I had the privilege of visiting England the last week of February — one of my favorite destinations before the coronavirus situation became a deterrent for travel. I am so grateful! Since I am a historical fiction author, researching the location in person is a real treat, as you can imagine!
The day after I arrived in the UK, and before my week-long intensive Bible course began (the main reason for my visit), my teen friend Mariah and I headed to Bath on a local train to do a bit of research at Sally Lunn’s. During my last visit, I discovered a tidbit of information that led me to write about Sally. More later . . .
The Sally Lunn bun (the size of large hamburger buns, but with the texture of brioche) was excellent — worth risking a reaction to my gluten intolerance. I couldn’t come to Bath without enjoying one! I would describe it as the best hamburger bun you have ever tasted. Hopefully, that’s not offensive to a Brit. Here is a pic of my daughter five years ago when we first experienced this culinary delight. In my story, which I tentatively have titled, “Soli’s Saving Grace,” I bring to light a purely fictional crisis that inspired her to create her bun recipe.
The top of the bun is on the right, and the bottom section is on Olivia’s plate. It is so large, that you must use a knife and fork. Since the bun is as light as a feather, it is no problem to eat both parts in one sitting.
This time, I asked for both. Although the server happily agreed, she seemed a bit perplexed. Evidently, very few people ask for both. Leave it to the Americans to want more! Isn’t this a lovely tearoom? You can feel the history seeping out of the walls.
InsInside Sally Lunn’s tea shop — a delightful place to stop for refreshment on a tour of Jane Austen’s Bath.
Re-creation of the kitchen where Sally (Solange) would have spent hours baking her buns.
And here she is! Of course, we don’t know how she truly appeared, but this is a good guess.
We finished our lovely meal and headed down to the basement, where a small museum is located. I wanted to revisit the tiny historic exhibition which inspired me five years ago. At that time I found a little sign tacked into a wooden cabinet. It noted Sally Lunn was probably a Huguenot girl named Solange Luyon. That tidbit of information is all I needed to let my imagination run wild! Hopefully, someday, you will read Soli’s story in print.
Next, we visited Bath Abbey, where my character, Soli, flees for refuge. Last time I was in Bath, we were not able to tour it, so I was thrilled when I realized it was possible!
Amazing architecture and poignant grave markers characterize this historic building . . .
Isn’t the Nave ceiling incredible? It is a fan-vaulted design, created in the 1500s by the king’s master masons to draw our eyes up to God. Here it is up close. . .
So, my reason for visiting the Abbey, other than enjoying the architectural beauty, was to ask a question: Did the Bath Abbey indeed offer refuge for Huguenots who came knocking (did they?) at their enormously imposing wooden doors?
The card given to me by the priest
I found a priest who had time to chat with me. I was surprised to discover he had Huguenot roots himself. Small world! But, unfortunately, he wasn’t able to answer my question. But he did refer me to the archivist who works at the Abbey, and on my way out, I was given a card.
Just what I needed. Now that I have all this time on my hands, due to the #covid-19 crisis, I will email him this week. Who knows what that will uncover!
Our family had the opportunity in December to watch A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks, who, by the way, did a fabulous job portraying Mr. Rogers. It would not surprise me if he won an Oscar. It helped me understand the heart behind the man so dearly loved by his young viewers. What can we learn from this children’s icon?
Reflecting on my childhood, I can’t believe my mother never introduced me to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. I’m sure he would have brought peace into my sometimes troubled heart. Instead, Garfield Goose filled our screen. Are you old enough to remember the program? You can watch an excerpt HERE.
In rewatching a few minutes of Garfield Goose, we are introduced to a few new ideas which concentrate primarily on information, with a bit of humor thrown in. Mr. Rogers, on the other hand, focuses on feelings. Sure, he exposes children to many new things as well, but all with concern for the young viewer’s heart. Many of the topics Fred brings up, are issues children deal with sometimes on a daily basis. Death, divorce, bullying, prejudice – the list could go on.
What Was His Attraction?
After watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, I understood what attracted me to this iconic figure, and why I would have cherished him as my mentor: compassion and patience. Two traits I lack in spades. Oh, not that I’m not compassionate when others are hurting. No. It shows up when I face those who have chosen a wrong path, have hurt others, or are generally un-loveable. But, according to Mr. Rogers, there are no unloveable people; only those who need to be heard, understood and loved — just the way they are.
I admired his patience as he waited for a response in conversation. He felt no need to fill in the silence with platitudes or advice. His goal was to listen and accept each person on the journey they were taking, praying daily for many as he took an early swim.
That’s why I’m thankful his legacy can continue on at the Fred Rogers Centerwhere they pass on his mission as they help children grow as confident, competent, and caring human beings.
I wanted to know what made the man we know as Mr. Rogers? Biographies tell us he was a minister who loved God, his fellow man, Scripture, and prayer. His Christianity shone through.
“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”
“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”
“We speak with more than our mouths. We listen with more than our ears.”
“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully, your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”
Enjoy getting to know Mr. Rogers more fully in this trailer of another film that debuted last year, more of a documentary with Fred himself as the star.
If you’d like to see episodes from years past, find them here on Mr. Rogers’s official website. They are precious black and white footage from days gone by. Why not watch a few with your family and reminisce? If you want to get to know the puppets and their role in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, check out this LINK.
A few days ago, I listened to Janet Parshall’s In the Marketpodcast You Are Special where she hosted Amy Hollingsworth, one of the few journalists allowed to interview Mr. Rogers, due to a rebuttal she made to an article maligning this gentle man. For over a decade, they conversed, exchanged emails and shared thoughts about life and faith. Amy was the last one to receive a letter from the humble star young viewers loved. Listen to the In the Market podcast HERE.
What does this have to do with the craft of writing?
Hmmmm. . . I had to think about that one. Mr. Rogers was engaging. He was genuine. And he loved children. He told stories about real people in everyday situations. Senarios children would experience during their young lives.
He helped them deal with the scary things in life and made peace with them. Then showed the good side of folks we all can emulate. And isn’t that what we strive to do in our writing? Connect with our readers where they are.
Be truth-tellers — even in a scifi or fantasy world. Be heart-healers — giving hope to others via our words. And, be bridge-builders to a better world where all things work together for good — in God’s kingdom.
What about you? What do you hope your readers take away when they read your work? Share your thoughts below!
This past year was a difficult one for me. Due to our financial situation, we have not been able to travel, which has always been my go-to for inspiration. A new destination has the ability to shake up my brain cells and send them in a new direction, but this year, they stopped. Cold.
It’s as if I had a brick in my hand, and couldn’t lift my pen. My creativity was on lock-down. My mind was a blank. Oh, I could compose an email, and even write blog posts. But a story? Nope.
Have you ever had that feeling? Not comforting, is it?
What’s more, I felt jealousy rising within me whenever an author friend signed a new contract or received a raving review from Kirkus or Horn Book. It hurt when fellow authors posted about their school visits or bookstore signings.
It’s not that I hadn’t put forth the effort. Not at all. I had been contacting local bookstores and schools daily during the Fall, dutifully sending my one page of info immediately after I hung up the phone. I even kept a spreadsheet of the contact info and details of the email or phone call.
I felt like quitting Facebook and Instagram. Twitter, especially, was the worst. A knife went through me each time I witnessed someone’s successes as I scrolled. It’s not that I wanted to steal their joy or take away their accomplishments. Of course not. But I wanted it to happen to me as well.
It was then God brought the word CONTENTMENT to my heart and mind. If God has gifted me as a writer, then He knows what I need, right? And He has perfect timing. If He can move mountains and calm the sea, He certainly can remind my contacts to call and arrange a school visit. Or not. And, He can spark my creative muse in an instant. Or not. My part? To be CONTENT with what the Lord brings into my writing life.
My Word last year was PERSEVERANCE, and boy, did I persevere. I contacted over 30 schools, bookshops and conferences asking if I could share my author’s journey or teach a writing course. But in 2019, I had five events to attend where I could introduce my debut MG historical fiction, The Heart Changer.
This year, I want to rest in God’s plan for me. I have classes to take, and blog posts to write, and short trips to take as I search for ways to be inspired. And as I rest, do you know what is happening? Little by little, I see the Lord, my Master Designer, taking control and connecting me in almost imperceptible ways with my readers. What a freeing experience! I am released from my duty of cold-calling and reminders. CONTENTMENT is coming into focus as worry and doubt are banished.
I’m coasting down a gently flowing river on a raft, letting the current take me wherever it will. I lift my face to the sun, feeling its warm glow. I don’t need to worry about the destination, God has it all under control. I only need to rest.
Although I want to be content with my writing life and schedule, I am still open to connecting with the public in any region of the US. If you know of a church, school, bookstore or conference looking for a middle-grade author to participate in a bookish event, check out my Visit page. I love to share my passion for the Bible, history and the writing life with my readers!
Jarm (‘J’ pronounced as a ‘Y’) Del Boccio finds her inspiration in everyday life, but in particular, when she travels the globe, observing the quirky things that happen along the way. Focusing on the lives of characters from the past, Jarm is devoted to breathing new life into the pages of history.