Tag Archive for: virginiahamilton
Trucks rumble past, their trailers bumping on the rough road surface. A forklift keeps going in front of me, back and forth to service bays. Ironically, Jackson Brown belts out Running on Empty on the radio. I just try to keep breathing, slow inhales and exhales to calm myself as well as our 65 lb. Yellow Lab, Luna, who has decided to become a lap dog, propping half of her load on me, panting away. Brad is outside with the technician, who skillfully manages to pump nearly 70 pounds of air pressure into the driver’s side drive axle tires.
Kind of important to have enough air in your tires.
So begins our first road trip, or rather, return to the road trip, in a motorhome. Our journey really didn’t start with the dishwasher that didn’t run properly (I know, I know, a dishwasher, really???) overnight, or the toilet that refused to flush, the car that didn’t want to engage in neutral to tow properly, the under-inflated tires, or even, to add insult to injury, the door that took some creative manipulation of the hinge to get it to close.
Our journey began over twenty years ago, when after experiencing the death of our oldest daughter, Claire, my husband Brad, and I decided to up the ante in our quest to get our kids to all 50 states. We bought our first motorhome. And we completed our mission.
Memories of those trips often pop up in my brain feed, but even more so since contemplating getting back on the road. I’ll never forget all the purple, Claire’s favorite color, we witnessed on our maiden voyage in 2003, as we traveled to Yellowstone, the Tetons, and Glacier National Park. Those three weeks together as a family, just three years out from when we last said goodbye to Claire, set us on a path of truly living, not merely surviving.
I read Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose on our travels, our trip often a reflection of the text. I remember a reference to uncharted territory in the book, which I shared with Brad and the kids. Later that evening, while Ian was walking our dog, Ginger, I got a little nervous about how long young Ian was gone. I used the walkie talkies that came with the unit and radioed him, “Where are you? Are you okay?” His response, “We’re in uncharted territory.”
We’ll also never forget our daughter Kyle looking out on the rolling hills of Kansas, dark shadows cast on the green forests. She couldn’t figure out that the shadows were from the clouds. She was also very concerned about where the cows slept at night, bless her heart.
That motorhome continued to serve us well through road trips, college tailgate parties, and a few empty nest adventures, up until our last to Northern Michigan just months before Ginger’s journey was over.
So here we are, back on the road again, setting out to explore areas of this country we missed the first time around, creating new memories, all the while looking back on those from the past.
I feel incredibly blessed to have these experiences with Brad, in a beautiful, new-to-us motorhome. I hope you enjoy experiencing our trials, tribulations, and new, fantastic memories right along with us. Perhaps in some small way, during a time we could all use a little inspiration, my stories from the road will offer a bit to you.
“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.” -Virginia Woolf
I discovered this quote while doing research for my latest proposed biography for young readers. My subject, even though she has a significant place in history, is unknown. This woman was the first to serve in her role. This woman stood toe-to-toe with men and held her own. This woman dared to buck the system to accomplish what she believed is right. This woman’s story has never been told.
I hope to change that.
I recently took to Twitter to begin an ongoing campaign to promote women in history. I searched through various online portals, such as “this day in history” and “this day in women’s history.” My campaign ended after three days. The ratio of noted accomplishments by men outranked women’s significantly. It is as if we’ve taken the root word of history literally. HIS story.
I hope to change that.
I’ve been blessed to share the life journeys of three amazing women, who have made their own mark in the world.
For years, no one knew that Carolyn Keene was not the actual writer of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. There is no Carolyn Keene. The original author of the teenage sleuth stories was none other than Mildred Wirt Benson. As the very first ghostwriter for the series, Millie was indeed anonymous until her role was made public through a lawsuit. The legal action was filed by the former publisher of the series, Grosset & Dunlap, when the creators of the series, the Stratemeyer Syndicate, made a business decision to contract with Simon & Schuster to publish future Nancy Drew stories. When Millie showed up at the trial in New York City in 1980, Harriet Stratemeyer greeted Millie with a curt, “I thought you were dead.” Nope, very much alive, and no longer anonymous.
Virginia Hamilton was the most honored author of children’s literature ever. EVER! Virginia was the first African American, male, or female, to receive the Newbery Medal, in 1975 for her groundbreaking novel, M.C. Higgins, The Great. Virginia’s 41 books for younger readers garnered every major award established for authors. Virginia was the first children’s book author to receive the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, otherwise known as the “Genius Grant.” Her body of work was recognized through the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing. Yet, her books have been buried among the stacks in libraries, her stories rarely shared with today’s young readers.
As a 22-year-old intern with the Miami Herald, sports journalist Christine Brennan made her way through the doors of the locker room of the Minnesota Vikings. It was previously all-male territory, even though a federal judge had ordered TWO years before that female journalists should have equal access to locker rooms. Christine continues to make her mark in the world of sports journalism, often the “go-to” whenever there is controversy or significant news with athletes. Yet, for all the doors that Christine has opened during her years as a sports reporter, a columnist with USA Today, and commentator on ABC News, her story was buried as a lead.
We are on the brink of Women’s History Month. Why just a month when we collectively try and create awareness of amazing female scientists, writers, artists, civil rights activists, educators, and business leaders? Why is there only a month to pull back the curtain on these anonymous makers of history?
Why not make every day a chance to share HER story?
I hope to change that.
It was an honor sharing the life of Virginia Hamilton, the most honored author of children’s literature. In gratitude to Ohio Humanities for underwriting my presentation, and the Ohio History Connection/National Afro American Museum and Cultural Center for hosting.
I’m honored to be sharing the incredible life journey of Virginia Hamilton, the most honored author of children’s literature, ever. EVER! The virtual presentation is Thursday, February 11 at 11 a.m.
I’ll walk listeners through Virginia’s childhood in Yellow Springs, Ohio, to becoming the Newbery Medal winner, and beyond. And, I’ll be sharing an exciting announcement about a collection of Virginia’s works!
Here’s a link to sign up…https://ohiohistory.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_aAGJo1lSQ2WaiVMLOZIAJg
My biography of Virginia Hamilton is a finalist for an Ohioana Award. I am so honored!
As I began to reflect on an amazing series of coincidences which lead up to a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us involved, a classic Seals and Crofts song came to mind;
Life, so they say, is but a game
And they let it slip away
Love, like the autumn sun
Should be dyin’, but it’s only just begun
Like the twilight in the road up ahead
They don’t see just where we’re goin’
And all the secrets in the universe
Whisper in our ears
And all the years
Will come and go
Take us up, always up
We may never pass this way again, we may never pass this way again, we may never pass this way again…
Back in October, I was invited to participate on a panel of middle-grade authors at the Ohio Educational Library Media Association conference in Columbus. The panel discussion was scheduled bright and early, 8 a.m. Instead of getting up at zero-dark thirty to drive down that morning, I had dinner with our son Ian the evening before and stayed over with my friend Barbara Sears, former State House representative. After dinner we joined up with neighbors, and I met Laura Battocletti, the director of the Statehouse. Yes, the Statehouse in Columbus, the one with the big cupola, and the beautiful rotunda with its dazzling skylight, restored through a penny-collecting campaign with schoolchildren from Ohio.
Barbara, taking on her new role as my publicity agent, shared my latest book, a biography of children’s literature icon, Virginia Hamilton, with Laura. Virginia is the most honored children’s book author ever. Yet, there was one award she had not received. Laura asked if I was aware of the Great Ohioan award. The award has been in existence since 2003, and given to individuals who have made a significant contribution to World, American or Ohio history by the Capitol Square Advisory Board.
As we talked about Virginia’s accomplishments, including being the first African American woman to receive the Newbery Award, we agreed Virginia was an ideal candidate.
Fast forward to several weeks later. While participating in the Cincinnati Book Festival, I met a young mother, Angie, and her daughter, fourth-grader, Annie. They were thrilled to learn that I had written a biography of Virginia. Annie wrote a report on Virginia several years before, based on her love for her stories. Angie knew Jaime Adoff, Virginia’s son, and Annie reached out to him as a resource for her paper.
So, there I was at the book festival, looking at little Annie with her big brown eyes, filled with excitement as I personally signed my biography of Virginia to her. Angie and I exchanged contact info, promising to keep in touch.
Several weeks later, I received an email from Laura, with a link to the Great Ohioan Award nomination form. I reviewed, submitted, and sent in my nomination of Virginia.
And then I reached out to Angie, to see if perhaps she, or Annie, might want to send a letter to support my nomination. Of course, they would, Angie replied.
Time passed, and I didn’t think much more about it. Until I received a note from Laura, advising me that Virginia was to be confirmed formally as a recipient of a Great Ohioan Award. And, the board was so impressed by little ten-year-old Annie’s letter, that Annie and her class were to be bused to Columbus from Cincinnati for the confirmation, and given a private tour of the statehouse. How cool is that?
I was sworn to secrecy until yesterday’s ceremonies, but I could not wait to tell Arnold Adoff, Virginia’s husband, and Jaime. Arnold could not attend the ceremonies for health reasons, but Jaime took a personal day from his teaching position at McKinney Middle School in Yellow Springs to join the momentous occasion.
Annie, her parents and grandmother, her teacher, Jaime, and yours truly were ushered into the Capitol Square Foundation Board meeting. Annie was invited to sit beside Chair Charles Moses. Cool as a cucumber, Annie read a synopsis of her nomination, and in a glimpse of her future as a politician, finished with a joke. Yes, in front of the stoic, now smiling board members, since Virginia loved frogs, little Annie told a joke.
“What do frogs order at McDonald’s?”
And, with perfect comedic timing, Annie offered, “Burgers and flies!”
I looked over at Angie, who was laughing and crying at the same time. We all were.
Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger introduced Jaime, who offered that of all the awards his mother had received, that she would be so honored by this recognition, as she was so proud of her home state, and much of her writings featured Ohio’s landscape.
After the nomination was formally unanimously approved, the member’s eyes filled with appreciation, the meeting was adjourned.
As if the process was not enough for Annie and all of us, her entourage, we were escorted to the House floor, where typically no one, outside of representatives, are allowed.
Much less the Speaker’s chair.
Yep, that’s Annie, with the Speaker, who lent his pin to her for the honor of overseeing official photos of the occasion.
From there we were escorted through the Statehouse, Jaime, Angie and I sharing our amazement over the coincidences leading to the day.
I shared over lunch that it was not lost on me that it was my forever fourth-grader, Claire, who as my guardian angel, may have had a hand in all of this.
Claire’s assigned number, based on alphabetical order throughout her class years was #17. Ohio was the 17th state admitted to the Union.
Claire loved books and sharing stories, and we’ve chosen to honor her through Claire’s Day. It was through Claire’s Day that my first book, a picture book about the state, Hidden Ohio, came to be.
I loved writing for children, and hoped to have more books published. To accomplish this goal, I started attending Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conferences. It was at one of these conferences that I learned my friend, Michelle Houts, was writing and editing for a new series being published by Ohio University Press. Biographies for Young Readers features primarily Ohioans who have made their mark in the world.
It was through Claire’s Day that I became aware of the Virginia Hamilton conference and came to know Jaime and Arnold, ultimately leading to writing Virginia’s biography for the series, and nominating her for the award.
And then, reaching out to another little fourth grader to help honor Virginia.
Coincidences or secrets of the universe whispering in our ears?
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to keep listening.
In honor of the late Virginia Hamilton, a GREAT OHIOAN.
Photos courtesy of Ohio Statehouse