Welcome to my interview with Rosalie Laureman.
Lauerman’s passion for discovering little-known stories from history is clearly on display as she relates the extraordinary tale of courage and determination shown by the Continental soldiers through the winter of 1779-1780. Valley Forge is a familiar name, but Jockey Hollow defined an even greater depth of suffering for the men who answered the call to fight for American independence.
Jockey Hollow: Where A Forgotten Army Persevered To Win American Freedom is well illustrated with photographs, drawings and maps. A Gallery of Heroes provides thumbnail biographies of the main characters. There’s a brief discussion of the Morristown National Historical Park followed by a timeline, Places to Explore for additional information, Additional Reading, and Credits and Bibliography.
As a preschooler, I treasured my The Pokey Little Puppy book. I daydreamed about writing stories of cuddly little puppies—until life got more serious. After I retired from a career in banking and municipal government, plus successfully raising two boys (whew), I returned to my childhood daydream and wrote articles for Highlights and Cricket magazines.But wanting to choose the subjects I wrote about, I dived into writing my first book, Jockey Hollow.
What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing?
When I started working on Jockey Hollow, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed researching and learning more about history. As a teenager, I thought that history was just a boatload of names and dates to be memorized. But now I think of history, especially the history of the American Revolution, as a series of amazing events, enormous sacrifices, and heroic acts. Digging deep into resources and finding remarkable, little-known but true stories became my passion.
What do you do when you are not writing?
My husband and I enjoy road trips to museums, galleries, and National Parks. The best trips include visits to our kids and grandkids in Pennsylvania and Texas, where a Yahtzee tournament might erupt. An avid reader, Alexander Hamilton is currently on my bedside table.In addition, I enjoy theater, tennis, and hockey—more watching than doing. And I’m constantly on the lookout for new crafts to introduce to my grandkids. Fortunately, there seems to be an endless assortment of origami patterns.
Jockey Hollow spotlights how the tenacious Continental soldiers persevered to win America’s freedom during the Revolutionary War despite supply shortages, cruel winters, treason, mutiny, worthless Continental dollars, and more.
What led you to write the book?
When we lived in New Jersey, we were neighbors with Jockey Hollow Park, a unit of Morristown National Historical Park. During visits to the park, I frequently heard visitors say that they didn’t know anything about this Revolutionary encampment. I wanted to change that so I wrote Jockey Hollow’s story. I’m passionate about sharing this under-told story with all readers, especially today’s young readers.
What would you like readers to take from it?
Enjoy history! I hope that readers feel renewed pride in America when they read about the heroic Revolutionary Soldiers who fought and sometimes died to win America’s independence. Maybe they’ll empathize with Sergeant Joseph Plumb Martin’s feelings after winning the Battle of Yorktown, “I felt a secret pride swell my heart when I saw the ‘star-spangled banner’ waving majestically in the very faces of our enemies.”
What are your current/future projects?
Right now I’m working on a collection of little-known stories from World War I. I’m also looking ahead to a biography of a colorful, imperfect, Revolutionary War officer whose courage was legendary.
I find that maintaining a regular writing routine is impossible if you live outside a monastery. When I have a block of time I dive in and don’t stop until I’m interrupted. First I write new material—while my mind is clearest—then I revise yesterday’s work, and next I research for tomorrow’s work. Meanwhile I’m always looking for quotes, images, relevant websites, sidebar material, and other trimmings.
Soldiers huts and the Wick house in Jockey Hollow National park.
What challenges did you face in researching and writing Jockey Hollow?
Tracking down accurate details of rare stories and quotes was a major challenge.For example, I came across a brief mention of a 10-year-old Continental soldier while researching. A 10-year-old soldier, WOW! I wondered if I could include his story in a sidebar. I talked the staff at Morristown National Historical Park about where I might find more information about this child.They referred me to St. Nicholas, an Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks, a monthly newsletter published in 1884. I was able to find a volume of reprinted copies of St. Nicholas in a nearby university library. The four-page article, “The Youngest Soldier of the Revolution,” was a goldmine of material. It gave me all the facts I needed for the sidebar in Chapter 2. It’s hard to top the thrill a nonfiction writer gets from uncovering a great story like this.
What book(s)/author(s) have influenced your writing and how?
Authors and historians, Ron Chernow, David McCullough, John Ferling, and Thomas Fleming inspired me to use primary source quotes to create lively characters.Children’s writers, Russell Freedman, Dennis Brindell Fradin, and Gregg Mierka influenced my word choices, sentence structure, and what to leave out when talking about battles.Their work reminds me, too, that authors shouldn’t skimp on back matter just because they’re writing for children.
What advice would you offer aspiring nonfiction writers who have an interest in historical topics?
Let your heart choose your subject. If you’re passionate about your subject and want to learn more about it, writing will be easy. Let the characters speak for themselves with primary source quotes. Take time to search for the best images to bring the narrative to life. Be prepared to revise;the reward will be a better manuscript. Use heaps of sticky notes when you’re researching. My research books have sticky notes fluttering all around the outer edges.
Talk about the importance of providing additional material such as the timeline, websites, teacher resources, additional/advanced reading, and bibliography.
The additional material at the end of the book is intended to give readers opportunities to expand on what they read. For instance, the “Timeline” section in Jockey Hollow helps readers understand the order of events during the war. The“Additional Reading” section offers more in-depth information and insights into people and events that are talked about in the book. “Websites to Explore” enhances the book’s content through videos, photos, virtual tours, maps, and interactive games. Some of the websites are also physical museums or parks where readers can walk in the soldiers’ footsteps. Also, I’ve been told that teachers appreciate “Resources for Teachers” because these sources offer unique classroom materials and programs related to the American Revolution. The“Credits and Bibliography” section lists sources that were used while writing Jockey Hollow. This section works as a road map for readers and writers to find additional material related to the Revolution.
What's one additional piece of advice about writing or publishing you'd like to pass on to readers and writers?
I imagine the Jockey Hollow Soldiers would say that if you persevere, you will succeed. Sounds like good advice to me; I spent years researching and writing Jockey Hollow.
Anything else you'd like readers to know about you and/or your book?
When you have time, I invite you to visit my website at www.rosalielauerman.com. While you’re there, click Books+ and learn how a hilly forest in New Jersey became known as Jockey Hollow.
Jockey Hollow awards:
· 2016 IPPY Bronze Medal for Best Mid-Atlantic Region Nonfiction
· 2016 Pinnacle Book Achievement Award in the category of United States History.