CONNECTIONS: January 2012
By Joyce M. Gilmour (MWSA Reviewer & Copy Editor @ Editing TLC)
HAPPY NEW YEAR to all MWSA members! Here’s hoping that 2012 will bring us together to support each other in our writing endeavors. I hope that you will have a year full of learning which will take you further on your writing journey.
Before the MWSA Conference 2011, I made mention that I would be at the conference and would love to connect with folks. Well, Author Nancy Rial wins the A+ award because she is the only one who approached me about being interviewed for a CONNECTIONS article. We had an opportunity to go to the hospitality room, and Nancy shared her book, Alan’s Letters. It was awesome to have a page-by-page tour of the book, presented by the author.
As a teacher, I was interested to hear about the inspiration for Alan’s Letters. Nancy’s high school son was assigned an American history project in which he was to interview a soldier. In not being able to find someone to interview, his grandmother shared the stack of letters that had been sent from France, from her brother, Alan, during the time he served in WWII. Alan was one of the soldiers who gave his life serving in that war. The history teacher gave Nancy’s son approval to use this source of information for his project. What really surprised Nancy was just how much interest her son’s peers showed in the letters. Seeing this response from the high schoolers, Nancy was motivated to begin researching to put together a book for young people and adults.
Due to personal family circumstances, the young soldier, Alan, was not a high school graduate when he enlisted. Therefore, he actually was about the age of Nancy’s son and his classmates. The fact that these letters were sharing the story from a person their age, increased the interest, and made learning about WWII that much more real to them.
Nancy’s endeavor to put together this book about her uncle, has been a long and intense research project that has certainly exceeded that of her son’s high school project. Nancy has spent years researching for this book, both here in the States as well as in France. The letters stirred up many questions that she wanted to discover answers for, and it led her to meet a number of WWII veterans who have shared memories with her. She refers to them as “great old gents.” She has spent time with members of 5th Division, E Company. It took her 2½ years to receive Alan’s U.S. military records. She spent much time at the National Archives reading daily records from the time her uncle spent in the Army. Nancy’s research is ongoing even after publication. In the summer of 2010, she walked the French farmland where Alan was KIA and she will be visiting the WWII R&R area near Bosimont, France, this February.
Nancy Rial is a library media specialist with the Cambridge Public Schools, with a background in the fine arts and library science. With this knowledge and background, she knew that to make the book one which students would appreciate, it should be a visual tour as well as text. She has done an outstanding job in presenting a work of history that will capture both young people and adults alike. Please take the time to go to the Alan’s Letters website to learn more about the book. It is an excellent read for anyone interested in learning not only Alan’s story, but “soldiers’ stories from WWII.” You won’t be disappointed. (http://www.alansletters.com)
Book Synopsis: This is a personal chronicle of a teen soldier in WWII from basic training to his adventures across northern France on the front lines as a member of the Fifth Division, part of Patton’s Third Army. Using all primary sources from the historical period, the book is attractively designed in beautiful color. The letters from Alan to his family represent all the young soldiers’ voices when he expresses a yearning for a normal life again and appreciation of all that he has had as a youth growing up in America.