Friday, December 28, 2018

Giveaway Winner and our Winter Break

Hi all,
Just a quick update to announce that the winner of Carla's new book Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington's Mount Vernon is Vanessa R!

Congratulations, Vanessa! And a BIG thank you to all who entered. We're planning more great giveaways in 2019, so stay tuned. I'll be posting about the next one in February.

Hope you're all enjoying the holiday season. Our regular posts will resume Friday, January 11.

Till then, remember to Write with Joy!

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Unseen Foundation of Buried Lives AND Last Day to Enter Book Giveaway

This week’s post is a follow up from last week.  In that post, I was looking forward to the release of Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon on December 18.  At last the book is officially available for purchase.  Yipppeee!  


But behind every page are countless backstories that no one will ever know.  Sometimes those stories—not meant for the pages of the book—make what is written on the page even deeper and more meaningful.  

Here in this space I’m going to share a few pics and stories that are not in the book.  And some of the stories I don’t have photos for.  But every photo and every story are sub text in the book, even though not in the words I’ve carefully crafted there.  

Many different people at Mount Vernon have helped me in countless ways.  I don’t have photos of most of them.  Mary V. Thompson, the historian at Mount Vernon has always shared her vast knowledge with me with unbelievable generosity that goes beyond her “job” at Mount Vernon.  She has answered hundreds of questions for me along the way.  Another hero of mine at Mount Vernon is Dawn Bonner, Manager of Visual Resources who shared countless images with me as I chose just the right ones. In the end she helped me find many of the stunning images you see in the book.  She too answered hundreds of questions for me about images.  Thank you both from the bottom of my heart.

Here are just of few photos that make up the unseen foundation of Buried Lives.  

In the laboratory with Joe Downer, Archeologist and Crew Chief for Mount Vernon's dig in the cemetery of the enslaved.  Thousands of pieces of history have been found at Mount Vernon especially in the areas where the enslaved lived.  Lives of people become real when you touch pieces of dishes, pipes, and pottery they used day to day.  Joe has helped me in a million ways throughout this project.  

I had the opportunity to work with the archeologist to dig in the cemetery.  Me working the soil shaker where a 5000 year old Native American arrowhead was found.  Wow.  I was the second person to touch this in 5000 years!   

Me working a trowel to finish uncovering one of the graves of the enslaved in the cemetery.  I wrote about it on pages 126-127 of the book.  It was a deeply moving experience to uncover grave #67.  No one will ever know who lies buried in this unmarked grave.

Brenda Parker, who portrays Caroline (one of the people highlighted in my book) and Don Francisco (plays the fife at Mount Vernon) came to the cemetery memorial on the days I was working on the dig.  Brenda -who sings like an angel-sang Amazing Grace, and Don accompanied her on the fife.  I cried and cried.  A day I'll never forget.  Thank you dear ones for all you!

One of the wonderful things about this book is adding these two wonderful people in my life as friends.  Thank you Brenda Parker and Don Francisco for your sweetness.  

Having dinner with the amazing Mary V. Thompson, the historian at MV.  And my new friend Zunny Matema (a descendant of Caroline in my book).  Zunny wrote the forward for the book.  What a wonderful circle to complete as a writer.  To write about Caroline, then meet her present day descendant.  What an honor!  

I’ve done all I can to make Buried Lives the best book it can be. I’ve researched it, written it, revised it countless times, wept over it, and prayed over it.   

At last the book is available for readers. 


Carla Killough McClafferty

Here's the link to the post where you can enter the giveaway.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Book Giveaway and Release of my book, Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington's Mount Vernon

At last it is time to do the dance of joy and celebrate.  Yippeeeeee, Hallelujah!  My new book Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon(Holiday House Books) will be released in a few days-on December 18, 2018. 

Released December 18.  New from Holiday House.  STARRED review in Booklist.
Enter the book giveaway at the end of this post for a chance to win a copy of
Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington's Mount Vernon.

It has been five years in the making.  Now that I think about it, it has been closer to five and a half years since the first idea for this book planted itself firmly in my mind--and more importantly in my heart.  At the risk of sounding melodramatic, when I take on a topic for a book, I live with the people I write about for the rest of my life.  

The people from Buried Lives I’ll carry with me along life’s bumpy road are William Lee (Washington’s valet), Christopher Sheels (the young man who took over as valet), Caroline Branham (housemaid), Peter Hardiman (Caroline’s husband who ran Washington’s mule breeding operation), Oney Judge (Martha Washington’s lady’s maid), and Hercules (chief cook at President’s House in Philadelphia).  Along with these six people, their families join me too. For some of them, I know their mothers, their grandmothers, their aunts, their uncles, their spouse, their sons, and their daughters.

While I’m researching and writing the book, the subjects of my book are never far from my mind.  I think about them as I figure out how to bring their true-life stories to readers in a way that is accurate and entertaining.  I think through the details of their experiences.  I ponder over them.  I put myself in their shoes so to speak-at least as much as possible.  The people I write about must be real to me.  If they aren’t real to me, they will never feel real to my readers--even though they were real people.  

I want my readers to find out what happens to the six people I highlight in my book.  But that’s not all—I want them to feel the hoe in Christopher’s hand when he was a child. I want them to feel the cold as Caroline lights the fires in the house during the winter.  I want them to smell the delicious meals Hercules cooked on the hearth.  I want my readers to see them as real flesh and blood people who had every emotion we have today.  And I want my readers to remember that someone else owned these six people.  In this case, their master was the President of the United States.

Along the way of telling about the lives of these six individuals who were enslaved at Mount Vernon, I weave in Washington’s changing views of slavery through the years.  By 1799, 317 enslaved people lived at Mount Vernon. Washington owned 123 of them, he rented 41, and 153 individuals were owned by Martha’s dower estate.   Near the end of his life, Washington wrote a will that would freed the 123 people he owned.  But neither he nor Martha could free the 153 people that were part of her estate.  This sets up a devastating separation of some families after the deaths of George and Martha Washington.  Readers will find out which of the six were freed and which remained enslaved.

Also part of Buried Lives is the ongoing archaeological dig in the cemetery for the enslaved people of Mount Vernon.  The graves, which are unmarked, are slowly being located and counted—while none of the remains are disturbed. 

In a few days, Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon will leave my protection.  It will be released into the world to stand on its own.  It is my hope that the book I’ve written will allow six, specific enslaved people from Mount Vernon to step out of the fog of history and stand in the bright light of recognition.  I want my readers to like them as much as I do.   

Carla Killough McClafferty


Readers, to enter our drawing for a chance to win an autographed copy of Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington's Mount Vernon, written by Carla Killough use the Rafflecopter widget below. You may enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options.

If you choose option 2, you MUST leave a comment on TODAY'S blog post below or on our TeachingAuthors Facebook page. If you haven't already "liked" our Facebook page, please do so today! 
In your comment, tell us what you'd do with the book if you win our giveaway--keep it for yourself or give it to a young reader?

(If you prefer, you may submit your comment via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.)

Email subscribers: if you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to access the entry form.

Note: if you submit your comments via email or Facebook, YOU MUST STILL ENTER THE DRAWING VIA THE WIDGET BELOW. The giveaway ends December 21, 2018 and is open to U.S. residents only.

P.S. If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here's info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

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Friday, December 7, 2018



In but twenty-four days, 2018 will have come and gone.
I’m amazed to report: I made it!
My Can-Do/Anything-is-Possible Spirit appears surprisingly intact, only a smidgen worse for the wear this past year.

I did indeed try my hand at undertaking many of the verbs I’d recommended in my January post. (Think: begin, write, revise, finish, push, stretch, seek and find.)
I of course remain immeasurably grateful to those who kept me keeping on: my family and friendsmy fellow bloggers, my Chicago Cubs – in particular David Bote who pinch-hit a walk-off grand slam at the bottom of the ninth to beat the Nats 4 to 3 this August, but especially my students and writers – my storied treasures who kept me focused on doing what I love and loving what I do.
I’m still in the Hope Business, writing children’s books as well as teaching and coaching children’s book creators who do the same.

To be truly honest, a September trip to the Amalfi Coast did wonders. 😊
As did binge-watching The Gilmore Girls, a much-touted series that allowed me to live daily in Stars Hollow. 😊
So did so many beautifully-written inspiring children’s books, from Khaled Hosseini’s SEA PRAYER, Lesa Cline-Ransome’s FINDING LANGSTON and Mandy Davis’ SUPERSTAR to Minh LĂŞ’s DRAWN TOGETHER, Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s HEY, KIDDO and Deborah Mills’ LA FRONTERA.

Best of all, though, when I needed it most?
Along came Juan Felipe Herrera’s IMAGINE in October, gorgeously illustrated
by Lauren Castillo (Candlewick Press), gifting me with my course of action for 2019.
Poet, performance artist and activist Herrera moved with his migrant family from Mexico to the U.S. when he was a small boy, saying goodbye to his amiguitos. In time he learned how to read and write in English, grabbing words he’d never heard and sprinkling them over a paragraph to write a magnificent story.  He served as the 21st U.S. Poet Laureate from 2015 through 2017, reading the book’s poem on the steps of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
“Imagine,” he writes at the end of each verse.  “Imagine what you could do.”

Candlewick’s front flap copy says it all: “Herrera’s breathtaking poem ‘Imagine’ and Lauren Castillo’s evocative illustrations will speak to every reader and dreamer searching for their place in life.  Who might you be? Imagine...”

If you don’t believe me or the flap copy, look and listen for yourself.

I plan to steal away and do just that beneath tonight’s New Moon, once I upload this post.
What I can do. What I can be. What I can become. 
My world.  Our world.
What matters.  Just name it.
IMAGINE is my 2019 verb. I hope you’ll consider making it your verb too.

As always, thanks to our Poetry Friday connection, Elizabeth Steinglass.

Happy Imagining!

Esther Hershenhorn