day nineteen: heartbreak

January 19, 2017 @ 5:33 pm | Filed under: , ,

Feb. 17, 1818 Yankee article with my researcher’s sticky note still in place

I woke up to the news that the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities are among the programs slated for elimination in the new administration’s budget proposals. Not exactly a surprise, but still it smacked me in the gut, and I’ve walked around feeling ill all day.

Anyone who knows me knows why I’m sick about the scrapping of the NEA. But losing the National Endowment for the Humanities as well? Takes my breath away. If you’ve read my Charlotte books, you’ve seen one NEH project in action. The NEH funded the US Newspaper Program, which gave grants to all 50 states to preserve old, crumbling newspapers on microfilm.

Massachusetts, for example, received $770,942 in NEH support to catalog over 8000 titles, including the 1680 Publick Occurrences, America’s first newspaper. There are treasures in those archives that would have been lost to time, but for this federal funding program.

On Tide Mill LaneYou know that hurricane I wrote about in Tide Mill Lane? I learned of it in The Yankee—including whose roof was torn off and what other damages Roxbury folks suffered. The Brighton Cattle Show, right down to all the winners? The Yankee. The vandalism of the Bible in a Roxbury church. The first gaslights in Boston. The parade, the details of the wagons and the whole celebration. The first elephant brought to North America. All that priceless historical information came right out of newspaper articles that are available on microfilm at the Boston Public Library.

Jane was still going through treatment for leukemia in NY when I was researching and writing the first two Charlotte books. I couldn’t travel. My editors at HarperCollins arranged a stipend for on-site researchers who made copies for me. “ANYTHING AT ALL you can get me from the years 1800-1820,” I asked. “The whole paper, not just the news articles. I want advertisements, editorials, everything.” Amy Sklansky and Theresa Peterson put in dozens of hours printing off copies. I pored over those riches for months. I still have them—boxes of Yankee articles on that slippery microfilm paper. I use the story about the orchard thieves (“a man named Peter Twist and two well-dressed women”) in writing workshops to this day.

That’s what the NEH did for me, and for you, if you enjoyed my books. And that’s one tiny fraction of what those tax dollars funded.


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6 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. sarah says:

    It is tragic. I’ve seen some people opinionate that the trials ahead with this new government will inspire writers and artists to greater creativity – but how that’s supposed to happen without resources, I don’t know. I am so very sorry 🙁

  2. Ellie says:

    🙁 These are such dark times.

  3. Penny says:

    Agreeing with Sarah and Ellie in every way.


    And you know how I feel about your books.

  4. Lindsey says:

    This all makes me so sad. My daughter has LOVED your Charlotte and Martha books. They were truly ‘hers’, written after all my favorites I had eagerly introduced to her, but so in the tone of Anne, and Betsy, and Kit from Witch of Blackbird Pond, and….brilliantly written modern times historical fiction. Thanks. And no thanks to this hateful, hateful world we are entering today.

  5. Tabatha says:

    Yes to all the above. Such a backwards step.

  6. Lisa says:

    So sad. Not even worth mentioning in terms of cost. I know most in the GOP have wanted it dead for years. But so sad. Both did such good work.