Arcadia Publishing, Being Published, Concord NH, Concord Through Time, F H Gillingham & Sons Country Store, Fonthill Media, Franklin, Franklin NH, Franklin Then & Now, Portsmouth NH, Portsmouth NH Through Time, Portsmouth Through Time, Then & Now, Through Time, Woodstock Through Time, Woodstock VT, Writing Books
In 2012 I received a letter from a publisher of history books, Fonthill Media http://fonthillmedia.com/USA, just getting a foothold in the US. They had documented many towns, cities and villages in Britain in a “Britain Through Time” series and decided to try a similar format here with an “America Through Time” series. They wrote to me because they were pleased with a book I had written a few years earlier for Arcadia Publishing https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Home, Franklin (NH), Then & Now https://www.amazon.com/Franklin-Then-Now-New-Hampshire/dp/0738557641 and offered me the opportunity to write an illustrated historic focused book for them.
I thought about it for a while, and because I really enjoyed doing the first book and because I’d been working on several stories for eventual publication since, it seemed like a good way to build up my ‘writing resume.’ Besides, I’d written, illustrated and laid out the Franklin book under a one-year contract while working full-time and taking 3, 4-credit courses year-round, to complete my combined Writing, Illustrating, New England History degree. Talk about working under pressure!
Former Water Pumping Station in Concord NH, above, Now Fire Dept. Headquarters, below.
Essentially, for the “America Through Time” series, 92 old images, plus more for covers etc., would be collected by the author(s) and scanned to the publisher’s specifications. Then, those same images or locations would be re-photographed at a later time, like the present. Ideally, the photographic perspectives/angles etc. could be recreated. If the actual location, building, landmark etc. was no longer there, then an image capturing what is there currently would work, as in the beautiful Concord NH Railroad Station, built pre-1900, razed in 1960, and replaced by this commercial plaza and parking lot. Then that original image/topic would be researched and an 80 to 100 word paragraph would be written to highlight the historical significance, as well as changes over time. All narrative, photos etc. would be forwarded to the publisher electronically, after the book is formatted using their house style,, laid out etc., by the due date specified in the contract. This is a terribly simplified version of the process but I don’t want to lose you now dear reader!
The author/illustrator is responsible for all images, past and present, an Introduction, Dedication, Acknowledgements, Publicity blurbs, formatting, layout, image and rights acquisition as well as the final text. I had donated the proceeds from the Franklin book to a local non-profit and did not have the business experience at the time to set up the financial pieces correctly, so as not to still be responsible for the tax on any and all royalties earned. So even though I was not benefiting from any of the profits, I will always be held financially responsible to the IRS for that book. Live and learn the hard way…
Because Fonthill Media was just setting things in motion in the US, I had my choice of book titles/locations, if I decided soon. I have a real emotional connection with Portsmouth NH and the New Hampshire and nearby Maine Seacoast area. I also have had a long-term love affair with Woodstock Vermont. A Trip to Shiretown, aka, Woodstock Vermont It seemed plausible, if I had enough time, that I could complete a book on each of these communities. (Not sure why that seemed so doable at the time but anyway…). I realized I may not get another such opportunity and I contacted my brother Jon Tobey (check out his blog here) https://gointothelight.wordpress.com/ and he agreed to do preliminary editing for me if I took these on. I asked my husband if he could stand to go through the whole ‘book by deadline’ process with me again. Although I think he thought I was crazy, he was supportive nonetheless.
I was preparing my letter of interest to the editor when a voice in my head reminded me that my mother had always wanted to write a book. She had grown up in Concord NH and was now living within 20 miles of that city. I was also working full time in Concord. I contacted my mother and asked her if she’d like to do a joint venture; with her researching and writing the narrative for a book on Concord NH History. I would take care of all the images past and present, formatting, layout etc. and any other research and writing necessary. Without hesitation, she agreed excitedly. I had no idea if the publisher would even consider me doing 3 books and if not, then I decided Concord would be the priority. I completed my letter of interest including outlines for all 3 books.
In January 2013, after some negotiating with the publisher who was a little hesitant about giving me 3 contracts while I was working full time I think, I did receive contracts for all three books. I requested a year for each book, or to be more specific, 3 years for 3 books as they would be written and worked on simultaneously. Although they insisted my name be on all the contracts, as a ‘proven’ author, I insisted that my Mom’s name (Bettey Finney Tobey) be listed first on the cover for Concord and for all publicity for that book, as author and myself listed as co-author. I really wanted to make that dream come true for her. It was a deal.
I had 3 years to complete them all. Piece of Cake I thought And again, what was I thinking ? ! ?
I decided it prudent to make Concord the priority among the 3. It would keep Mom busy and it was where I worked at the time so, as I was able to locate old images, I could retake them on the way to and from work, since days off would apparently be spent traveling north or south. (Most of my writing was accomplished by ‘midnight oil.’) I helped my mother to get started with research and we discussed a vision for the book. She identified places she felt must be included, like the Capitol and surrounding Civic District, and I began my search for related images to capture electronically. As old Concord images became available, either by loan or fee from individuals, historical and other sites, or vintage postcards, we gradually built the book. Once the old image had been scanned and a new version taken, Mom would start on the research and writing for that subject. This combination of an old, a new/newer image, and the descriptive paragraph, all comprised one final page in the book.
We were fortunate to meet a lot of special people when we were working on the Concord book. Folks loaned images, an apartment manager let us take photos of downtown Concord from the rooftop of the building. Peter Brodeur and Jim Carey were especially helpful with the Penacook NH section with information and vintage images. (Penacook is a village within the city of Concord.)
Suddenly, the enormity of what I’d undertaken hit me. It was tough coordinating all this data and more time consuming than I remembered. It was challenging melding my mother’s writing and information gathering style; all hand-written and personal interviews, with my research and writing style; internet if possible, in- person when available, and all writing done on the computer… both equally effective but tough to integrate at times. However, we made it work.
While we were working on Concord, I was also going to Portsmouth NH as often as possible to research, collect old postcards, retake current images, meet informed people, go to lectures etc. for the Portsmouth (NH), Through Time book. I was also driving to Woodstock VT whenever I could, to do the same things for the Woodstock (VT), Through Time book, picking up relevant history resources whenever possible. Each of those trips averaged 200-300 miles round trip with many side trips while in the area to cover as much territory as possible each time.
Just to be clear, all expenses are the responsibility of the author. There is no advance so I have a literal investment in each of these books. However, the publisher is responsible for all printing costs so that is the trade off for me. I could not afford to absorb printing and distribution costs on top of travel and materials for one, let along three books. Time is a given, thousands of hours go into each one.
Sometimes my good friends Patty or Ruth accompanied me on these trips. Sometimes my husband Pat would join me, or my brother Jon when he was home visiting from Seattle would ride along. Then the experience felt more like an adventure than an assignment! Pat also helped to locate difficult places that had changed names or disappeared entirely and also assisted with research when I hit a wall and time was pressing. Almost always he found answers to my most exasperating questions.
Research in Portsmouth was mostly a solo affair but I’d lived in Seacoast NH for 5 years and still knew my way around pretty well. Although Woodstock is small and I’d spent a lot of time there over the years as a visitor, it was also very complex socially and culturally. I was extremely fortunate to meet Frank and then Jireh Billings, brothers and current owners of F.H. Gillingham & Sons, https://www.gillinghams.com/pages/about-us a General Store in Woodstock VT that has been in the same family and location for 130 years, as of this year! Their assistance in navigating the local waters and providing photo resources was pivotal for me. They exemplify what good old-fashioned Yankee hospitality is all about and their store is wicked awesome too! https://dreamnewengland.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/country-stores/
Mostly, these books are a labor of love, things I feel need to be put into print. The overall mission for me is to preserve history before any more of it vanishes, and we are losing it fast. I hope to show people who read the books, what history these places have and what has already disappeared. I want readers to care about preserving what is left. We were off to a good start and my nose was to the grindstone.
Mom and I connected regularly to combine efforts and by spring of 2015, with Jon doing the preliminary editing, we completed our work on the Concord Through Time contract and submitted it. One down, two to go! This seemed miraculous considering all the unexpected and other events that took place between receiving the contract and completing it. I changed jobs later in 2013, no longer in Concord daily but about 25 miles away. I had 2 arm surgeries and a broken wrist in the next two years. My husband and I were married, (in our garden after a several year engagement, in a wedding we planned ourselves,) my youngest son and his wife had their first child and I changed jobs again to something more challenging, requiring a lot of input and creation time and energy.
Somehow, I completed the manuscript and images etc. for Portsmouth Through Time in August of 2015 and it is due to be published in the spring of 2017. The delay is in the publishing process. My brother Jon was great about editing-under-pressure and the text did not need much attention from the publisher.
Whaleback Lighthouse in Portsmouth Harbor … Through Time.Concord Through Time came out in October, 2015. It is available on Amazon.com, the Arcadia site (they now distribute for Fonthill Media), the NH Statehouse, Gibson’s Bookstore http://www.gibsonsbookstore.com/ and several other Concord locations. Mom had a nice author’s night in January 2016, at Gibson’s https://www.facebook.com/events/816363125176759/ a local independent bookstore in Concord NH. It was well -attended. Timing is everything as a week later she fell on ice and broke her hip in four places!
Woodstock VT Town Hall, built in 1899. This vintage postcard image above, was captured in 1948. Currently, it appears as it is below, with some architectural additions after surviving a terrible fire decades ago.
So…meanwhile I completed Woodstock Through Time in early February 2016, seemingly against all odds, and it is due to be out in November 2016. I will be attending a book signing Saturday, this December 10th, at the annual Wassail Weekend, Wassail Woodstock, Kissed by Winter and Wassail Parade in Woodstock Vermont 2013 (held in 2016 from December 9th through the 11th.) More information at: https://www.woodstockvt.com/upcoming-events The book signing will be held at F.H. Gillingham and Son’s General Store on Elm Street in Woodstock. Id’ love to see you there!
I met so many wonderful people in the creation of these books. In Woodstock, South Woodstock actually, I met an older gentleman with the energy of several younger men. He built a home, still cuts wood and documents local history. He shared interesting information and artifacts with me about an ancestor I was intrigued by, as if he’d always known me. Hint, the ancestor was a farmer as well as a violin maker and player. For more, see the book! Other residents shared images and stories to fill the pages.
There were times I despaired of completing the books at all, never mind on time. Besides finding enough time to work on them, and the publisher changing House Styles and guidelines more than once during the course of the contracts, the biggest challenge was finding old image sources that were available and of high enough quality that they could be reproduced, and that were also affordable.
Fortunately, my husband was patient, even as I lugged piles of reference materials with us on vacations and my brother Jon was able to capture some tricky ‘now’ images on film, when he was visiting, that had eluded me. My mom was a trooper through it all and gave a lot of positive constructive feedback on wording and my dad lived with boxes of papers and related resources for a few years. Moral support is everything!
I now have a large collection of old postcards for all three locations. Operating expenses I guess. So anyway, I don’t know what I was thinking, and if you noticed my blog posts getting further and further apart this past couple years, that is the explanation. I’ve been rushing to meet deadlines and then trying to catch up on several other neglected priorities in my life since the last book was sent off and all edits etc. were completed.
F.H. Gillingham’s General Store in Woodstock Vermont
I am just now picking up the threads of several ‘writings in the works’ and hope to put into print many of the posts I’ve been formulating in my head but haven’t had time to put down in print yet. Please bear with me and Thank You if you are still reading Dream New England https://dreamnewengland.wordpress.com/. I hope you’ll continue to stick with me as I focus now on ‘Dream’ and a writing career going forward that will hopefully also eventually be a means of a living, as that is my ultimate goal!
Follow the Dream!