Found Journal Is Treasure Trove for Writer

rosette-coverIn more ways than one, a found journal kept by a pioneer woman is proving to be “a treasure trove of possibilities,” says author Cindy Rinamon Marsch. Her mother found the journal, written by Rosette Cordelia Ramsdell Churchill, in a thrift store. So far the treasure trove has yielded one literary historical novel, Rosette: A Novel of Pioneer Michigan, and a short story, “Blizzard: A Story of Dakota Territory,” & Cindy is working on a second full-length novel, Solomon: A Novel of the Civil War Era. And, while the writings are stand-alone works, their compelling characters & situations are linked, & Cindy’s marketing strategy takes advantage of that synergy.

The Stories

The theme of Cindy’s debut novel is intriguing: “Why did she edit her wedding day journal?” The answer comes from the journal entriesโ€”the wedding day in 1856 & the edit in 1888–& Cindy applying her rich imagination to the events and emotions penned in the journal.

The short story came about as a result of Cindy thinking about how to make money with her writing. “The idea of offering the first book free is a good one, but I didn’t want to do that. I’m kind of a high-brow, literary person. I can’t put out a book a month. I decided to experiment with a short story.”

It was known that Rosette left her husband & family around 1886 or before & spent her later years in Dakota Territory. Cindy imagined her leaving & going to live on the farm of her eldest son, DeWitt, & his family there, in which case she’d have experienced the 1888 Children’s Blizzard, a catastrophic storm that caught people unawares on a mild, sunny day. So after publishing Rosette, a 74,000-word novel, in January 2016, Cindy followed up with Blizzard, a 10,000-word short story, in June. (Both are available on Kindle & the novel in an illustrated paperback version.)

As she was writing her first novel, Cindy was drawn to Rosette’s brother, a Civil War bugler who was captured & imprisoned at Andersonville. Solomon, the subject of her work-in-progress, was the favorite character of many readers of Rosette.

The Strategy

After querying agents for a time, Cindy decided to go indie with Rosette & established Moraine’s Edge Books, an imprint not only for her own work, but also for other authors to whom she’ll offer editorial assistance & the talents of her daughter, Betsy, who created covers for Rosette & Blizzard & sketches for the paperback version of Rosette.

Like many indie authors, she chose to publish her eBook exclusively with Amazon. She began studying Amazon’s Kindle programs, getting guidance primarily from the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). She entered Rosette in the Kindle Scout competition in December. Kindle Scout is a contest in which readers vote for books to be published by Kindle Press, and Amazon editors take it from there. The prize for winning authors is a $1,500 advance, five-year renewable contract, & 50 percent royalty on eBooks. Cindy’s book came close to winning. “I made some good connections, & got some great reviews out of it.”

Within weeks after the contest closed, she published Rosette on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select, & a month later published the paperback book. Launching “Blizzard” at 99 cents for the Kindle version boosted sales of Rosette in July when she ran a Countdown Deal promotion. “I had run a Countdown in April that didn’t do as well.”
blizzard-cover
In August, she ran a free promotion of “Blizzard” which resulted in 2,500 downloads for the month, generated numerous reviews, and catapulted her ranking to #1 in the Historical Fiction Short Story category.

As for future plans, Cindy is considering entering Solomon in the Kindle Scout competition. Eventually she may bundle the three writings into a boxed set, another strategy to satisfy readers’ appetites and keep the synergy going.

To read samples, to order, and to learn more about Cindy’s work, visit RosetteBook.com & MorainesEdgeBooks.com.

16 thoughts on “Found Journal Is Treasure Trove for Writer

  1. When I think of this journal ending up in a thrift store – and then someone finding it and telling her story – how amazing! As a kid who thought I was reincarnated from Laura Ingalls Wilder, I have to read this story, and so I immediately went to Amazon and bought a copy! So excited to read about this woman’s life! Thanks for this awesome interview, Leanna!

    1. Yes. I discovered Cindy Marsch when she announced “Blizzard” on the Historical Novel Society Facebook page. I knew after reading the story she was someone I’d like to interview.

    2. Thanks so much, Susan. I appreciate every single sale, not just for the bit of revenue, but for the opportunity to acquaint others with the “lost Rosette” I’ve come to really appreciate in so many ways. It’s a privilege just to hold her journal every time I bring it out.

      I found photos of her brothers, and one of Solomon is serving for the cover my daughter is painting for my in-progress novel about him. I think everyone who reads *Rosette* wants to know more about Solomon! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Finding a journal would be a treasure trove indeed for the author and yet the thought of someone finding mine would be my worst nightmare coming to life. I mean, a grown up’s journal doesn’t start with “Dear Diary” so naturally the content will be more substantive than a secret crush on Joey (or in my case, Julie!). Don’t get me wrong, while I would feel a bit voyeuristic, my curiosity would drive me to devour every word from cover to cover in one sitting, fascinated by the rare glimpse of the inner thoughts, desires, demons of another. What an honor and i suppose also a responsibility to convey this woman’s life as accurately as her words allow. Thank you for sharing your find!

    1. Cynthia, I have every intention of destroying my old journals (well, most of them. I have a kind of fun literary journal I kept in college . . . that will be sufficient). When I think of how this journal came into my hands, I envision Rosette keeping it over the years, and then when she died her daughter in Fargo kept it, and then when she and her husband and spinster daughter moved to Florida about 1930, it finally came into the hands of Rosette’s granddaughter, who died in 1956 in the St. Pete area. My mother found the journal in a thrift store or antique store in the St. Pete area, so that’s my plausible-but-made-up story about how it came to me. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I do plan to publish the actual journal – it’s now fully transcribed and checked for accuracy by a handwriting expert friend of mine. I just have to decide whether to do it “raw” or with annotations, and if annotations, how much and of what sort? I’m envisioning something like the large *Pioneer Girl* volume and don’t know if I’m up to that level of historical material!

      Please join the Readers List at http://www.rosettebook.com to see more of the journal entries at the site and to learn of new developments and releases as they come.

  3. Wow, I wasn’t even thinking about someone finding my own journals, which aren’t all that exciting or even decipherable to anyone but me. What hit me first after reading your blog, Leanna, was how I wish there’d been people among my antecedents who actually kept journals or wrote things down. My grandfather was a journal-er, but of the “bought 3 12-foot lengths of 2x2s for $.37” and “2 lobsters at $.25 each” variety. I suppose someone more talented than I am could build a novel out of that kind of notation, but I do find myself wishing that I’d had forebears who wanted to tell me more about how it FELT to be them. In the meantime, I am interested to read Ms. Marsch’s creations based on that fortuitous thrift store find. And maybe I should get over my serious lack of shopping genes and go thrift-store diving. . . .

    1. You mention “deciphering”–today’s school kids aren’t learning cursive handwriting. Would reading an old hand-written journal be worth their effort?

    2. Patsy, the original journal has a lot of that minutiae, and I included a couple of “shopping lists” in the novel because I found them fascinating. I read recently that the Civil War is so well chronicled because “almost everyone” at the time kept a journal. What’s wild about Rosette’s is that she records things she is not even aware of the significance of (like her embarrassing dream about horseback riding a few weeks before she marries!). Mostly she’s very practical, but every once in a while something comes through that really opens a window into her soul. She tells at one point of how in the shanty she and her new husband live in the mice have eaten her sock yarn all to bits, and her words there now grace my “Rosette” business cards: “If I could have done as I wished I should have had a cat long ago.”

  4. Lots of concern expressed about someone finding “my” diary. What about the folks who’s names might show up in that diary? Do they get an opportunity to rebut?

    1. Tim, I was worried about that a bit, too, especially when I discovered Rosette’s great-grandson still living and found out he’s a lawyer (retirement age)! But he was delighted at the prospect of learning something about his ancestors he knew “nothing” about. And he is the closest of kin. More pleasantly, I found another distant relative who happens to be a Ph.D. candidate in history, who resembles the middle-aged Rosette I imagine in the first chapter of the novel, and who does historical re-enactments and wants to portray Rosette sometime! ๐Ÿ™‚

      My intention all along, especially in the more delicate items, was to represent people as fairly as I could, so that even those who might feel a bit sensitive about “Great-great Uncle Otis” could allow that he had tendencies of the sort I convey. And if anyone has better info about any of the people in the novel(s), I would love to learn of it!

  5. From what I gather, an author is free to fictionalize real people who have been dead at least 100 years. As for people who are living, I had a post “When Novelists Exploit or Expose Real People,” which generated some good comments, including one from Darlene about the legalities.

    1. I look forward to reading that post soon, Leanna! And congratulations to you for having such an awesome blog that invites so much commentary! It’s unprecedented in my experience.

      If anyone has follow-up questions, I’d be delighted to respond . . .

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