In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Vermont = White Bread State? Evidence Says, I Doubt It!

There was a card game we played as kids where you held out a card, hidden, and asserted it was a particular item -- say, a nine of diamonds. Another player could say "I doubt it!" I don't remember all the rules, but I know there were rewards for good bluffs, and rewards for seeing through them. Sometimes local history research feels like the same game.

At every chance I get, I search through old postcards in stores and antiquarian shows, looking for evidence of the "old days" in my part of Vermont. A few months ago I picked up a fairly common picture postcard of Comerford Dam (a Connecticut River dam that changed the history of my small town, Waterford, although it's actually anchored in Barnet VT and Monroe NH). On the back was the message shown here, written in laboriously penned Italian.

Teacher Meg Clayton majored in Italian in college, and she translated the card for me, confirming my guess that the writer had some issues with his written Italian -- maybe a working man, not often putting things on paper. I wanted very much to be able to show that the card traveled from a workman in the Northeast Kingdom around 1939, to another Italian speaker in the blue-collar granite town of Barre, Vermont. And some of the pieces are indeed here.

However, here's Meg's actual translation:
Dear Friend,
I want you to know that I am well.  I send well wishes to you with your operation.
Salutations from your friend,
Domenico Zittoli
I went to see this dam.
When I added research into Italian family names in Vermont in 1939, I was able, with much excitement, to find the Zecchinelli family at 15 Central Street in Barre, in both the 1930 and 1940 Census documents. And I discovered that the postcard writer's surname was probably Zottoli, a family well spread through New England at the time.

But I can't find any Zottoli in records of life in northern Vermont in 1939. So, in spite of what I wanted from this card, I have to conclude that Domenico Zottoli may have just been headed home after a visit to Mr. Zecchinelli, and passing through where the dam had recently been built.

Still, I'm not discouraged. This sign below, displayed by the Concord (VT) Historical Society, shows clearly that Italians lived and owned businesses in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont in the early to mid 1900s.

And that's more evidence for what I'm painting into all of my writing: Vermont might look pretty darned white (especially in winter -- smile). But Vermonters have always been diverse. They answer the call to adventure, in many languages and styles. One hypothesis, not proved; the main theory, emphatically confirmed.

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