Friday, August 31, 2007

The New Book!


The Writer delivered the latest Time Spies book this morning. Winchester and I are celebrating with a tea party! In Chapter One, Sophie has a special tea party that both Winchester and I attend. At this tea party, we are using vintage child's dishes--the plate and platter belonged to The Writer when she was a little girl--

That long ago?
--and the tablecloth is a vintage handkerchief. Of course, we have to wear pretty hats to a tea party.

The things I do for food. Now that The Writer has finished her book, she has more time for me. I have a list. Number One, I'd like to be brushed twice a day. Number Two, I'd like to inspect my kibble bucket--
Winchester, The Writer has to start a new book right away. How do you think she buys your cat food?

Well, I hope the new book is all about me!
Don't hold your breath. More tea?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dear Ellsworth

People are always writing to ask me for advice, so from time to time, I'll answer a letter here.

Dear Ellsworth:
I have a favorite stuffed animal too. I still play with him even though I'm ten. How old do you have to be before you should stop playing with stuffed animals? Worried in St. Paul

Dear Worried: When The Writer was a little girl, she had the same problem. She played with me until she was thirteen years old. Then she put me on a shelf. We didn't play any more, but we still talked. Don't worry about ever being too old to play with your favorite stuffed animal. He is your best friend. And he always will be. The Writer grew up, but she keeps her old toys and favorite children's books where she can look at them. She still plays with stuffed animals!
Sincerely, Ellsworth

Yes, The Writer fools around a lot! That's why I never get fed on time.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Winchester's Favorite Things


Winchester grumbled that the last several posts have been all about me. So this one will be about him. Here are the things he loves most in the world.

Yes! That's my food mat, where my meals are served. And that's Mousie, my best friend.

That is Winchester's water bowl, not his food bowl. He eats so much and so often that The Writer gets tired of washing his dishes. So he eats on paper plates.

So declasse, but what can you do? And I only drink Poland Springs water.

You would never guess he was once a stray.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Signals in the Sky


I finally learned how to put covers on my journal! Here's the book I've been talking about!

That's a pretty good achievement considering your head is full of stuffing.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ellsworth Goes to Fredericksburg, Part IV


This is the final entry of my field trip. After The Writer and I toured the Fredericksburg battlefield, we walked over to the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. More than 15,000 soldiers are buried here, most of them from the Union side, and about 80 percent are unknown.
I am sitting on a monument at the bottom of the steep hill. Stacked cannonballs decorate the corners of the monument. The graves climb the hill in terraced rows. Every Memorial Day, Boy Scouts put luminarias--paper bags filled with sand and candles--on each grave. After dark, the candles are lit, all 15,000 of them. It's a moving sight to see thousands of lights, each marking the grave of someone who died for his country.

Sniff.

It's okay to get a little teary-eyed, Winchester. When people visit battlefields and memorials, they often become thoughtful about the Civil War. End of field trip. Thanks for coming along!

Ellsworth Goes to Fredericksburg, Part III


Next, The Writer and I went to the Fredericksburg Military Park, otherwise known as "the battlefield." This is one of four Civil War battlefields around Fredericksburg.

When the Chapman kids go back in time to Fredericksburg, that awful December battle in 1862 is over. The armies have been resting and planning. It is spring when they arrive and the North and the South are getting ready to fight again. That battle is the famous battle of Chancellorsville, although there was fierce fighting in Fredericksburg again, too.

In the picture I am sitting on part of a fence. During the Civil War days, you could see these fences all around farms. Now you see them mostly around battlefields. When The Writer was growing up, she lived on property that had been a Union camp during the war. Part of the property boundary was divided by one of these fences, dating back to the 1860s. Years ago, when The Writer and I would walk back to Willow Springs creek, part of Bull Run River, we would step over the fence because it had long since fallen down.

Behind me is a stone wall. During the 1862 battle of Fredericksburg, Confederates fired from behind that wall. The Writer, who is taking my picture, is standing in the Sunken Road, now a very famous old dirt road.

The 1862 battle of Fredericksburg has been called Confederate General Robert E. Lee's easiest victory. The Battle of Chancellorsville, the one the Chapman kids (and me!) are sent back to, was also a victory for Lee, but it was not easy and he paid a terrible price.

What was that?
I'm not going to tell you everything, Winchester. Read a history book once in a while! Last part of the trip to come...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ellsworth Goes to Fredericksburg, Part II


My trip continued . . .

The Writer and I walked over to the edge of the Rappahannock River. This is a famous river. The name comes from the Native American Algonquian word meaning, "river of quick, rising water." Captain John Smith explored the Rappahannock after he had sailed up the Potomac (this was after he had founded Jamestown). He saw bears and other wild animals along the banks.

Virginia's largest roost for bald eagles is along the Rappahannock, not far from Fredericksburg. One December The Writer spotted her very first eagle in the wild while she was driving down Route 1. She looked up and saw an eagle flying overhead, heading for the river.

During the Civil War, the Union Army was stationed on one side of the river, in Stafford County. The Confederate Army was on the other side, in Fredericksburg. They fought a terrible battle in December, 1862. When the Chapman kids are sent back to Fredericksburg (in Signals in the Sky, Time Spies #5), they are in the spring of 1863. The two armies are still camped on opposite banks of the river.

You can see the Rappahannock flowing behind me. We had a big thunderstorm the night before with a lot of rain. That's why the river is high and muddy.

I didn't know you could climb trees.

There's a lot you don't know about me, Winchester. To be continued...

Ellsworth Goes to Fredericksburg, Part I


My paw gets tired so I'm going to write about my trip in four posts.

Yesterday The Writer and I took a little trip to Fredericksburg, "America's Most Historic City." It is, too. Colonial history mingles with Civil War history. We visited some of the places Mattie, Alex, Sophie, and I went to in Time Spies #5, Signals in the Sky. That book is set here during the Civil War. The Chapman kids are sent to Fredericksburg in 1863 to help reunit two brothers fighting on opposite sides of the war.

The kids go to James Monroe's law office. The fifth president once practiced law in Fredericksburg. He was friends with Thomas Jefferson, who also came here. Read the book to learn about the ghosts seen in front of the building! That's me on a bench in the little garden behind the law office.

You look ridiculous.

Winchester, you're just jealous because you had to stay home. More later....

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Time Spies Series

Today I'm off on a field trip--

I never go anywhere except to the vet's.

--on assignment for the Time Spies series. If you want to learn more about Time Spies, check out the excellent website. The best part is a special prequel chapter The Writer wrote that features Sophie and me in the very first adventure, before the first book begins. We meet somebody really famous. You have to solve the puzzle to get the secret password to gain access to the chapter (hint: it's the name of the most important character in the series).

That would be--

It is not Winchester. You can visit The Writer's website, too.

I've seen it. I'm not mentioned anywhere!

I'm outta here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

How The Writer Works


The Writer has almost finished the first draft of the new Time Spies book. I can't wait to find out what happens to me!

Why don't you tell the title of the book and what it's about?

I can't do that until the book is "official." But later I'll talk about the other books that have already been published.

The Writer always breathes easier when the first draft is done. She works from a detailed outline she has written and discussed with her editor. But an outline is not a book, just like a map is not a journey. Rewriting is the fun part. The Writer can fill in the holes, make the characters more real, and put in more action.

After she has scribbled all over the first draft until she can barely read it, The Writer adds those changes into the computer and prints out a fresh copy. Then she scribbles all over that copy, making more changes.

Why doesn't she do it right the first time? She must not be very smart.

Writing is hard work!

It is not. I write the family Christmas letter every year. Piece of cake.

Anyway, after The Writer has revsied the book two, three, even four times, she sends it to her editor. The editor suggests more changes. It's a long process, but worth it. So, Winchester, do you think about today's diary entry?

Just look above . . .

Saturday, August 18, 2007

How the Elephant Got Her Name

People are always asking Sophie why her girl stuffed animal has a boy's name. How did I get my name? A long time ago, when I belonged to Candice (before she became The Writer), she used to read a comic in one of her mother's magazines. The comic was about an elephant named Ellsworth. The elephant was a boy, but Candice didn't care. She liked the name and gave it to me, even though I'm a girl.

I'm named after a city, not a comic.

Well, Winchester, I can claim a city, too. Ellsworth, Maine, is a famous old city. 6456 people live there. It was settled in 1763 and incorporated in 1860.

You call that old? Winchester, Virginia, the place I'm named after, was settled in 1729 and founded in 1750. And 23,585 people live there.

I actually have two cities. There's also Ellsworth, Kansas, population 2965. It was founded in 1864.

Your cities are getting punier. Okay, top this: I'm also named after a cathedral in England. It was built in 1093. Hah! I win!

Do I hear the creak of the cat food cabinet opening? You'd better go or you might miss a treat.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

My Turn

This is a story about one of my very first adventures. I was born in a haunted house--

What?!?

Be quiet, Ellsworth! I didn't interrupt your so-called adventure. As I was saying, I was born in a haunted house in historic Fredericksburg. Oh, I was a handsome fellow. My mother loved me best of all her kittens. She said I had the longest, finest whiskers and the biggest, whitest hind feet--

She was right about your feet, Slats. I bet it took her a week to wash them.

You leave my mother out of it! Anyway, the house had been a hospital during the Civil War. A soldier ghost was supposed to walk around after midnight. One night I couldn't sleep. I crawled out of the box and padded into the hall. I saw a dark shape on the stairs. It was the ghost soldier! But was I scared? No! I figured the ghost was sad. So I rubbed around his legs--

You can't touch ghosts! They're like air.

My ghost was solid!

I don't believe your story for a second. If you saw a ghost, you'd faint. You're the biggest baby in the world. You're scared of thunder, like a dog. Every time a truck rumbles by, you hide under the ottoman. You're afraid of the mop in the closet!

You're just jealous because my story is better than yours. I will not stay here and be insulted.

Thank heavens he's gone . . .

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My First Adventure

I promised you the story of my very first adventure. Here goes.

I'm all a'twitter.

Be still, Winchester. It was more than fifty years ago, back when I was a brand-new stuffed elephant. Oh, I was gorgeous! My plush was silver, the red velvet lining my ears and the bottoms of my feet was lush and bright. I sported a shiny red bow around my neck. I was so fetching, the toy store owner put me in the window to attract customers.

'Fetching?' Have you been reading Gone With the Wind again?

A little girl and her grandmother walked by the window. The little girl was very pretty, with brown hair and dimples. She pointed to me and her grandmother nodded. They came inside the store and bought me! The little girl carried me outside and stood in the middle of the street. The sign said, State Street. Luckily, no cars were coming.

"Am I in Virginia or Tennessee?" she called to her grandmother.

"Tennessee," her grandmother replied. "Get back over here in Virginia where you belong, Patsy."

Patricia tossed me high as she crossed to the Virginia side. We were in Bristol, a city that straddles two states. As she caught me, a diamond ring on her finger winked in the sun.

"Where did you get that ring?" her grandmother demanded.

"It's Aunt Jo's," Patricia said. "She let me try it on before I left."

"You brought your aunt's engagement ring all the way down here without her knowing it?"

Patricia skipped ahead with me. "Don't worry. I won't lose it."

She didn't, either, but people still talk about the time Patricia wore her aunt's diamond engagement ring for two weeks, traveling on a train with it. Patricia took me home to Manassass.

That's it? That's your first big adventure? I've been robbed.

I suppose you have better stories? Like the time you got stuck in the cat food cabinet?

My story won't be as lame as yours. Next time, it's my turn.

You're on.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hello!

Welcome to my diary. You might be thinking a stuffed animal doesn't do much except sit on a shelf. I've had a lot of adventures in my day. In fact, I'm off on a new adventure right this very minute.

This week The Writer started a new Time Spies book starring Yours Truly. Well, there are other characters in the book but I'm the most important! The Writer is working kind of slow. It's really hot here in Virginia and The Writer feels sleepy in the afternoons. She's writing Chapter Two now. Me--and the other characters--are hanging off the side of a mountain! It's very exciting. I can't wait to find out what happens next.

At least she didn't leave you back in Chapter One wearing a tiara!

That's Winchester. He's the black and white cat who has a small role in the Time Spies books.

That's not true!

Okay, you're definitely not small. The vet put you on a diet, but you keep sneaking food. The Writer said she's going to send you to Cat Weight Watchers--

Are there no secrets here?

Anyway, I'm glad to be off on a new adventure. When I have time, I'll tell you about my very first adventure, back when I was a young stuffed elephant.

Puh-leeze! 'When I have time' . . . like you have a packed appointment calendar.

Pay no attention to the cat. I don't. Until next time.