique bits and pieces that I stumble across. When something surprises or intrigues me, I immediately start imagining it as part of a story (I always keep a notebook handy). I write about things that interest me and hope someone else will be interested, too.
4) How does my writing process work?
Usually when I’m working on a new story, I do quite a bit of research first (which I always enjoy, especially when it involves visiting interesting new places or trying out some new activity). Sometimes I find it difficult to actually sit down and begin the writing, though, and I might procrastinate by doing more research, or even by doing some different types of writing (like nonfiction articles or blog posts). But, once I dig into a story, it starts to flow, and I get caught up in the world of the story.
I do most of my writing from my home office. If I need a break, or get stuck on some aspect of the story, I go for a walk, and usually the problem or the next scene works itself out in my mind as I walk. Rather than doing several drafts of a story, I edit as I go, which means sometimes I can rework the same chapter or scene for days before moving on, and by the time I get to the end of the first draft of the story, it’s fairly polished. But, of course, there’s always more editing to be done.
For the next stop on the blog hop, I’ve tagged Cindy Henrichs and Daniela Elza (I tried to tag a third person, but everyone else got away), and they’ll be blogging on June 16.
Cynthia Heinrichs is the author of two books: Mermaids, a picture book about the diving women of South Korea, and Under the Mound, a novel for young adults set in 12th-century Scotland. Cynthia is also a regular contributor to British Columbia Magazine. She lives in Vancouver, BC, where she writes and tutors college students in academic writing. To learn more about Cynthia, please visit her website here (and check out her blog on June 16).
Daniela Elza had been published nationally and internationally in over 80 publications. Her poetry books are milk tooth bane bone (Leaf Press, 2013), the weight of dew (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2012) and the book of It (2011). Daniela earned her doctorate in Philosophy of Education from Simon Fraser University and was the 2014 Writer-In-Residence at the University of the Fraser Valley. Check out her website here (her blog hop post will be up June 16).
Note: If the next blog hop posts aren’t up by June 16, please check again in a few days.
Thanks for playing!
I thought I’d share a glimpse into the wonderful writing retreat I experienced last month at Spark Box Studio near Picton Ontario (with funding gratefully received from the Canada Council!). A whole week without distractions, focusing on the craft of writing historical picture books! I was particularly interested in exploring the question, “How do I take a huge topic such as the War of 1812 and hone in on a small story suitable for children?”
To help me get on the right footing for my retreat, I stopped in Toronto beforehand to meet with children’s book author Monica Kulling, for a thoughtful and inspiring discussion about writing historical stories for children. Her latest book, Lumpito and the Painter from Spain, about a little dog who touched the life of Pablo Picasso, was hot off the press, and provided a great example (I love the dog, illustrated by Dean Griffiths).
Next, I took a side trip to soak up some War of 1812 history and watch the reenactment of the Battle of Queenston Heights near Niagara Falls. The boom of cannons, smell of smoke, calls of the soldiers, costumes of the military and civilian reenactors, and the cool, damp fall day helped to cast a spell that opened a window into the past.
At Spark Box Studio, I started each day with a solitary walk between farmers’ fields. The empty fields, subdued colours, and the whispers and rustles of leaves and grasses that followed me as I walked, made it easy to imagine a young girl two hundred years in the past, standing on the edge of a field, hearing the distant boom of cannon and cracks of musket fire. I felt like I was walking with one foot in the present and one in the past as I wrote these haiku:
on the lonely path
the words always
out of reach
While it was great to have so much time to myself to think and write, talking with the creative hosts and other guests at Spark Box Studio was also enriching. And, despite that last haiku, the words weren’t out of reach. I finished the first draft of a picture book story and concluded the retreat feeling buoyed in spirit, recharged and reinspired to continue writing…