How Can a Writer Use Pinterest?

I love to make plans. Ask me to plan a trip, and I’ll get into the minutiae of where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing every minute of the day.

My sister is my traveling buddy, and sometimes my attention to detail drives her crazy! On the other hand, she doesn’t enjoy planning trips so she doesn’t complain too much.

In my Reading Like a Writer blog post (“Reading Like a Writer”) on April 9, 2018, I told you that I had developed a social media plan. Making the plan was easy. The hard part came when I entered the implementation phase. Today’s blog post is about the Pinterest aspect of my plan.

Pinterest Best Practices

In the process of developing the plan, I learned the following from Amy Lynn Andrews’ Userletter Issue No. 234 (https://madmimi.com/p/9af10c/):

Kate Ahl recently noted an addition to Pinterest’s own best practices for success: ‘The first 5 Pins you save each day will be prioritized for distribution. Save to the most relevant board first…that Pin will get distribution priority.’”

That was a revelation for me. No more willy-nilly saving pins to my Recipes: Cheesecake Board! Since reading Amy Lynn Andrews’ Userletter, I’ve made myself save five pins to my writing-related Pinterest boards every day before pinning any recipes, quilts, or Maxine-isms.

Old habits are hard to break, so there is definitely a learning curve involved in this.

Advice from Janice Wald

Along the same lines, I learned the following from Janice Wald’s April 7, 2018, Mostly Blogging blog (https://www.mostlyblogging.com/social-media-manager/):

“When I started deleting my boards, Pinterest’s algorithms better learned the content of my niche, and my traffic grew.”

and

“I deleted my boards about food and entertainment, for example. Pinterest will be more likely to show your pins to people if the algorithms know what your site is about.”

and

“I read you’ll get better visibility at Pinterest if it’s clear to the site what your niche is. This makes sense. Search engines show your blog to people when they’re clear what you specialize in.”

That second quote from Janice Wald is a hard pill for me to swallow. I don’t want to give up my recipe and quilting boards. I could make them secret board that only I can see, but I had hoped that when someone looked at one of those boards they’d also notice I wrote a vintage postcard book (The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina) and I’m writing a historical novel (The Spanish Coin) set in the Carolinas in the 1760s.

I’ll have to give that some thought. For the time being, I have 80 boards on Pinterest.

What I’ve Accomplished on Pinterest since Last Monday

I’ve learned how to create my own pins for Pinterest on Canva.com. Those of you who know me, know that I am technologically challenged, so this was no minor feat for me. I am not getting compensated for mentioning Canva; however, I’ve been able to create some pretty cool graphics for free using that website, http://www.canva.com.

How to move graphics from Canva.com to Pinterest

I soon discovered that I didn’t know how to move the graphics I created on Canva.com and saved to my hard drive. A search on Google quickly brought up the instructions. You simply go to the Pinterest toolbar, click on the red “+” sign, and then click on “Upload an image.” (This just might be the first time I’ve been able to give any technology advice to anyone!)

Want to see what I’ve done on Pinterest?

Please go to my Pinterest page (https://www.pinterest.com/janet5049) and look at the graphics I created this past week for the following boards:  The Spanish Coin – My Novel in Progress; Blue Ridge Mountains; Great Smoky Mountains; Books & Authors; and Rocky River Presbyterian Church.

Here’s a graphic I created about my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, for my Great Smoky Mountains board on Pinterest:

Cherokee Basket Weaving
One of the first graphics I made on Canva.com.

My mistakes

There are lots of things to keep in mind when making a graphic for social media. Looking at the one shown above, I realize using a color background would have made it more eye-catchy, although I think it shows up better on Pinterest than on my blog.

Also, at the bottom of the graphic, I should have included my blog’s URL, my website’s URL, and my handle on Twitter. I have edited it in light of that, in case I decide to reuse it at a later date.

My social media plan for Pinterest

  • Mondays: Pin link to my weekly blog post to Janet’s Writing Blog board (set up to post automatically by WordPress.com) and a colonial history factoid or A Spanish Coin teaser to The Spanish Coin – My Novel in Progress;
  • Tuesdays: Pin a factoid from my vintage postcard book to my Great Smoky Mountains;
  • Wednesdays: Pin a Rocky River Presbyterian Church history factoid from one of my church history booklets to my Rocky River Presbyterian Church;
  • Thursdays: Pin a factoid from my vintage postcard book to my Blue Ridge Mountains;
  • Fridays: Pin a Rocky River Presbyterian Church women’s history factoid to my Rocky River Presbyterian Church & Cabarrus-Mecklenburg boards; OR Pin a Rocky River Presbyterian Church history factoid to my Rocky River Presbyterian Church & Cabarrus-Mecklenburg boards with a link to the church’s website where a copy of Dr. Thomas Hugh Spence, Jr.’s book, The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River, can be ordered.
  • Saturdays: Create factoids/infographics for the following week(s).

This is a grand plan for someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, so I know I will not accomplish this every week. I fell short last week even though I was enthusiastic about starting this new plan. I might miss some weeks altogether. The schedule gives me something to aim for, though.

80/20 Rule of Social Media Marketing

I have read in various sources that 80% of your posts on social media should inform, educate, or entertain and only 20% should promote your business. That rule prompted me to strive to shine a light on a book about the history of Presbyterian Women at Rocky River Presbyterian Church or Dr. Spence’s church history book on Pinterest on Fridays.

I wrote neither of the books, and the proceeds from their sales benefit the ongoing work of the Presbyterian Women at Rocky River and the church’s cemetery fund. (The church dates back to 1751 and has several very old cemeteries that have to be maintained.)

My social media plan for Pinterest looks a little out of whack in light of the 80/20 Rule; however, I hope all the pins I create will fall into the “inform, educate, or entertain” categories.

Since my last blog post

In addition to learning how to create my own Pinterest pins and pinning my creations last week, I have continued to work on the rewrite of my historical novel, The Spanish Coin.

Until my next blog

I hope you have a good book to read.

If you’re an avid reader who has never considered the possibilities of using Pinterest, you might want to check it out. You just might find that your favorite authors have pages there and boards about their books. After looking for your favorite authors on Pinterest, please let me know if this was an enjoyable experience for you and specifically what you liked about it.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. Please let me know what your experience has been on Pinterest. If you haven’t thought about using it as part of your writer’s platform, perhaps you’ll consider it after reading this blog post.

Don’t be shy about spreading the word about my blog. Feel free to use the buttons below to put today’s post on Facebook, Tweet about it, reblog it on your blog, or Pin it on Pinterest. Thank you!

Janet

Pioneer Mill Gold Mine

Occasionally, I like to present samples of my writing in this blog. My blog post on May 23, 2017 was “No Place for a Preacher’s Son?” (No Place for Preacher’s Son?) The “no place for a preacher’s son” was the Pioneer Mill community in Township One of Cabarrus County, North Carolina in the 1870s.

Gold Fever!

The reason for Pioneer Mill being a “boom” place in the 1800s was due to the development of a gold mine there. Gold was first discovered in the United States in Cabarrus County in 1799.

“Gold fever” soon took hold of the region and numerous gold mines were developed in Cabarrus County in the early 1800s. In fact, so much gold was found in the area that in 1837 a branch of the United States Mint was opened in Charlotte in adjoining Mecklenburg County

I heard about the Pioneer Mill Gold Mine when I was a young child. I knew where it had been. I should have asked “the older generation” some questions about it, but now that generation is gone.

Finding myself in “the older generation,” I researched the gold mine in order to write a two-part series about it for the now defunct Harrisburg Horizons newspaper in 2012. Today’s blog hits the highlights of those newspaper articles.

After the 1799 discovery of gold on John Reed’s land in Township Ten, everyone in Cabarrus County probably started searching for gold on their property. The date that gold was first discovered at Pioneer Mill is unknown, but the 1869 Branson Business Directory described the mine as “among the earliest discovered mines in the State.

The land on which the Pioneer Mill Mine was worked in the 1800s was purchased in the 1760s by James Morrison, an immigrant from Campbeltown, Scotland. It passed down to his son, John. John and his wife, the former Mary McCurdy, had 11 children. Their youngest child, Robert Harvey Morrison, was born in 1817.

Robert Harvey Morrison remained on the family land and was quite prosperous. The stately two-story house at the entrance to the present-day Cedarvale subdivision on Morrison Road was the home he built for his family of eight children.

Mineral Rights

From a deed registered in Cabarrus County, we know that in 1853 Robert H. Morrison sold the mineral rights on his 640 acres of land to Collett Leventhorpe of Rutherford County, North Carolina and Richard H. Northrop of Albany, New York for $5,000.

In June of 1854, Messrs. Leventhorpe and Northrop, both identified as being of Rutherford County, sold the mineral rights and mining machinery to Francis Rider of New York City for $475,000.

Mr. Rider was identified as the president of the Pioneer Mill Mining Company, “an association incorporated in pursuance of the provisions of an act of the Legislature of the State of New York” that authorized the formation of “Corporations for Manufacturing, Mining, Mechanical or Chemical purposes Passed February 17th 1848.”

I requested a copy of the incorporation papers of the Pioneer Mill Mining Company from the State Archives of New York State, but the researchers there were unable to find a record of the company.

Geology

Ebenezer Emmons served as State Geologist in North Carolina from 1851 until 1863. Dr. Emmons described the veins of gold at the Pioneer Mill Mine in an undated report, “Geological Report of the Midland Counties of North Carolina” as a fine example of veins of gold coming off a foot-wall.

An electronic copy of the Emmons report can be found online through the University of North Carolina’s Documents of the South Collection at http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/emmonsml/emmons.html. He wrote, “In some instances the segments are so distinct that on being removed the lode seems to have run out, but on working back to the foot-wall, another segment is encountered.”

“Foot-wall” is the rock underlying a mineral deposit. The report noted that the Pioneer Mill Mine was in syenite granite.

I have heard it said that in the days of dirt roads and horse-drawn wagons, when horses’ hooves clacked along the road at the intersection of Morrison Road and Pioneer Mill Road, there was a hollow sound that led to speculation that there was an old mine shaft under the roadway.

Dr. Ebenezer Emmons wrote that the Pioneer Mill Mine was in a cluster of interesting mines for which he held great expectations, although the Pioneer Mill Mine was the only one in the cluster in operation at the time of the report.

He described it as “twelve miles east of Concord, and situated upon the eastern border of the sienitic [also spelled syenite] granite, and in a belt upon which there are numerous veins carrying both gold and copper. The vein fissure in the granite is between sixteen and seventeen feet wide. Its direction is N.70°E. The true vein stone is quartz from eight to thirty inches thick, both sides of which is bounded by the killas.”

“Killas” is a Cornish mining term for metamorphic rock strata of sedimentary origin altered by heat from intruding granite.

The Emmons report indicated that there were four veins of gold on the Robert Harvey Morrison plantation. The first vein was a mile south of the Pioneer Mill Mine. Dr. Emmons found refuse ore rich in gold around an old shaft at that vein which was in quartz interspersed with “sulphurets.”

The second vein was a mile east and resembled the first. The third was a vein of gold in combination with copper pyrites. The fourth vein was of quartz and iron pyrites in the northeast part of the plantation. All four veins generally ran northeast.

Dr. Emmons reported that the Pioneer Mill Mine ground 30-40 bushels of ore daily, although he noted that at 11 revolutions per minute, the Chilean millstones in operation were not set at the proper speed for the ore being ground.

The report listed 14 totals of bushels ranging from 38 bushels to 154 bushels and the corresponding yield in gold in dollars. (It is not known if these were weekly totals over a period of time or exactly what time frame is covered by the list.) The list totaled 1,677 bushels of ore producing $5,674 in gold. That was in mid-19th century dollars, when gold was valued at $18.93 per troy ounce.

The Pioneer Mill Mine employed 15-20 men from 18 to 20 days-a-month. The cost of operating the mine was $400 per month. Dr. Emmons noted that the mine had nearly gone under after incurring too much debt, but under a new agent who was more attentive to the machinery and who had started using mercury in the Chilean mill the mine started turning the handsome profit detailed above.

In backyard of Robert Harvey Morrison House
Part of a gold ore grinding stone from the Pioneer Mill Gold Mine.

Dr. Emmons wrote that the Pioneer Mill Mine would have had truly impressive profits had it had machinery capable of grinding 100 bushels of ore per day.

The glory days of the Pioneer Mill Mine ended with the American Civil War in 1861. It took decades for our local economy to recover from the years of the War and Reconstruction. With the passage of time, it ceased to be cost effective to mine for gold in Cabarrus County.

According to the Carolina Watchman newspaper on September 17, 1891, the Pioneer Mill Mine was then owned by Mr. E.C. Black “and he is making some nice finds. He has found several large nuggets; one worth $50, another $12 and still another $37.”

Needless to say, I was thrilled to find Dr. Emmons’ report for without it we would know almost nothing about the Pioneer Mill Mine. Driving through the Pioneer Mill community today, one would never guess that 160 years ago it was a gold mining boom town.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. Just for fun, I’m reading Hardcore Twenty-Four, by Janet Evanovich. All the books I requested at the public library in November (or earlier) have become available to me at the same time. I have three that have come to my Kindle and one traditional book at the library. Time will tell if I’m able to get them read in the time I have allotted by the library system.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet

Reader’s Bill of Rights

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Sometimes a novel’s story summary sounds interesting but fails to deliver. Sometimes it’s a matter of it just not being the right time for you to read that particular book. Sometimes the opening “hook” does its job and pulls you into the story, but the following pages fall short and your interest wanes.

Life is short. There are too many good books out there to spend time reading one that does not measure up or appeal to you.

I used to think if I started reading a book, I owed it to the author to finish reading it. I no longer abide by that. When I joined a book club a few years ago at the Kannapolis branch of the Cabarrus County Library system, I was introduced to a “Reader’s Bill of Rights.” Perhaps you are familiar with it. It is attributed to Daniel Pennac in Better Than Life, published by Coach Press in 1996:

“Reader’s Bill of Rights

  1. The right to not read
  2. The right to skip pages
  3. The right to not finish
  4. The right to reread
  5. The right to read anything
  6. The right to escapism
  7. The right to read anywhere
  8. The right to browse
  9. The right to read out loud
  10. The right to not defend your tastes” – Daniel Pennac

If you do not live in the United States, “Bill of Rights” might be an unfamiliar term for you. That is what the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution are collectively called. It is not coincidental that Mr. Pennac listed 10 items in his “Reader’s Bill of Rights.”

In the United States, we take for granted our access to books and other reading material. Millions of people in the world are not that fortunate. Americans tend to take free public libraries for granted until elected local government officials threaten to close libraries or radically curtail their hours of operation due to financial constraints. Many of them see libraries as an easy target. They see libraries as “fluff.” We suffered through this in the county in which I live during the downturn of the economy that started in 2008. What was taken from us in a proverbial “blink of an eye” took several years to reinstate.

We have wonderful public library systems in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg Counties in North Carolina. I utilize both systems most weeks. The Harrisburg branch of the Cabarrus County system is a very inviting hub of activity. When Harrisburg’s public library branch opened in 2001, our community started to feel like a real town.

I do not take my right to read lightly. I hope you have the right to read anything you want to read. As you can see from the table of flags on this blog page, people from at least 73 different countries have read my blog. When I write my blog posts, I try to be mindful of that.

Some of my readers live in countries where there is no free press and there are heavy prices to pay (such as prison life at hard labor or even execution) if you read something that is banned. Knowing that a few individuals in such countries are putting themselves at risk by reading one of my blog posts has put unexpected pressure on me.

Please don’t take your right to read for granted! This Thanksgiving season in America, I’m thankful for my right to read and for free public libraries.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving Day with family and friends.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Quantum Spy, by David Ignatius.

If you are a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

I hope you live in a country where you have the freedom to write and read anything you want.

Janet

An October 29, 1777 Estate Sale

Did you know that the State Archives in Raleigh is the repository of the original copies of some estate sale records dating back to the 1700s when Cabarrus County was part of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina? These fascinating records for persons known to have lived in the area that later became Cabarrus County are also accessible on microfilm in the local history room at the main branch of the Cabarrus County Public Library in Concord, NC.

John Morrison’s Estate Sale

My great-great-great-great-grandfather, John Morrison, died in 1777 in old Mecklenburg County. A native of Campbeltown, Scotland, he lived his last thirteen years in the vicinity of the present-day Cabarrus-Mecklenburg County line. His estate papers provide a record not only of his possessions but also the names of many local people. I’m very proud to say that he was a farmer.

Robert Harris, Jr. served as clerk at John’s estate sale on October 29, 1777 – exactly 240 years ago today. Mr. Harris made note of every item sold, who bought it, and how many pounds, pence, or shillings they paid.

Buyers

The buyers were James Moore, Joseph Robb, Evan Shelby, Isaac Sellers, John Robinet, John Murphy, Francis Miller, William Driskill, James Alexander, James McCall, John and James McGinty, Joseph Bigger, Hugh Kimmons, Archibald McCurdy, John Springs, John Carothers, Joseph Calbreath, Alexander Allen, Benjamin and Robert Cochran, Steven Pritchet, Peter Borris, Robert Harris, James Stafford, John Ross, Alexander Finley, James Finney, Hector McClain, Samuel Montgomery, William Wylie, and John Finley.

Most of the surnames listed above are no longer found in our community because many families moved west in the 1790s and early 1800s. Some of the buyers lived in the area that remained in Mecklenburg County after the formation of Cabarrus in 1792, so some of the names are probably from the Mint Hill area.

Summary of Items Sold at Estate Sale

Items sold at the estate sale included eight horses; 19 sheep; 25 head of cattle; 17 hogs and a parcel of pigs; three hives of bees; 17 geese and ganders; 25 pounds of wool; a parcel of books; a great coat; two straight coats and jackets; one pair of blue britches; a pair of old buckskin britches; and a fur hat.

Also, four saddles; five bells and collars; five other collars; six bridles; two sets of horse gears; an “M” branding iron; three augurs; a drawing knife; nailing and stone hammers; a broadax; three weeding hoes; two maulrings; a wedge; a clivish; a sprouting hoe; a mattock; two falling axes; three spinning wheels; two horse trees and hangings; a cutting knife and stone; a sythe and cradle; four sickles; a flax brake; a pair of wool cards; and a pair of cotton cards.

Also, barrels for flour, rice, beef, and salt; a tapper vessel; two cedar churns; oak and walnut chests; two smoothing irons; a looking glass; one whiskey keg; and various other tools, household items, and pieces of furniture.

Other items included 6.5 pounds of iron and 14.5 pounds of steel. Steel as we know it today had not yet been developed. In 1777, steel was the name for sharpening rods used to sharpen knives and other cutting edges.

Half a wagon?

The most puzzling record in John Morrison’s estate papers is that John Springs bought half a wagon and half the wagon implements. Since no one bought the other half, it has been speculated that Mr. Springs knew that John’s wife, Mary, needed the use of the wagon but also needed the proceeds from the sale of the wagon and implements. After all, Mary was a widow with seven children still at home and a baby on the way. Perhaps Mr. Springs made a verbal agreement to let Mary Morrison keep the wagon even though he paid half the value of the wagon at the estate sale.

Another possibility is that John Morrison had bought the wagon and implements from John Springs but had only paid half the bill at the time of his death. Mr. Springs, instead of saddling Mary Morrison with the additional debt of the unpaid balance chose to simply buy back that half of the wagon and implements. When Mary Morrison died in 1781, there is no mention of a wagon in her will or her estate sale.

Lots of ammunition!

Other intriguing items sold at John Morrison’s estate sale were the 17 pounds of gun powder and 55.5 pounds of lead. That’s more gun powder and lead than a farmer needed. So why did John Morrison have so much of both?

John wrote his will on August 30, 1777. By September 3, he was dead. It is speculated that he was stockpiling munitions for the patriots’ cause in the American Revolution and that he was shot by Tories, but we will never know the real story.

My sources

The sources I relied on for writing this blog post are as follows:  John Morrison’s Mecklenburg County estate papers on file at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh, NC; What Did They Mean By That? – A Dictionary of Historical Terms for Genealogists, by Paul Drake, 1994; and Descendants of John & Mary Morrison of Rocky River, by Alice Marie Morrison and Janet Sue Morrison, 1996.

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The Descendants of John & Mary Morrison of Rocky River, by Alice Marie Morrison and Janet Sue Morrison

I regret that Marie and I did not know about the existence of John and Mary Morrison’s estate papers when we compiled and published Descendants of John & Mary Morrison of Rocky River in 1996.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

The Daily Prompt – Record

I’m trying something new today. Monday is the day that I get weekly digests of the blogs I follow. I tend not to be very productive on Mondays, so it is a good day for me to read what other bloggers have to say. I follow a variety of bloggers from around the world – USA, Scotland, France, Australia, Egypt, England, Canada, India, Norway, and South Africa. I follow the blogs of other writers, as well as a young man who is a music composer, photographers, historians, pastors, stay-at-home mothers, a father whose daughter died of cancer at the age of 19, and an autistic man in the United Kingdom.

This afternoon I found a blog that was new to me: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/challenge-instructions/. The site offers a writing prompt every day. I’ve never done much with writing prompts, but this might be a way for me to blog more often than my usual Tuesdays and Fridays. It has already prompted me to do a little writing on a Monday, which is an accomplishment in itself. Today’s prompt is the word record.

Right off the bat, I’m faced with the decision of whether to use record as a noun or a verb. I chose to use it both ways.

I immediately thought about the daybooks one of my great-grandfathers kept in which he wrote daily from 1891 until his death in 1914. His daybooks (or journals) are a RECORD of life on his farm in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. What a gem for his descendants! I wish he had RECORDED more current events. He had fought in the American Civil War, so on the anniversary dates of the battles in Richmond, Virginia, and New Bern, North Carolina were always noted.

In April, 1896 he wrote the following note in the margin:  “We Built this house in 1886 and moved in it   Earth Quake Aug the 28 the Same year.”

On May 31, 1897, after commenting on the weather, that he didn’t feel well (“I am on the Sick list.”), and what was being done on the farm, he ended the day’s daybook entry with, “a Earth Quake this Eavning 12 m to 2 o clock.”

Lee Dulin kept a daily RECORD of the weather and that day’s activities on the farm. He was a widower raising six children, his wife having died in childbirth in 1881. Trips into Charlotte for supplies were duly noted, as was his trip by train to the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta. A man of few words, though, he merely wrote down the day he left for Atlanta and the day he returned. It was probably the first time he saw electric lights, but we’ll never know. He didn’t write about anything he saw at the event, which was very much like a World’s Fair.

Photo of part of a page of ciphering in one of Lee Dulin’s daybooks.

There was one fact Lee Dulin RECORDED in one of his daybooks that proved to be valuable to my sister and me as we worked on our family’s genealogy. If not for this almost overlooked note on a page of ciphering in one of the daybooks, we would not know the name of his father. In case it’s not legible here, he wrote, “James J. Dulin my Papa name.”

In today’s computerized world in which it is said that young adults have no interest in keeping a photograph or a piece of paper, I’m glad I came along in a time when family RECORDS like great-grandpa’s daybooks were valued and saved.

Incidentally, I blogged about Lee Dulin’s daybooks a year ago tomorrow, May 14, 2016, in case you want to read more about it.

Until my next blog post (which will be posted in about 11 hours)

I hope you have a good book (or an ancestor’s daybook) to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet

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Writing talents from my mother

I’d like to think I inherited my writing talent from my mother, but she set the bar high. Today would have been her 104th birthday.

My mother was one of 10 children. She was the third youngest. She grew up on a farm in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, attended first grade a one-room school where all 11 grades were taught in one room.  When she graduated valedictorian of a consolidated high school in Charlotte, some of her city classmates were displeased. How dare a farm girl make the highest grades in the class! She went on to major in French and English at what is now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro during the Great Depression. After graduating, she taught French and English on the high school level for five years (also during the Great Depression, being paid $70.00 per month) until her marriage and second career as a homemaker and mother.

Growing up with an English teacher for a mother can be frustrating at times. Such a child is not allowed to make grammatical errors, even in jest. Such a child is taught from birth to use the correct verb tense. You might say the use of an incorrect verb tense was my mother’s pet peeve. By her example, I grew up ever-vigilant in catching grammatical errors I heard on TV or read in a newspaper. Although my mother died more than two decades ago, I still think of her and cringe  every time I hear an error by someone on TV who “should know better” or read a mistake in a news article written by someone who “should know better.” It wasn’t until I became an adult that I appreciated what my mother did for me. It wasn’t until I tried to become a writer that I became painfully aware that I should have paid more attention to punctuation in English class.

My mother loved teaching and late in her life she wrote and self-published a history of the first 100 years of organized women’s work in our church congregation. She even wrote a little play to accompany that 100-year milestone.

I was a young adult when she wrote that book, and I did not fully appreciate her accomplishments. For one thing, I just always took for granted what my mother did. I assumed all mothers could make doll clothes and some of their children’s clothing, even if they’d never had a sewing class. I assumed all mothers taught their toddlers to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in two languages. I assumed all mothers knew how to make doll cakes for their daughters’ birthdays. I assumed all mothers could teach themselves how to knit and crochet. I assumed any mother could write a book. Wasn’t that just what all mothers did?

It wasn’t until I reached my 40s and she was gone that I realized just how gifted my mother was. I’ve had sewing and quilting lessons, but I still struggle to darn a sock or sew on a button — things she did with ease. I can make a cake and ice it, but it would take me all day to make a doll cake and it wouldn’t be as elaborate and pretty as the ones she made. It wasn’t until I took a fiction writing course at Queens University of Charlotte in 2001 and started writing short stories and longer fiction that I realized that writing is hard work. My mother made all these and a host of other things look simple. I’m 63 years old and I still can’t get all the components of a meal ready on time or at the same time.

Mama, how in the world did you do it?

Thomas Lee Dulin’s Daybooks

One of my great-grandfathers, Thomas Lee Dulin, kept a daybook almost every day from 1891 until 1914. Perhaps the roots of my desire to be a writer can be found in that part of my gene pool. Being born in rural North Carolina in 1842, Great-Grandpa did not have benefit of a great deal of education. For that reason I especially admire him and appreciate the fact that he sat down with his pencil and ledger and wrote nearly every day. He seldom used punctuation and his spelling was not perfect, but he probably did not have a dictionary. He made the effort almost every day, and by doing so left a great example for me to follow suit.

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Great-Grandpa wrote about the weather (which was of utmost importance to him as a farmer) and what was being done on his farm in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He noted the going price for a pound of cotton in Charlotte and surrounding markets because cotton was his main cash crop. If a neighbor stopped by to visit, he made a record of that.

According to official records, Great-Grandpa enlisted in Company H, 35th Regiment, North Carolina Troops in 1861. He gave his age as 21, although he was just 18. As a veteran of our country’s civil war, he made note of the anniversaries of the two main battles in which he participated – New Bern and Richmond. He was wounded in the left shoulder at Malvern Hill in the seven-day Battle of Richmond.

Some years ago, my mother and sister painstakingly hand-copied Great-Grandpa’s daybooks. Without realizing that today was the 154th anniversary of the Battle of New Bern, I checked that transcription to see what was going on in Thomas Lee Dulin’s world through the years on March 14. It was sobering to read his daybook entry for March 14, 1899: “37 year today I was in the Battle of Newbern, N.C.” Although in the interim he had married, been widowed at the age of 38, and left to raise his six surviving children, March 14, 1862 was forever engraved in his memory.

As the years went by, Great-Grandpa almost never failed to mention on March 14 how many years it had been since the Battle of New Bern. Oral history is valuable, but sometimes the stories get changed as they are passed down from one generation to another. The written word, especially when kept daily in a daybook, journal, or diary is a powerful record that we can hold in our hands and refer back to in order to make sure we get the facts right. My great-grandfather’s daybooks are a family and local treasure housed in the North Carolina Collection at the main branch of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.