Unearthing & Celebrating History

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

I hated taking History in school. I don't know why--well, maybe I do. Events, dates, causes and consequences didn't interest me. For the most part, I couldn't relate. Too many things were going on in my teenage life. I didn't care about what happened years ago even if, as my teachers tried to explain, the past allowed me to have the freedoms I take for granted.

Today, we live in an era of technology where the Internet has given us access to information through videos, documentaries, nonfiction as well as narrative non-fiction, podcasts and blogs, Internet radio and even "Alexa" where you only have to ask "Alexa" to get the answers to most anything. The way History is taught no longer needs to be boring.

Whether or not a student clicks in will depend, I believe, on their sense of curiosity and timing; curiosity to begin to explore a topic in new and different ways or appreciate those that do and did, and timing that connects them to some part of the story. If I had heard about the Orphan Trains as a teen, I'm not sure I would have been as horrified with the process as I was years later as a Mother of three. The story certainly wouldn't have resonated with me in the same way.

In the early 1990's, while working for an educational publisher, I came across a little book called The Orphan Trains. Intrigued, I sat down and read it cover to cover. For days, weeks, no months, I couldn't get the information I had read out of my mind. I kept thinking of the "what ifs?" My father had passed away when I was six and we were quite poor. What if my mother hadn't been able to care for me and my brother? Would she have been forced to give us away? Could that have been us? What if my brother and I had been separated? What would my life or his have become? Slowly but surely, through all the thinking and imagining and researching, a story emerged; a story that would evolve over the next twenty-plus years before culminating in a book.

First titled, My Brother's Keeper, and then, They Called Me Blue, Obsessed By A Promise  follows the lives of two brothers separated in the Spring of 1929. The youngest is taken and eventually sent out west on the Orphan Train to a new family while the oldest is frantically searching for him. Devastated by the loss of his little brother, the elder dedicates the next fifty years of his life to the search.

Strangely, history also played a major role in one of my other books. We Bought A WWII Bomber centered on a historical accomplishment of students during World War Two. Doing research for that book unearthed a seventy-year old mystery, made history in a small town that had forgotten the important event, and resulted in the placement of two historical markers in two different States.

Experiences writing these two books have taught me to pay attention to the world around me. What is current today may be significant history tomorrow. Had you told me back when I was in school that history would become an important part of my future as a writer, I wouldn't have believed you. I hated History classes in school so it's very strange to me that I enjoy writing about it today.

To celebrate the NEW YEAR, I'm giving away an autographed copy of either We Bought A WWII Bomber, or Obsessed By A Promise. Leave a comment by January 5, 2020 and one winner will be able to choose their book of choice.



Old Books Keep Coming Back!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The other day an author friend of mine said to me, "Once you publish a book, it's always with you. You never know when it will unexpectedly pop-up again." The comment was prompted by unexpected orders that arrived out-of-the-blue for the purchase of several of her books that hadn't sold a copy in months.

Her comment made me laugh because last November, I received a call regarding my children's mini-musical story book, CD and DVD package, Arlie the Alligator, asking about purchasing multiple copies for an alligator preserve's gift shop. I was thrilled, of course, and somewhat amazed. Although Arlie the Alligator has received modest success over the years, I never expected a bulk order at this time.

The original Arlie the Alligator came out in the early 1990's as a hard back book and audio cassette package. Then, in 2000 a CD replaced the audio cassette. The book was brought out in paperback with updated illustrations in 2013, and in 2014, a DVD was produced. By traditional publishing standards, Arlie the Alligator would have been relegated to the cancellation pile, but because it was independently published, it has remained on the market selling one book, CD or DVD now and again. So, you can imagine my surprise and delight when I received the request for a bulk order. Amazingly, thirty-eight years after it first hit the market, Arlie the Alligator has been given a new chance to continue delighting children in story and song, in a Texas gift shop.

This happened with two other books of mine, also. In 2016, publisher Royal Fireworks Press, re-illustrated and republished, If I Were A Table and Reflections On Being Gifted, a title change for a book originally called, Being Gifted: Because You're Special From The Rest. Both of these updates and returns to market were surprises to me since both books had original publishing dates on them of 1981 and 1986.

You never know when you put your heart and soul into a book or an idea if it will find an audience and have a lasting impact.

It's like my friend said, ". . . You never know when [a book you authored] will unexpectedly pop-up again."

Sometimes books are like volunteer flowers in the garden that surprise you in the Spring. They pop up to delight when you least expect them.

Has interest in any of your books popped up again after many years?

Leave a comment by October 10th and Sandra will gift one lucky winner with a copy of Arlie the Alligator. 

*     *     *      * 
Sandra Warren is the author of books in several genres.

Contact her at:

Sharing Your Secrets In Presentations

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

While planning a weekend presentation, it occurred to me that my audience might like to hear more than a synopsis or a reading of the book. I know I do when I attend an author event. Don't read me a page from your book. I can do that myself, later. Tell me something not in the book, something I learned from being at your presentation. 

Things like:  Where the idea came from and what inspired you to pursue it? How long it took to write? Did you have to do research? Are the characters based on someone you know? What was the hardest part of the story to write? How many times did you rewrite it? Where did the title come from? Sprinkle in your personal writing experience too; Is this your first book? Did you always want to write? Who is your favorite author? Who is your biggest supporter? Where do your other ideas come from? Do you have a critique group? And so on and so on.  

This weekend I will be speaking to group of adults and young adults at a local library about my newest work of historical fiction, She Started It All. But rather than talk about the story as written, I am sharing my secrets about how I turned a nonfiction story into the historical fiction they came to hear about. As interesting as I think the story itself is, I believe it's more interesting to share how I determined what facts from the nonfiction needed to be in the historical fiction. What pitfalls I faced? If I use real character names? Why or why not? Stuff like that. In my humble opinion, this will be much more interesting than merely telling the story. 

The flyer for my presentation reads like this: From A Bomber Story to She Started It All: Creating Historical Fiction From Nonfiction. 

If you're out and about near Morganton, North Carolina around 2:00 pm on Saturday the 9th, stop by and critique my presentation. I'd love to see you! 




Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Throughout my journey as an author I've learned to accept the ups and downs of the profession. I know that everyone won't love my work or "get it," whatever the "it" is built into the particular story they've just read. I expected to get reviews and prayed they'd be good ones. I've come to realize that my readers, children especially, think it's pretty special to meet me. What I never expected were what I call, gifts of the heart, that I've been blessed to receive from my readers.

It all started years ago with my Arlie the Alligator: Story-Song Picture Book. Although designed for primary children, preschoolers caught on to the catchy tunes and insisted on playing the audio tape and then CD, over and over again. They loved to BELLOW with Arlie, much to their parents dismay. One three year old boy named Bryan, insisted that his mom buy Arlie's Mom, he called me that, an alligator necklace that he saw in a store. It was totally unexpected and I cherish it to this day.                   

  Other alligators followed. I've received  stuffed alligators, and wooden ones, puzzle alligators and ones made out of metal. Here are two more clever fellows that look just like Arlie. Inside their mouths sits a tiny bird. I named the bird, Odetta, and plan another Arlie adventure based on her. They were given to me by a friend who saw them in a jewelry display and had to buy them for me.  I wear them when I do school visits. 

Although my new book, Spivey's Web, is less than a year old, I've already received related gifts. One friend saw this cute mug and said she just had to get it for me. Another gifted me with this unique spider's web that I have hanging in my office window.

With my We Bought A WWII Bomber book, I've received several unique gifts. One, a ring made by a school boy in 1943 out of a part of the bomber from the story. After wearing it for a couple of years and fearing I would lose such a treasure, I donated it to the Patrick County Historical Society from the county where the bomber crashed. They will preserve and keep it safe museum. 

An exact replica of the B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber was also gifted to me complete with the correct tail numbers #229577 and the name given to the bomber by the students who raised the money to purchase it, The Spirit of South High, Grand Rapids, Michigan, painted on the fuselage. 

A real surprise gift came in the mail a few days ago from the caterer of the reception that followed the Dedication of the Wayside Historical Marker placed on The Blue Ridge Parkway, October 1st. For the reception, the caterer's husband made a B-17 bomber cookie cutter so she could make gingerbread bomber cookies. Two days ago a box arrived with a bomber cookie cutter inside. I am thrilled! What a wonderful surprise!  It arrived in time for me to make bomber cookies for the November 20th Book Launch of  She Started It All, the middle grade historical fiction version of the bomber story.

And last but not least, I can't forget to mention the wonderful cape made for me by the daughter of  one of the gentlemen from Meadows of Dan, Virginia, who came forward to show me the spot where the B-17 bomber, The Spirit of South High, crashed. He was an 11-year old boy at the time, heard the crash and went running to the site. Unfortunately, he passed away a few months ago and wasn't able to witness the dedication of the marker. Linda Fain surprised me with this beautiful fleece cape.   

All of these were SURPRISE GIFTS FROM THE HEARTS of my readers. Each and every one was totally unexpected. 

Have you received GIFTS FROM THE HEART? I'd like to hear about them. 



Wednesday, October 3, 2018

When an author's book finally hits the market they hold their breath hoping that the reviews will be glowing and sales will be swift. They have expectations that their baby in print will delight and inspire and captivate readers. What no author can prepare for is the unexpected.

In 2015, I was privileged to write a nonfiction book about an incident that occurred in my high school during WWII. It involved a funding program that put a tangible face on money Americans spent on United States War Bonds and War Loan Stamps. The largest of these programs was called the "Buy A Bomber" or "Bonds for Bombers" campaign. Students in my school, South High School from Grand Rapids, Michigan initiated War Bond sales totaling $375,000, earning the right to name a a small Pursuit Fighter and a B-17 Flying Fortress. They named them both "The Spirit of South High School. War Bond sales paid for 57% of the cost of WWII, after taxes. 

My purpose in writing the story was solely to tell the alumni from the school, what happened to their bomber. For 71-years they had no idea. One of my classmates, Joe Rogers, found it on a crash report that said it came down stateside in a small mountain Virginia town located on The Blue Ridge Parkway. 

Monday, October 1, 2018, a Wayside Historical Marker was dedicated on The Blue Ridge Parkway at Mabry's Mill, near the sight where that bomber crashed. 
Approximately 150 folks attended including 15+ alumni from that high school in Michigan. Media from three television stations attended as well as newspaper reporters.  Those attending enjoyed a reception at the Meadows of Dan Community Center courtesy of the Patrick County Historical Society and the VFW Organization. 

I was overwhelmed to say the least. 

One of the reporters asked me what I hoped students and adults will get out of seeing and reading the marker. Here's what I said: "I hope folks will be reminded and impressed with the importance of Americans working together for our country. WWII was a time when patriotism was the norm and permeated our great country. If ever we needed that kind of patriotism, it's now. I also hope students see that they can achieve great things and make a difference. I pray readers will catch the "Spirit of South High School" exhibited there. 

The marker is beautiful! If you're ever on The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, Milepost 176.2, at Mabry's Mill, stop by and see it and know that wonderful and unexpected things can happen when your book comes out.  

Here is the link to one of the broadcasts:




We Bought a WWII Bomber: The Untold Story of a Michigan High School, a B-17 Bomber & The Blue Ridge Parkway!  
2017 State History Award: Private Printing Category, Michigan Historical Society 
2016 Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist

Middle Grade Historical Fiction version: 


Making History: YOU ARE INVITED!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

It's here!

Finally, confirmation of a date for the Dedication of the placement of a Wayside Historical Marker on The Blue Ridge Parkway honoring the events surrounding the non-fiction book that was written in 2015 titled,  We Bought A WWII Bomber: The Untold Story of A Michigan High School, a B-17 Bomber & The Blue Ridge Parkway and the newly published middle-grade historical fiction, SHE STARTED IT ALL.

It's an extraordinary thing that is about to happen and YOU are invited!

When: Monday - October 1, 2018 -(The 74th Anniversary of the crash!)
Where: Milepost 176.2 on The Blue Ridge Parkway - Meadows of Dan, VA
Time: 1:00 pm followed by a Reception at the Meadows of Dan Community Center, 2858 Jeb Stuart Parkway, Meadows of Dan, VA 24120

So how did I get from there to here you ask? Let me explain.

Following the completion of the research for the non-fiction book mentioned above, it seemed only natural that the next step should be the placement of a historical marker near the site. Research indicated that the Superintendent of the National Park System was the decision maker and you had to prove via articles and primary and secondary resources that a site qualified as historical.

Armed with that information, I rationalized, what would be better; a letter containing proof of historical significance from one little old lady or a letter containing proof of historical significance along with petitions signed by a multitude of folks indicating they would support a historical marker at the site? With a historical marker as a goal, I started collecting signatures on petitions where ever I shared the story of the students, the campaign, the bomber and the crash; from aviation museums to Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, historical societies, senior communities and libraries and to audiences of all ages. Armed with over three hundred and twenty-five signatures, I put a presentation package together. Within that package was a letter of introduction indicating why I felt the incident should be considered for a historical marker, the non-fiction book about the bomber that told the entire story and the stack of over three hundred twenty-five signatures on the petitions.

Two months after sending the letter, I received notification that my request had been approved. A Wayside Historical Marker would be place at Mabry's Mill on The Blue Ridge Parkway. Two months after that, a site for the marker was approved. That was in 2016. Now, two years later, after the designing and the fabricating and the shipping and the installing, the dedication is at hand. 

Multiple alumni from the Michigan school involved, will make their way to milepost 176.2 on The Blue Ridge Parkway. Together with the good people of Willis and Meadows of Dan, Virginia, they will mingle and share this wonderful event. 

I look forward to seeing YOU as well as my neighbors, friends and writer friends in Meadows of Dan on October 1st!


For more information about the story, check out the Book Trailer

NON-FICTION                    NEW Middle-Grade FICTION


Author of Arlie the Alligator and other books for children and adults!

Taking a Story From Non-fiction to Historical Fiction

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The success of my book, We Bought A WWII Bomber: The Untold Story of a Michigan High School, a B-17 Bomber & The Blue Ridge Parkway, took me by surprise. Even though I wrote it to tell the alumni from the high school that I attended, what happened to the bomber they bought by instigating sales of War Bonds and Stamps of over $300,000 during WWII, I never could have imagined the story would resonate throughout the country as a symbol of the patriotism that permeated the country during that Great War, nor did I realize at the time it was the only book written about the "Buy a Bomber" or "Buy a Plane" funding program.

Because the book was written for students who are now adults in their senior years, I didn't occur to me to tag the story as a middle grade or young adult non-fiction, when in fact, the extraordinary accomplishment attributed to these adults was instigated when one of them was an eighth grader and achieved when they were in junior and senior high. It seemed only logical that the next step would be to write a middle-grade historical fiction version of the story.

Where to begin?

I began with looking at the facts I wanted to incorporate.

Two separate communities in two different States and in two different decades make up the true story.
1. First there was the 1943 Grand Rapids, Michigan story of the junior high and senior high students at South High School who raised the $300,000 to buy the bomber.
2. Second there was the 2015 discovery of the crash in Meadows of Dan.

I wanted to make sure the story of how the students instigated $300,000 in War Bond sales, was told in as much detail as possible, as well as the part that unfolded decades later connecting the bomber to a small mountain community in Virginia along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Where and how to connect the two was the big question?

Here's how I turned my Non-fiction into Historical Fiction.

I chose an Advanced History, middle-school classroom in Patrick County, Virginia as the setting. (Fictitious.)  Patrick County is where Meadows of Dan resides. (Fact.) To carry on long established tradition, these students must study and create a poster as well as give a presentation on a specific era in history. This years project centers around WWII. All is well until the teacher assigns the school's math whiz, a young boy, United States War Bonds and Defense Stamps, and assigns WWII aircraft to a girl. That sets up a secondary plot as the two students are at odds with each other and the teacher because of their unwanted topics.

In the story, the young man, a model airplane builder and lover of WWII aircraft, won't be happy until he discovers the Grand Rapids, Michigan story of the South High students and the "Buy a Bomber," program. He will do the research I had to do when discovering the facts of that story.

Meanwhile, the girl learns, by chance, that her great, great aunt was a WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilot) and that there had been a crash of a B-17 bomber in their own town of Meadows of Dan, in 1944. The Virginia part of the story will unfold for the girl like it did for me through my research.

The big question then was, how to make the stories come together?

I decided that each Advanced History student had to give a report, first to the other eighth grade classrooms and then to parents at an evening event. The boy presents first. He tells the Grand Rapids story and shows the model airplane he's built; an exact replica down to painting the identification numbers on the tail and the name chosen by the students, The Spirit of South High, on the fuselage 

Meanwhile, the girl gives her report about her great, great aunt and the story of the unknown crash of a B-17 bomber that landed near the old mill in Meadows of Dan on The Blue Ridge Parkway. In the summary of her report, she mentions the tail numbers of that bomber.

At that exact moment that the boy realizes they've been reporting on the same bomber! Chaos breaks
out as both students realize their reports are about to make history; he's solved a 72-year mystery for the students at the Michigan high school, and she's unearthed the story of a crash that even the Patrick County Historical Society knew nothing about. (Back to facts again.)

Turning my non-fiction into a middle-grade historical fiction novel was as much fun, or more, as uncovering the facts for the non-fiction book. I can't wait to share it with you. Look for, She Started It, to come out this August.

It's time to think about turning your favorite non-fiction into Historical Fiction.

Leave a comment by August 1st (updated from June 20th) and I'll send you a copy of the non-fiction, We Bought A WWII Bomber from which She Started It was adapted. 

Sandra Warren is the author of books for children and adults. Check out her other publications on her website.


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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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