Beautiful Land Across the Water

img_0829We spent this past weekend on the island of Chincoteague, located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  It was one of those rare weekends when we didn’t really have any plans.  I had just finished the first draft of my next novel, which takes place on the island, and Ken asked if he could read it.  Several chapters in, he told me that he loved the writing and the storyline, but I had many geographical errors.  It has been years since I spent any time on the island, and to be honest, I never paid that much attention to which waterways were which or how much marsh there is instead of sand.  His remedy?  To pack up the camper and head to Virginia.

Ken’s brother, Tom, and his family moved to Chincoteague many years ago, but as the children grew older, and life got busier, we found it hard to all get together on the island, so Tom and his crew always come up to Maryland rather than everyone going down to Virginia.  But true to his nature, Tom welcomed us with open arms and was the perfect host and tour guide.  We arrived late Friday night after watching Morgan’s field hockey game, ironically, just thirty minutes away from her cousins’ home.  Ken and I stayed in the camper while the cousins all slept in the house, or didn’t sleep, as they hadn’t been together for a while and wanted to spend as much time together as they could.

img_0823On Saturday, Tom gave us a tour of Chincoteague, a name taken from the Native American name, Gingoteague, which is believed to mean, “Beautiful land across the water.”  It is indeed across the water, across the Chincoteague Bay from the rest of Virginia and across the Chincoteague Channel from Assateague Island, both a State and National Park.  Many people my age and older will recall the beloved novel, Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry, about the pony who swam across the channel to the annual firemen’s pony auction and then made her home on Chincoteague.  We drove to the beach on Assateague, passing several herds of the wild ponies, and then back to Chincoteague to Memorial Park and then through the downtown.

img_0818After lunch, Ken, my mother-in-law, and I struck out on our own so that I could see everything through the eyes of Kate, my main character.  We climbed to the top of the Assateague Lighthouse and visited the island museum.  At the museum, I learned so many things that had never turned up in my research, such as, when Assateague, once the more populated island, became privately owned, the inhabitants rolled their homes down to the water, put them on boats, and floated them to Chincoteague where some are still standing today, almost one hundred years later!  You can bet that someone in my book will live in one of those homes!  Also, in the museum, we saw the real Misty, a treat for any girl who, like myself, devoured the book series as a child.img_3030

img_0803Later in the afternoon, Tom and his wife, Sandi, took us on a boat ride.  We literally circumnavigated the entire island, and I was treated to a view of the island that I had never before seen.  I also found the perfect location for Kate’s winter getaway.  To wrap up the day, Sandi served us some of the best crab cakes I’ve ever had.  We talked about my book and the island, especially the history of the island as it relates to the Coast Guard.  Approximately 75% of the retirees on Chincoteague are former Coast Guard.  Those valiant men and women play a large role in my book, and I was honored to spend the weekend of 9/11 in a place where those who serve are held in the highest regard.  Banners honoring all of the young men and women currently serving in the Armed Forces are proudly displayed up and down Main Street, including one of my nephew, Ty.

As I learned with my previous books, nothing beats personal research.  There’s a lot that I can learn and see online, but there’s nothing like visiting a place in person, talking to its people, seeing firsthand its beauty, and immersing oneself in its culture.  I am so grateful for the time and attention that Tom and Sandi gave to our tour and my questions and to my husband for giving up his weekend so that my book can be as authentic as possible.  I look forward to paying my respects to the people and history of Chincoteague Island.img_0890

 

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Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

A Shore Thing

DSC02536Is it just me, or is there something special about this time of year?  The days are still warm, but the nights are crisp and cool.  Routines are being established (or re-established), bedtimes are earlier, my favorite shows are coming back on TV, the holidays are just around the corner; here on the Shore, the crabs are fatter and tastier, and I could go on and on.  Spring might be the time that the world renews itself, but fall is my time to renew and reflect.  It’s when I start thinking about and writing my newest novel.  Truthfully, it’s when I do my best writing.  It’s when my head seems to be clearer, and my mind is ready to focus.  I think a lot of it has to do with the girls returning to school.  We are all ready to get back to business.  But there’s no question that a good part of it has to do with living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland at this most beautiful time of year. Read more

A Whale of a Tale

DSC06345If I were to ask you, or most people, what your favorite animal is, I’m sure you, or most, would answer “cat,” dog,” or other similar such creature.  My children have always thought me a bit strange because I have a great love for (they would call it an obsession with) elephants, sharks, and whales.  Since I was a small child, I have always been fascinated by these three majestic creatures.  When I was very little, I had a small collection of whales – glass figurines, stuffed animals, and such.  As a teenager and young adult, I had quite an extensive collection of elephants – everything from clothes to glass and wooden figures to unique collectibles from around the world (gifts from friends and family).  For Christmas a few years ago, my husband gave me a shark dive in Australia.  It was the most amazing experience ever! Read more

Nobody’s Perfect

Many years ago, a very wise man told me something that I have never forgotten.  After I graduated from college, I moved back home to find a job and save some money until my next great adventure came along.  The first weekend I was home, I attended Mass with my family at our church.  Our pastor, Father Paul (now Monsignor Dudziak), welcomed me home and asked me how it felt to be a college graduate.  I told him that it felt good but not great because I had graduated magna cum laude and not summa cum laude and had missed the higher honor by less than a tenth of a percentage point.  Father Paul nodded without comment and then asked me to follow him.  When we reached the altar he pointed to the floor and asked me “Do you see this carpet?” I nodded, unsure of why he was asking, and he continued.  “This carpet has handmade by Persian monks.  It took months, maybe years, because it was intricately planned and woven by hand.  They are experts at making rugs and create the finest works of art.  However, in every rug they make, they always weave into it a mistake.”  He looked at me and asked, “Do you know why?”  I shook my head, and he replied, “Only God is perfect.”  Humbled, I blushed and nodded. Read more

Favorite Novels – What’s on Your List?

DSC04542As I sit here this morning looking out over our backyard, a heavy mist shrouds the landscape.  The snow and grass seem to be in a struggle over which parts of the yard belong to whom.  Across our property lies a patchwork of white, brown, and green bordered by trees that actually seem to be looking down upon the earth wondering when it will be time to awaken from their long, cold slumber. And as if the East Coast hasn’t already had more than its share of winter, more snow is heading our way.  The good news for those of us in the Mid-Atlantic is that at least we’ve been able to thaw a little in between each storm.  Not so for Boston, Buffalo, and many other cities and towns north of here!

I’ve already accepted the fact that there will be four people in the kitchen tomorrow baking Katie’s sweet sixteen cake rather than just one, and I might just have many more hands available to decorate for her party on Friday. However, I so long for an entire week of writing without interruption!  I understand that many people are just itching to get into their gardens and out in their boats.  I would just love to have a five-day stretch where I can sit in quiet and complete a chapter or so per day in my next novel.  Alas, that doesn’t seem to be in the forecast for me this week, but perhaps a good read is in your future.  So I’ve decided to share with you my list of my all time favorite books.  Like all good librarians, I will categorize the list.  I hope there is something here that you will enjoy reading.  I believe that you will find a few hidden gems amongst some of the more well-known titles.  So pick a book, sit by the fire, and remember that spring is just 15 days away!

Amy’s All Time Favorite Books: Read more

A Mother’s Love

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Nineteen years. Sometimes I can’t believe it. Tomorrow, February 12, marks nineteen years since I became a mother. I don’t know where the time went since the doctor first placed my beautiful Rebecca Kathleen into my arms, but they sure have flown by. Now she’s a sophomore in college, and it’s hard to grasp the reality that she’s pretty much all grown up. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Rebecca or her sisters, Katie Ann and Morgan. They are my daughters, my muses, and yes, as they grow older, my friends. My husband says he sometimes finds it hard to fit into our world, and I can understand that. Though we all try our best to include Ken in everything we do, we are like our own little club, my three daughters and I. Read more

Advice From the Desk of A Writer

10371504_1493211267560036_1559440155953801216_nThis February marks fifteen months since my first novel was accepted by a publisher.  Oh my, how much I have learned between then and now!  Since A Place to Call  Home was released last August, I have been asked countless times what advice could I give to aspiring writers.  I love how so many of the bestselling authors say things like “write every day,” or “just keep typing away and submitting,” or “you can do it if you work hard.”  Sure, all of those things are great, but here’s the reality: I could write a whole new book just on my experiences over the past fifteen months and what I have learned.  And believe me, I’m still learning.  Every day I read or hear something new that I think, I should do that, or remember that, or look into that.  So here are some things that I have learned that I hope will help others.  Feel free to comment below to open a dialogue on what YOU have learned. Read more