J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Telling the Story of Ben Franklin’s “Leather Apron Club”

On her journal, Massachusetts children’s-book author Jane Yolen has provided a play-by-play narrative of how she’s developed a picture-book manuscript about Benjamin Franklin’s “Leather Apron Club”—a self-improvement and discussion group for ambitious mechanics. This project has taken years, and is still in progress at the publisher.

Among Jane’s challenges:

  • Finding a young protagonist for young readers to identify with.
  • Finding a narrative shape and pace to bring out the emotional meaning of historic events.
  • Sticking reasonably close to the historical record.
  • Researching details of daily life that a historical article on the same topic needn’t include.
  • Knowing what facts to leave out, even though they’re really neat.
  • Making the result work within the picture-book form, considering the strengths of her illustrator and the budget of her publisher. (Having been an editor herself, Jane is more keenly aware of that side of the business than new authors have to be; most authors have no idea which artist they’re writing for.)
I’m not sure how long that material (which aggregates several postings on the progress of this book over the years) will stay on top of the page. Jane’s been keeping her online journal for so long that its format predates blogs, making a direct link difficult.

(Thanks to Fuse #8 for the link.)


DebbieLynne said...

I just found your blog through The Boston Globe, and I'm delighted! I've even linked to you in my blog. I'd like to actually write a post promoting this blog. Would that be okay?

J. L. Bell said...

Go right ahead. Thanks for the kind words.