As I traveled around New York this weekend, I truly wasn't surprised to find Sam Houston's story in my heart and on my lips. New Yorkers loved old Sam, and he felt the same. Lincoln also revered him, and if that surprises you, brace yourself, there's way more.
I began working on a novel about Sam Houston in early 2014, before Hamilton hit the stage. The research took me some time, because the story centers around the Cherokee tribe that adopted him, with whom he was close for all of his life. Their story is all but forgotten. I found it due to what I considered old wives tales told at our family reunions.
Many Americans have an "Indian princess" story, and these days we discount it so that we don't engage in unintended cultural misappropriation. At least, that is what I did. But when I was researching family genealogy, I kept coming across Sam Houston in Oklahoma, then Indian Territory. I became curious: why was he there? Were the stories possibly true? Then I picked up a book about him, followed the trail, and was shocked. They were true, every one of them.
I was determined to be truthful in turn and give voice and names to Houston's adopted tribe. As you can guess, it was hard to find them, but I kept at it until I was satisfied that I knew these people and places. In the meantime, I wrote, every chance I got, like my life depended on it. Eventually, I had a novel that I edited while I asked for feedback.
National Military Park: Horseshoe Bend, where Houston made a name for himself, and where Chief John Jolly's Cherokee tribe (among other tribes) fought with Jackson, only to be forced into a removal treaty.
Reenactors of the 1814 battle (part of the War of 1812, Creek War Division, US Army). The Reenactment was in 2017 at The Hermitage, in Nashville, Tennessee, home of then General Andrew Jackson. In fact, his home was the training ground for his troops.
Weapons for sale by some reenactors, like those used by Native Americans. Notice the owner reenactor's bare feet at the top left of the blanket.
Last year, I entered I AM HOUSTON in the Permian Basin
Writer's Conference Contest, and was thrilled when it was a finalist and placed 2nd Runner Up in the overall General/Literary Fiction Category. I was on to something, but was still having a hard time explaining it to New York agents and editors.
So, I decided I wanted to be in the room where it happens. I applied to attend New York Pitch conference held by the superb Algonkian Writer Conferences. Again I was thrilled when I was accepted into the small group of excellent writers.
In the next post, I'll put a picture of the final pitch (book blurb) and let you grade it, but here is a picture of me in class, with New York blaring from the open window behind me. If this is something you want to do, I highly recommend that you try for it. Besides our incredible class consultant, agent and author Paula Munier, all the editors we met with gave spot on expert advice. And I loved meeting like minded seriously good writers; I fully expect some in the group to be published. Now I've got some homework to do, but I am pretty hopeful that I AM HOUSTON will find a home with a publisher sometime in the near future.