Five Pennsylvania Places I’d Love to Visit


Come along with me as I learn more about my own State,
and follow for possible visits to these mentioned places in the future!

The last time I did any traveling was in September of 2020. Half of Pennsylvania was still shut down due to…everything. But my family and I were experiencing an intense case of cabin fever. We were still able to work, but we missed doing all the summertime things we’d come to love participating in the years prior. So for my birthday I planned a trip to Johnstown, Pennsylvania. As with many PA towns, Johnstown drips with history, and I mean that quite literally. Go check out that blog post when you’ve got the time. The photo at the top of this post is from that trip.

Yesterday before work, I began reading a book by a local individual named Bill O’Neill. The title: THE GREAT BOOK OF PENNSYLVANIA – The Crazy History of Pennsylvania with Amazing Random Facts and Trivia. Now I’ll admit I already knew a good 75% of what Mr. O’Neill wrote about. As a life long resident of this Commonwealth, how could I not? I’d definitely give this to someone who just moved here who may not know these things. The book is, however, where the idea for this blog post came from. For years I’ve wanted to tour around my own state more often. Maybe now I’ll have more incentive to do so. I’m not yet done reading it, but here are eight Pennsylvania places I’d love to visit in my lifetime.


Kennett Square – Mushroom Capital of the World. Kennett Square, closer to Philadelphia (or Philly) than it is to Pittsburgh, has boasted its status as the Mushroom Capital of the World since the 1880s. In fact, if you type “kennett square mushroom” into a search, the festival is the first thing that comes up. Anyone want to make a bet that the mushrooms in your fridge probably came from Chester County? Kennett’s population was roughly 600 in the 1860s. Today it’s around 6,000.

The Kennett Mushroom Festival is held annually in early September. The festival has been highlighted on Food TV. Annual parades are held on Memorial Day, Halloween, and before the Christmas holidays. Kennett Square celebrates Cinco de Mayo, which is organized by Casa Guanajuato, and other local companies. A free summer concert series is held on Wednesday evenings at the beautiful (over 100 acre) Anson B Nixon park. In mid-May, the famous Kennett Run occurs that ends at the Park pavilion. The Kennett Brewfest is held each Fall, featuring unlimited tastings of select brewers pouring different, rare, exclusive, limited, or seasonal beers. The local art galleries, studios, and independent boutiques participate in First Friday Art Strolls each month, presented by Historic Kennett Square. During temperate months there is an outdoor farmers market at the Genesis Walkway on State St. every Friday afternoon. These are but a few of the events for families and visitors throughout the year.

Source – Wikipedia

My apologies if you’re one of those who has a strong aversion to fungus. I, for one, love a good mushroom. They enhance just about any dish they’re added to – meatloaf, stew, skewers, stir fries, soups. The list is a vast one. Needless to say, you’ll probably find me visiting the Mushroom Capital of the World in the near future. I’ve always loved the idea of small town Pennsylvania. Contrary to what people believe, Pittsburgh is the second most populated city in PA, after Philly. I find I often crave small town life. This brings us to our next historic small town: Lititz.


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Lititz. Lititz knows what they’re about. They absolutely know they’re a tourist town in Pennsylvania. The above screenshot came directly from Visit Lititz, PA, and the tagline reads “The Coolest Small Town in America. I want to visit Lititz so, so badly. That was some bad grammar, but I really don’t care right now. Events are slowly coming back, and Lititz is no exception. And honestly? I really love their website (of course I do – it’s also built via WordPress!)

Just as Johnstown is, Lititz is a “blend of old and new.” Many PA small towns must be in order to survive, especially after many of the state’s industries pulled out in the 1980s. Let’s just say that Pittsburgh itself was a very depressed town. If we thought Pittsburgh was depressed in the 80s, the surrounding small towns also had to figure out their next steps. Behold: Lititz. As with many PA small towns, it has connections to the Civil War. Lititz especially due to its proximity to Philadelphia. The main reason I want to visit this small town isn’t its festivals, quaint shops or historical buildings (though all those are huge draws). No. It’s the railroad that runs through it.

I want to ride the rails. “The Reading and Columbia Railroad operated passenger service through downtown Lititz until 1952. Norfolk Southern continues to operate freight service to Lancaster, while the line between Lititz and Ephrata has been converted into a rail trail. A replica of the Lititz Depot was constructed at its former location in Lititz Springs Park in 1999, along with a small museum in a Reading caboose.” source: wikipedia

But, look! There’s a connection here to another place in Pennsylvania I’d love to visit: The Moravian Book Shop In Bethlehem, PA.


Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, PA – The Oldest Bookshop in North America. With other Eastern seaboard cities like Boston, Philadelphia and New York, who would’ve thought that the oldest book store would’ve been founded in Bethlehem, PA? Of all places? Bethlehem, about a five hour drive from Pittsburgh, is one of those places you rarely hear about on the news, and that’s a good thing. Even though Bethlehem is just under an hour and a half from Lititz, their ties to the Moravian Church are undeniable. Lititz was founded by members of the church in 1756.

For a century, only Moravians were permitted to live in Lititz. Until the middle of the 19th century, only members of the congregation could own houses; others were required to lease. The lease system was abolished in 1855, just five years before the beginning of the Civil War. More information can be found in the book A Brief History of Lititz Pennsylvania by Mary Augusta Huevener, published in 1947.

Source – Wikipedia

Back to Bethlehem. Also known as Christmas City, USA, it boasts a history longer than that of the United States itself. As such, it’s no surprise that it’ll also be home to “The Oldest Bookshop in North America.”

During the Revolutionary War, the Moravians were pacifists but doubled their output of hides to support the American cause. The Continental Army Hospital was located here in the Brethren’s House. Over 500 soldiers died in Bethlehem and are buried on the hillside along First Avenue. The story of Moravian farming still exists in the historic site known as the 1748-1848 Burnside Plantation which interprets early farming within the city limits of our community.

source: History of Bethlehem

The bookshop is featured on the Discover Lehigh Valley website, and it also services Moravian College. Naturally, as a writer and a reader and a blogger, I want to visit “The Oldest Bookshop in North America.” Not only that, but visiting Bethlehem itself would also be a big bonus.


Tassel Pharmacy, Latrobe – The Great American Banana Split Celebration. Latrobe wasn’t officially recognized as the birthplace of the famous banana split dessert until 2013, according to this article via CBS Pittsburgh. Folks weren’t sure if it originated in Ohio or Pennsylvania, so that accounts for how long it took for Latrobe to be recognized as such. Not only that, but I can easily visit Latrobe for their next annual celebration as it’s only an hour’s drive from my home in Pittsburgh (compared to nearly four hours to get to Lititz or Kennett).

Even this Ohio site acknowledges David Strickler’s invention of the dessert first:

Despite Wilmington’s claim that Hazard invented the banana split, it appears that David Strickler actually invented the dessert in 1904. Strickler worked at a pharmacy in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and he invented the treat to increase business.

source

Latrobe has its connections to the railroad industry with Oliver Barnes, as well as the Palmer family. Does the name Arnold Palmer sound familiar? It should if you like the beverage, or even golf. How about Fred Rogers? Latrobe is also home to the training grounds for many sports teams in Southwest PA, including the Pittsburgh Steelers. Still, Latrobe’s biggest claim to fame comes in the form of the sweet treat everyone knows and loves.

Never have I been interested in the football training camps that take place every year. Never have I been interested in golf or alcohol. What do I love? Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and banana splits. I don’t believe that Tassel Pharmacy itself still exists, but the rail town certainly does. Let’s go get some ice cream in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, okay?


Easton – The Crayola Company. Pennsylvania can boast many claims to fame, but one of the most visual comes in the form of art. Crayons, to be precise. Even though I am a life-long Pennsylvanian, I’ve never personally visited the company or its offerings myself. As for the town’s history, the Penn family (more precisely Thomas Penn, brother to William Penn) had a hand in Easton’s founding. This small town has been on my radar for a while, and not just because of the Crayola Company.

Easton’s history is just as long and rich as the aforementioned towns of Kennett Square, Lititz and Bethlehem. When the canals came into play in the 1830s, Easton’s valley became an integral cog in the canal wheel.

The Great Square has been the site of the oldest, continuously operated outdoor Farmers Market since 1791. It is also the site where Robert Levers read the Declaration of Independence to the gathered public on July 8, 1776, standing on the steps of the courthouse. The Civil War Monument that now stands on the old courthouse site, is a 75 foot tall obelisk topped by what is locally called “The Bugler.” Formally named the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument, the obelisk was designed to honor all of the armed forces who fought in the Civil War, and was dedicated to local veterans in 1900. Each year, the monument is shrouded by a one hundred foot Peace Candle, which is ceremoniously lit the Saturday evening after Thanksgiving and remains on display through January.

source

As you can see, Easton’s history runs far deeper than the Crayola Company. While Crayola is the original draw, it’s Easton’s history which keeps me interested in visiting.


As always, there we have it. Five Pennsylvania places I’d love to visit. Some are rather far away – a state away. Some are closer to home. But I hope this post encourages you to take another look at your own State. If you’ve come to not like your State’s politics, then take a look at its history. Look at it with an unbiased eye, and be open to learning about both the good and the bad. Perhaps you’ll learn to fall in love with your area once again.


I Read the First Fifty Pages of “Shine” by Jessica Jung. Here Are My Thoughts.

Let me begin by fully disclosing my past with Girls’ Generation. Because this group ushered in my love for Korean pop and Korean dramas way back in 2008, I feel this gives me unique knowledge of this industry’s world and who Jessica Jung is. I’ve followed all nine girls of Girls’ Generation – Tiffany, Taeyeon, Sunny, Hyoyeon, Seohyun, Sooyoung, Jessica, Yuri and Yoona – since “Gee” graced my ears one summer’s night while on break from classes. And yes, all their names are committed to memory. I credit both Girls’ Generation and their “brother” group SHINee for getting me through college, summers working on campus, my first break up, and years of loneliness that followed.

Fans of Girls’ Generation are called SONE, or, to credit a quick Google search as a refresher course: “To those who don’t know the meaning of SONE (the official Girls‘ Generation fansclub) please read this. Sone (소원) The word SONE came from the Korean word SOWON, which means “Wish”. If you pronounce both of it, you’ll notice that it has great similarity. This also means that Soshi is One. When Jessica Jung left the group in 2014, SONEs who broke from Girls’ Generation to form their own fan base for Jung were soon called Golden Stars by Jessica’s new agency, Coridel Entertainment.

As you can see, I know way too much about this already. Did it color my feelings about the book? It shouldn’t have, but it did. But, being an older individual who also writes stories, I feel I can provide a bit more insight than the average reader leaving a review over on Amazon. There was a time when I was a HUGE fan of Girls’ Generation. I listened to their songs playing MMPORGs. I own two of their albums (ten years ago access to Korean pop memorabilia wasn’t common, and I didn’t have a good job. So I couldn’t afford a lot of it), and a few other pieces.

I am now in my thirties, and not that into kpop anymore. But Girls’ Generation holds a special spot in my heart. When Jessica Jung, former member of GG (too much history there to get into in this blog post), announced pre-orders for her book titled SHINE back in September of this year, I approached it with trepidation. It’s written for young adults (the younger end of young adults), and it definitely feels like a Korean drama in book form. Now that’s fine if you’re into that kind of thing. They say to “write what you know,” and Jessica definitely knows that world. Below are links to several interviews where she discusses her thought processes when developing SHINE:

Here’s the synopsis

Crazy Rich Asians meets Gossip Girl by way of Jenny Han in this knock-out debut about a Korean American teen who is thrust into the competitive, technicolor world of K-pop, from Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of one of the most influential K-pop girl groups of all time, Girls Generation.

What would you give for a chance to live your dreams? For seventeen-year-old Korean American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment – one of Seoul’s largest K-pop labels, known for churning out some of the world’s most popular stars. The rules are simple: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy, right?

Not so much. As the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… Especially when she begins to develop feelings for K-pop star and DB golden boy Jason Lee. It’s not just that he’s charming, sexy, and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how badly she wants her star to rise.

Get ready as Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of Korea’s most famous girl group, Girls’ Generation, takes us inside the luxe, hyper-color world of K-pop, where the stakes are high, but for one girl, the cost of success—and love—might be even higher. It’s time for the world to see: this is what it takes to SHINE.”

Source – Amazon
It does have a pretty cover.

Now that all the introductory stuff is out of the way, let’s get into my thoughts on the first fifty pages of SHINE by Jessica Jung.

It reads like a fan fiction, and could’ve used another round of edits.
The fact that Ms. Jung chose to go with first person point of view was actually quite genius. Why? Readers are immediately immersed into Rachel’s world as Rachel herself. And, in many ways, Jessica’s world. Fans of Girls’ Generation (or even just fans of Jessica’s) would recognize little nuances, mannerisms and facts right away.

There were many missed punctuation marks, and many, many run-on sentences. In fact, one paragraph was nothing but two run-on sentences. You may say I’m nit-picking if you’d like, but as someone who’s also trying to finish a novel, seeing things like issues grammar and punctuation in a finished product isn’t very encouraging.

Unexplained tension right off the bat, from nearly everybody, towards the MC.
Not many things in Korean dramas are based in reality, or logic. Even with that knowledge going into SHINE, I don’t understand the level of hatred many have for Rachel. It’s not even logically explained. There’s a trainee introduction scene within the first fifteen pages, and it seems all anyone can do is gossip – no matter their age. Is gossip really this prevalent in Korean society? And why would a trainee’s senior, or “sunbae,” want to include them in their own group’s issues? (Here’s a link to a quick lesson about Korean honorifics).

We’re also given a quick flashback to Rachel’s early trainee days. It’s a few paragraphs long, but there’s nothing to distinguish it as a memory other than Rachel’s one friend (also not fully Korean) prompting her to tell the story again. The choice to include a flashback so early on just seemed to be an odd choice.

The prose drips with similarities to Jessica’s original company, SM Entertainment and Jessica herself.
Jessica doesn’t shy away from explaining her reasons for including scenes like this. She’s said that she didn’t want to go about writing an autobiography, but that nearly everything in the story is based off her life in some way.

Jessica, in an excerpt from the Teen Vogue article linked above, writes:
“The hallway is full of random toys and props used by the best of the best stars in worldwide concerts. Half of the paraphernalia has the insignias of Electric Flower and Kang Jina (a gold-plaque legend and the leader of the biggest and best girl group in K-pop for the last few years). They debuted at the top spot and never left it. When I joined DB, I worshipped those girls—Jina especially. I admire them even more now, knowing what they had to go through to get to where they are. But part of me wonders about the girls they left behind. The ones that didn’t make it in the group.Will I be the one on top or the one left in the shadows?

Halls and “stores” and cafes showcasing a company’s idols are very common among Korea’s top five agencies. It’s a way for their managers to flex groups’ popularity, and encourage fans to come visit. So Jessica’s inclusion of a scene like this isn’t far fetched.

Moving on to Rachel Kim’s character. Rachel is a carbon copy of Jessica, with a few things changed so she wouldn’t be exactly like her. She’s got Jessica’s aversion to cucumbers, “Princess” nickname, and is Korean American. Just to name a few similarities. I don’t know about you, but I personally wouldn’t want a character exactly like me. Guess I’m not all that interesting?

Most definitely written for a younger young adult audience, an audience who’d most likely already know terminology used in kpop.
SHINE is, without a doubt, very appealing to a younger crowd. It uses lingo commonly used in Korean life, dramas, variety and awards shows. She mentions, in that same Time article, she likes having to look up words when she reads because it helps her learn. That’s why she included so much Korean in SHINE – to encourage her readers to learn something new if they don’t already know what something means. As a writer myself, I can appreciate her logic behind that. Not only that, but the language is part of her background, so why would she not include it?

Final thoughts.

I don’t imagine many folks not already familiar with Korea’s entertainment industries picking this book up. It’s written for an incredibly tailored audience. Even if you love reading young adult books, this may not be a story anyone can enjoy. Honestly? I strongly feel the only reason this made it to publication is Jessica’s name. It’s only receiving rave reviews because of her fans. If anyone else tried to publish this with all the errors found within the first fifty pages, their readers wouldn’t be so kind.

How do I feel about these pages, as someone who once called herself a SONE? Uncertain. I’m not sure I can keep reading due to the technical issues, and trying to figure out which events/people/circumstances is more exhausting than entertaining. Personally, I miss the good ol’ days of Girls’ Generation. The days of concerts, laughter and super fun music videos. It doesn’t help that fans can only speculate what actually happened between Jessica and the rest. Jessica claims she didn’t want SHINE to be an autobiography, but what if it really is?

I give the first fifty pages of SHINE by Jessica Jung
three out of five stars.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


My Birthday Stay in Historic Johnstown, PA

Masks. The ‘rona. Life. And 2020. Things aren’t exactly normal, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still make things happen in this new decade. This includes changing vacation plans which were supposed to happen back in June of this year.

A weekend at the Library of Congress was to kick off a summer of historical tours and help me reboot my works in progress. Honestly? I haven’t felt that reboot, yet. These past two months or so I’ve filled with reading (both fiction and nonfiction), buying too many journals, and merely thinking about writing.

When the idea to visit Johnstown, Pennsylvania for my birthday popped up, my mind’s wheels turned again. I know, I know. My entire writing career shouldn’t revolve around what I can or cannot do. But the general consensus within the online writing community is many of us were in a summer writing slump.

Okay. Onward to bigger and brighter things.

The history of Johnstown, Pennsylvania is one of industry moguls, geography, tragedy, and a perfect storm of events that led to The Great Flood of 1889. The number of casualties rivaled the number of lives lost on September 11th, 2001. Visit the following links to read more about the Pennsylvanian tragedy that rocked the Victorian world:

As I complete this post, we’re now nearly two months removed from the event. Some details have become covered in dust, as though they’ve sat under my bed for weeks. But let’s brush them off and see what I can remember!

Wednesday, September 23rd

My mother and I arrived at our AirBNB in the early afternoon, half an hour before our allotted check-in time. Down winding, unfamiliar roads we went, and suburbia quickly transitioned to woods. Deep, thick woods. We missed our turn but eventually made our way to the right spot. Thankfully, our hostess was perfectly fine with our early arrival.

After checking in we drove about town, checking out shops, cafes and the like. Johnstown, as historical as it is, is an interesting mix of eras, country and city. Multiple churches dot the compact valley, and two rivers diverge from a third. Trains, buses and roadways interweave in an intricate dance, lasting from dawn to dusk.

Museums, landmarks and the like educate visitors on The Great Flood. A memorial stands on the site of the old club, and those willing to make the trek up to it can see why the sight was chosen for such a club.

Mom and I ended our evening drive on Johnstown’s main street, at a not-so-historical Subway for dinner. A short time later my sister and her family arrived.

The home in which we stayed once belonged to our host’s father. A rather peculiar addition it had, with ceilings barely six feet in height. If my father had gone, he wouldn’t have been able to properly stand in the kitchen or dining area. Another oddity was my room – it had no door! And no hinges for a door. So if you’re into communal living, this would be the place for you. I, for one, missed having privacy for a few days.

Pictured: my brother-in-law, niece and nephew atop the hill

Thursday, September 24th

After playing games late into the evening Wednesday, the morning of Thursday, Sept. 24th was spent sleeping in and taking our time waking up. We didn’t head out until early afternoon. The night before we’d decided to ascend the “The Steepest Incline in the World: The Johnstown Incline Plane.”

Perched atop the the steepest slopes in the valley, the dizzying view from the top rivals that of the overlooks on Pittsburgh’s own Mount Washington.

A behemothic American flag, (at that time secured at half mast for SCOTUS Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg), flies on the tallest point of the plane’s hill. While familiar with Pittsburgh’s Duquesne and The Mon Inclines, Johnstown’s is different. It carries pedestrians, cycles and motor vehicles!

This incline also offered a view of the inner workings from inside their small gift shop. During this sleepy weekend getaway, not many locals were out and about, so we had the whole incline area to ourselves.

A meal at the highly recommended Boulevard Grill followed our incline adventures. Only two groups ate on the enclosed patio on the side of the restaurant, and the first group were nearly finished by the time we sat down to a very late lunch. What we all ate for our meals isn’t clear in my memory, but I do remember I had sweet potato fries and a steak wrap. From there we found a few small antique shops (I purchased an cream-colored teapot with gold details), and an old timey toy store with an owner readying his shelves for Christmas.

Friday, September 25th

On Friday we did something our mom wanted to do – tour historical sights around Johnstown. This included the Flood Museum, the Gentlemen’s Club and what was left of the dam itself. Even with Johnstown as depressed as it is, you cannot deny the natural beauty of the valley. One can see why the likes of Frick, Carnegie and Phipps would want to go there to get away from smog-filled Pittsburgh.

In the top center photo, where my sister, niece and nephew are reading an informational placard, that entire area was the lake. And where my sister is sitting in the grass with my niece, that was once the top of the dam. A dam with flawed maintenance from the very beginning.

Johnstown has both such a sad and intriguing history that we couldn’t help but visit. Many floods happened even before The Great Flood which nearly destroyed them all. All my life I’ve lived on high ground, and I still can’t wrap my mind around why anyone would choose to live in a notorious floodplain.

In a half suburban, half country city like Johnstown, it’s “curb appeal” and industrial draw is what makes it appealing even today. It’s not, however, without its own social and economic issues.

Saturday, September 26th

Not much happened at all on Saturday morning. Check-out time was 10:00 AM, and we were ready to go home. Mom and I stumbled upon a Saturday-only flea market halfway home, and we wandered its many rooms and aisles for at least two hours.

And, wouldn’t you know? My sister/family showed up right when we were leaving!

Mom and I headed back out, and once we reached the outskirts of Monroeville, PA, we stopped for lunch at an Applebees.

And, wouldn’t you know? My sister and family pulled in behind us!

Great minds think alike, I suppose!

With bellies full of food, minds filled with history, and hearts full of family togetherness, we made it home around 5 PM on a Saturday evening.

And, wouldn’t you know?

We all live on the same street.

It’s as though our little pod never left home to begin with.

And that, my friends, is really all this birthday girl ever really wanted – time with her little pod for her 35th birthday.


What I’ve Been Reading // The Non-Fiction Edition

It’s often a good idea to, every once in a while, take a step back from the writing – be it blogging or working on your manuscript – and read. I could throw in a few of those overused, oh-so-cliche quotes about reading and how it affects one’s writing, but I shall refrain.

Last year I hit a reading rut. I just didn’t want to. Anytime someone mentioned books or curling up in a cozy chair with hot chocolate (or wine, whichever you prefer), I had this strange inner reaction. Throughout my life I’ve made it a point to go against the grain and not do what was deemed popular at the time.

Clothes one to two seasons out of style = check.
Star Trek and X-Files watcher instead of Dawson’s Creek or FRIENDS = check.
Got the NERDS Blizzard from Dairy Queen instead of Oreos or normal chocolate = check.

I didn’t come out of my “no reading” funk until I did an experiment earlier this year where I didn’t turn on my television for an entire month. As a direct result, my reading time skyrocketed. Surprised? No? I wasn’t either. According to my Kindle statistics, I’ve read for sixteen weeks in a row – from mid March to now. I’ve also smashed my original reading goal of twenty books (low goal, I know) and upped it to forty.

Those numbers don’t include the paper/hardback copies I’ve read. And those books have mostly been of the non-fiction variety. So here are four non-fiction books I’ve been reading (or have already read…or need to read) this year. Some are on this list, others are brand new and I’ve yet to update the page to include them. As I always say, I hope you enjoy this post and perhaps you’ll find something new to read!

1,000 CHARACTER REACTIONS FROM HEAD TO TOE by Valerie Howard

This book, the newest addition to my self-help collection, is part of a series designed to help spark creativity and get out of one’s rut of using the same words over and over again. One of this series’ other books, 1,000 STRONG VERBS, arrived on my doorstep earlier this week.

While it’s not a complete list of every reaction a character can have, Howard does include spaces after each specific section where you can put your own spin on what’s provided. In reality, it’s a two-in-one book and workbook.

What drew me to this book was her blurb: “As an author, are your characters always sighing and nodding? Did you just sigh and nod? If so, this handy little booklet is for you!” I can handle dialogue just fine, and I adore world building. Character interactions and movements are my biggest problems.

Not only that, when I now pick up a book to read for pleasure, these nuances are forever front and center because I’m paying attention to an author’s style. Flow and odd interactions never stood out to me as a teen. Now they can make or break a book.

I refuse to stay in my rut, so I’ll be keeping these little booklets on my desk for future reference.

True Ladies and Proper Gentlemen
edited by Sarah A. Chrisman

Apparently I missed the memo when I began my writing journey that there’s an arsenal of books from the Victorian era that many historical fiction writers use. TRUE LADIES AND PROPER GENTLEMEN is one of those books.

I also didn’t know this book existed until a research stint a few weeks later when I stumbled upon this title and immediately drooled over the cover. Okay, I didn’t actually drool. I metaphorically drooled.

Modern nuances in historical novels has always annoyed me, and that applies to character mannerisms as well. Historical novelists are always faced with this conundrum: do we write a book filled with historical references but modernize its characters to fit the current state of things, or do we write according to the time period we choose and try to be as historically accurate as possible?

No matter what’s chosen, I’m afraid that choice is always met with criticism from readers who prefer the former or latter of the aforementioned situations. Then, do we explain and defend ourselves in a preface or epilogue note at the end of the story?

TRUE LADIES AND PROPER GENTLEMEN is a reference I’m glad still exists. It gives insight into the unique and complex social proprieties of the day. I’m still unsure if it was originally published in 2015 or if it’s an edited version from an earlier publication.

Whichever the case, more research and reading is most definitely required!

Images of America: Pittsburgh’s Bridges by Todd Wilson and Helen Wilson

Images of America, in case you’re unawares, is a vast collection of historical imagery archives compiled into books by subject. Of course, for me, the Pittsburgh series have become an invaluable resource and catalyst for furthering my interest in what “the ‘burgh” looked like before my parents were even born.

My last surviving grandmother is 84 years old (born in 1936), so some of these books have been like walking down memory lane for her. As such, she’s also conducting her own deep dive into Hartman history and connections within Southwestern Pennsylvania.

It’s because of my grandmother’s interest in my great great great grandfather’s bakery in Allegheny City that I picked this up.

I *may* have to interview her one of these days about him.

Hmm…

I digress, as usual!

PITTSBURGH’S BRIDGES proved itself to be an accurate resource, and let’s just say that one of my book’s pivotal scenes was inspired by a fact found within its pages.

Creating Character Arcs by KM Weiland

I know, I know. Not this book again. But I saved it for last because I didn’t want you guys to feel like I’m beating you over the head with this series.

However, Weiland’s books are just that good.

While I’ve read each one at least thrice over, I still refer to them (them being CREATING CHARACTER ARCS, OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL and STRUCTURING YOUR NOVEL) time and again when I need a refresher.

I highly, highly doubt that any one person can know absolutely everything about writing. Sometimes I’ll freeze in the middle of a scene and will need a reminder right then and there.

Thank goodness my home is only 625 sq. ft., and my non-fiction bookshelf is but twenty paces from my writing desk. Correction: fifteen paces. I got up and checked.

Here’s my point. You don’t need a reference from me to find what resources work best for you and your stories. Let’s face it – I’m still a “noob” when it comes to this thing called writing. However, Ms. Weiland was one of the first authors I connected with when I first began looking for community online. She’s always been willing to answer small questions here and there, and her experience is both highly valuable and unproblematic. And that’s really refreshing.

Did you find anything worth diving into?

I love making these short book lists as they force me to go back to my stacks and rediscover old favorites or books I’d forgotten about. In all honesty, I’d completely forgotten about the Improve Your Writing book (my apologies to Ms. Hahn!)

What are some books you own but recently rediscovered? You’re in a judge-free zone, so don’t be shy and share those titles in the comments below! Let us all discover something new today. Happy reading and have a great writing week!


Confessions of a Chronic Underwriter

Be honest with me: How many of you thought I put the word “underwear” instead of “underwriter” in the title? I won’t blame you one bit! But the title is completely, utterly, unequivocally true. About two years ago my uncle, who’s a published children’s author, picked up on it when he read through one of my very early drafts for a shelved projected titled For One Night at the Winter Garden. “Your sentences are too long,” he said. “Does that detail really need to be in there?”

He didn’t use the words “you’re an underwriter,” but he recognized the signs that I was trying too hard.

When you try too hard, you put more detail (whether by choice or subconsciously) into a scene where it’s not needed. It often shows up in the form of sharing too much backstory or sharing, say, historical details out of context (if you’re writing historical fiction, that is!). Personally, it was overcompensation because I hadn’t fully developed any of my characters. For One Night was all scene and setting driven rather than main character centered.

I’m grateful for For One Night. Not only did it teach me when and where to include details, the project also showed me two years ago that I wasn’t ready to take on Project Firedamp. I needed to be patient with myself. So I blogged, researched my novel’s era and read UP on craft. My chronic underwriting is still there, but I’m more aware of the choices a writer’s mind needs to make because I focused on what needed to be fixed within myself.

WRITE TIP: Is there something keeping you from being the best writer you can be? What is it? Is it something your beta readers have pointed out in their notes for you? Don’t be afraid to take a hard look inside and the TIME to fix it. Life is a never ending learning journey. Be patient with yourself and don’t be tempted by shortcuts.

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

John Quincy Adams

Eight Things I’ve Already Researched by Jan 8th

The new year’s just begun but I didn’t take a break from researching at all. In fact, since removing one of my villains late last year, my work level increased ten fold as other characters rose to the challenge. With this change came the need for deeper character development, and the need for more research. No “histfic” writer would be worth their salt if they didn’t dive deep into their chosen time period. As such, I’ve already researched at eight new things that may (or may not) affect the story or my characters in some fashion.

  1. German confections
  2. Secret orders that really existed (or did they?)
  3. Small town populations of Southwestern Pennsylvania in the 1890s
  4. How to candy almonds
  5. Merchant supply lines
  6. A history of American currency
  7. Known allergens in the 1890s
  8. How to create character arcs

With historical fiction, one always seems to take two steps forward and three steps back. And even though my genre is historical fiction, I’d still like things to have accuracy. This way, I’ll know the kind of world my MCs could’ve come from, and the world the’ll end up in at journey’s end. Whether you write historical fiction or another genre, what have you learned so far in 2020?


18 Links Any Writer Can Use

To be borderline cliche with this post’s opening statement, the Internet can be a vast, confusing place. With so many voices giving advice both good and bad, how do you even begin to choose what’s right for you? So, then, how can you trust anything I have to say?

I didn’t mean to go all philosophical with this post, but it went there. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, my most recent being 62 Things I’ve Decluttered or Stopped Buying. And it’s not even about writing! I do a lot of tweaking on my website. Probably more than I should.

Earlier this evening I revisited the Quick Links page I put up many moons ago. Granted about half of them are regional in respect to where I live, but I still think they’re useful to anyone digging into history or research of any kind. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a historical, informational hub, and I hope to one day add my stories to it. For now, here are 19 Links Any Writer Can Use.

1. 85 Hashtags Writers Need to Know | Amanda Patterson

Social Media. Niches. Hashtags. I’d like to think I’m a savvy enough individual to keep up with these things, but when you consider every type of platform out there, you realize that it’s physically impossible to keep up with all that plus your writing. I didn’t even know the #histfic tag that I now use from time to time. Here’s the thing. There are so many tags, communities and connections out there that it can get confusing very quickly. This post helped me narrow down my options and I still use those tags to this day.

2. 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2018

Okay, yes. I’m aware that it’s 2019. We’re 3/4 of the way through the year and soon it will be 2020. Regardless, Dana Sitar via The Writer Life covers a variety of topics in the list, giving everyone a chance to shine. From Nicole Bianchi and Re:Fiction to Comps & Calls and Enchanting Marketing, this is a great resource no matter the year. Take a look and maybe you’ll find some gems that’ll help your journey.

3. Allegheny County Library Association Card Catalog

While I can be quite nostalgic in that I miss the era of paper card catalogs – pulling tiny wooden drawers open, cards made up with typewriters, and “return by” inked on by a stamp – I do have to take a moment to show my appreciation for the ACLA Card Catalog system. During the initial research phase of Project Chronicles I used them a lot. And I mean a LOT. I reserved books, was able to request books from other counties, or from libraries within Allegheny I wouldn’t have had time to visit. I’d definitely suggest joining your local library system. They’re incredibly helpful and know how to dig up things you may not.

4. AskHerePa

This link banks off the ACLA one in that it’s another librarian based resource. I don’t know if this is a federally funded or state funded thing, or if it’s available in every state, but Pennsylvania has a fantastic resource that anyone can use. With options to chat online, access to e-resources and more, I used this several times when trying to find info on a Pittsburgh landmark which no longer exists. So it may be worth it seeing if there’s a system similar to AskHerePa in your area.

5. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Oliver Room

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh holds many rare and unique collections of historical importance, especially those that illuminate the rich cultural heritage of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. These historical collections are held at the Main Library in Oakland, as well as in neighborhood libraries throughout the City of Pittsburgh.

One of Andrew Carnegie’s goals was, through philanthropy, make resources available to the American public. The same American public who worked in his mills and places he had connections to. As a result Pittsburgh has its Oliver Room. They preserve historical documents and gives patrons an opportunity use them in a safe environment. The other thing I find really cool about them is that they have genealogy records, rare books and Pennsylvania topographical maps. One of these days I need to take a day and explore this great resource.

6. The Editor’s Blog: How to Format Your Manuscript

I confess. This one might be a titch out of date, as it was posted in 2011. Dear Lord, that’s eight years ago! I’m sure much more than a “titch” has changed. This is still a useful guide, but if you’re in the submission phase to agents or publishers, keep in mind that each one may have their own requirements for manuscript formatting.

7. Grammar Girl

Grammar Girl was also mentioned on the 100 Websites for Writers List 2018 (linked above). There’s a reason for this. She covers a variety of writing topics regarding words and punctuation. She covers things I wouldn’t even think of and I learn something each time I visit. Definitely check out Grammar Girl!

8. Heinz History Center

The Heinz History Center is more than just one building. Part of The Smithsonian network, its main focus is Southwestern Pennsylvania. There’s the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, Fort Pitt Museum the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village…I think I’ll stop there. They are experts on knowledge of my region in the United States, and I’m grateful for the work they do. They also post a weekly blog centered around historical events most may not know happened.

9. Historic Pittsburgh

Tired of seeing Pittsburgh themed links? I promise, I’m nearly done highlighting my city! But Pittsburgh is one of the most historical cities on the Eastern seaboard. The fact that there’s so many organizations dedicated to preserving its history, and so many people interested in its history, should come of no surprise as to why my first novel series will include it. Historic Pittsburgh is supported by The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Chatham University Archives and many others to pool resources for research and preservation. Everyone sees history through different eyes, so it’s a good thing that there’s more than one organization preserving our past. Check with your local city to see if they have sources you may not have thought of.

10. Janice Hardy | Fiction University | Critique Groups

Now this is something I’ve yet to participate in because the introvert in me is still afraid to do so. It’s been several years since I first bookmarked her site and I forget who introduced it to me, but she has a series of novel writing books on structure, revising and understanding how things work together.

The point of this particular inclusion is to highlight the Critique Groups section. If you don’t want to share your MS with completely random strangers you’ve never interacted with through social media, this may be the place for you. Directly from Ms. Hardy herself, “This is for writers who are looking for critique partners or critique groups for more than just “I need some eyes on this before I submit it to an agent” type critiques.”

I’m far from any sort of critique stage (as I’m working on a rewrite of my novella), but I have this on standby for when the time is right!

11. Library of Congress Ask A Librarian

This one operates in a similar fashion to AskHerePa but on a larger scale. These librarians are highly trained professionals who can help you research any topic you approach them with. They are a bit slower to respond as they take their time, or if you message them on the weekend, but they are thorough in the types of resources they provide you with. One time I received not only web links but book titles my local library may be able to get for me. I highly recommend giving this free service a try!

12. LitRejections

This may seem like an odd one to include, but aren’t rejections a part of every writer’s query journey? Let’s face it – we offer ourselves up as tribute (lame Hunger Game reference there, I know) each time we send our work off to someone. Then the rejection comes in – hours, days, weeks or months later – and we find ourselves disappointed yet again.

LitRejections was founded with the sole purpose of encouraging writers as they go through the rigorous process of becoming a published author. They offer several types of critiques, links to agencies in particular countries, interviews with folks deep within the writing industry and encouragement through their social media.

13. The No. 1 Rule for Flashbacks in a Story Opening

Flashbacks. When done well they can provide important insight into a character’s motives or actions. They also run the risk of providing far more backstory than what the reader truly needs to know. It’s a tricky business, deciding to add a flashback, dream sequence or something equally vague at the beginning of a story. Contributor Peter Selgin takes us through several scenarios on what to include and what not to include. And when. A very useful post indeed.

14. Most Common Writing Mistakes: Characters Who Lack Solid Story Goals

Miss KM Weiland appears a lot on this site. No, I don’t know her personally. She is, however, one of the OG (original) folks I connected with when I first got involved in the online writing community. I don’t remember if I bought her books on writing first, or communicated through DMs first. However it happened, I’m glad to have found her site. Her posts, like the one above, are some of the most insightful I’ve found.

15. The Past Tense in English

Grammar. I love to hate it and hate to love it. The cold hard truth: I know I’m not the only one who struggles with my grammar. I’m constantly second guessing myself whenever I write something down, be it on this website, in email correspondence, in a notebook or a Tweet.

My trouble became quite evident to my early beta readers as I switch from tense to tense. At least I’ve yet to mix up which form of POV I’m using in a manuscript (knock on wood). I still have to refer to sites like No. 15 for a quick refresher course every now and then.

Remember: It’s okay to not know everything about writing. It’s a whole beast of a learning process on its own!

16. Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Archives

Back in 2016 I was granted an amazing opportunity to tour one of my city’s most historic music halls. Home to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Heinz Hall offers visitors a variety of shows and events throughout the year. A couple years ago I attended a Harry Potter night and everyone had a grand time.

Heinz Hall provides an opulent, rich setting any writer would love to include in a story. They have their own unique history as well as a curator who cares for it. Of course this is specific to the orchestra, but if you have a theatre scene in your story, consider checking out actual locals. They may have a curated, dedicated history center you can utilize.

17. QueryTracker

Why is QueryTracker frequently mentioned in online resource lists? Because of the type of resource that it is. Many established agents and agencies use it to connect with writers, and some use it exclusively for manuscript queries. Gone are the days of mailing giant stacks of paper in manila envelopes (though some still do). There’s still the Writer’s Market [insert year here], a printed guide book you can use. But QueryTracker is a faster method of searching for agents and what their MSWL (manuscript wish lists) are. And guess what? It’s free!

18. What Kind of Author Are You?

And here’s yet another article by KM Weiland. She’s just that good, okay? While this post doesn’t specifically use the word voice, as in a writer’s voice in their story, it did help me understand the concept a bit more. When I first worked with beta readers I was often complimented on my voice. But…what did that even mean?

Eventually, you’ll find what works for you. Do you need a certain technological tool to help you write? Or do you enjoy looking up obscure words and weaving them into your tales? Do you prefer writing in the mornings, afternoon or evenings? This post encourages you to find just that.

Whew! What a list! At one time I considered removing the section from my website and keeping them to myself, but why not share? I may have a resource you never even knew existed.

I suppose there aren’t as many Pittsburgh-themed links as I anticipated, but they’re still just as useful as the others. Expand your knowledge. Look in places you may never have thought to go, and you may be handsomely rewarded with knowledge you never had before.

I think today’s a good day for an adventure.


Why Historical Fiction Matters (to me)

Cliches. There are so many cliches that come to mind when you’re trying to figure out how to start a blog post about writing (in general). It falls under that “nothing new under the sun” mantra.

It’s like comparing every scifi show or book you read to the “Big Three” of the genre – Star Trek, Star Wars and Dr. Who. If you’re a long time reader of this blog or my Twitter, you already know that I’m more than a bit dorky.

My dork levels in science fiction aside, I’ve come to realize a new passion in my own writing journey – researching Pennsylvania history. Have you ever watched those shows on the Discovery or History Channels and wonder why they interview experts on seemingly crazy topics?

It’s because this world is HUGE. That might be a common sensical statement, but how can a historian possibly know EVERYTHING, unless they’ve got an incredibly high IQ? That’s definitely not me. And I know “sensical” isn’t even a word.

So when I got the idea for The Firedamp Chronicle series I knew right away that research would be involved. Intense research. To run the risk of including a cliche here, “In order to write history, you need to know history.” I’m paraphrasing that, of course, but I didn’t even feel qualified to write any of it until I knew about it. So here are three reasons why writing historical fiction matters to me personally.

To Not Forget

On September 11, 2001, the world witness horrific loss of life during the attacks on the World Trade Towers, the United States Pentagon, those on Ground Zero and those on the affected flights. I was in my 9th Grade Physical Science class when it happened. In high school. My dad can count with his fingers how many events in history he remembers. Things like the assassination of JFK, when the Berlin Wall Fell and when the Challenger Explosion happened.

There are many who will never know them like those who saw them unfold their eyes. That’s why I choose to learn more about my own State’s history (ahem…Commonwealth…but that’s just a Pennsylvanian technicality). Which leads to the next point:

To Learn Something New

There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.

Harry S. Truman

Libraries. They’re fantastic places, right? You can check out anything you want and no one will judge. And, depending on the size of your library, they usually have a rather sizable non-fiction department. Section 975. That’s where I found myself for three years in Pennsylvanian history. I emailed the research team at the Library of Congress for tiny details and I borrowed books from institutions outside the Allegheny County system.

Because I was learning things about my own city, county and state I never knew existed.

The more I learned the more I realized how watered down the courses I took in grade school and college really were. Sure, I learned new things there, but you can easily spend a whole semester on a topic like “Christmas Traditions from Around the World” and still just graze the surface.

If you’re going to write about history, KNOW that history. Know it inside and out. Backwards and forwards. All the way through. That way, when you’re asked about why you chose specific events or a specific time period, you’ll be able to satisfy their curiosity.

To Hone Research Skills

Call me OCD if you like, but I love going down the rabbit hole of research. As I mentioned earlier, I learned to utilizes resources I never even knew existed before beginning this journey.

In high school I was never a concise writer. To this day I have to work long and hard to get a sentence write. (I’m going to leave that because that’s such a Freudian Slip! I totally meant to use the word “right”).

Not only have I been researching countless people, events, the origins of objects and the like, I’ve also been *attempting* to reteach myself the English language. I’m sure my fallacies are evident in this blog post but I’m working on them. Just like I’m learning to hone my research skills to keep myself focused on the subject and not irrelevant things.

So there you have it. Three reasons why I write historical fiction. There are more but that would make this post far too long and you may/may not lose interest!

Do you write? What genre? Why did you choose it? Knowing the answers to these questions will guide you through your own writing journey. I wish you luck as you find your niche, your drive and success!


#YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen

When I began writing this post I was nearing the end of my first project. Key word: was. Then I tried writing the next book in the series and nothing was working; until I had a late night conversation with one of my beta readers (aren’t betas awesome?). What began life as a novella turned into a full, fledged novel. Worthy to be fully included in my debut series.

But now I just wanted to put up a different kind of post than I normally do on my blog. Something lighthearted and fun. Something to take my mind, even for a moment or two, off timelines, maps and inconsistencies in historical data.

If you’ve spent any time on the internet, I’m sure you’re familiar with the “amwriting” and “amediting” tags. I participate in a few of them for the writing community but I’m a simple person when it comes to all that. I streamline my interests and minimize the tags I use. This helps me (somewhat) curb the amount of time I find myself online. There’s one I really enjoy doing, the “YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen” tag. So below I’ve listed the ABCs of Writing, all with that tag front and center!

  1. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you anticipated the time you’ll spend writing your story, and miscalculated it at the same time.
  2. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you birthed the idea from a bubble bath/extra long shower or a dream in the middle of the night.
  3. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you created a protagonist you know everyone will love, or love to hate.
  4. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you decided to give that protagonist their own story.
  5. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you edited the crap out of your manuscript, or crap into it.
  6. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you figured out the climax only after staring at your screen like a drunken llama for five sleepless days straight.
  7. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you greeted each character you create with open arms, even your antagonists and characters only there to annoy the protagonist.
  8. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you hurt your fingers dropping your laptop on them.
  9. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you imagined 20 spectacular locations, realizing halfway into it that you can only logically include five of them.
  10. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you justified killing your favorite character. Or two. Then you realize you have to justify the choice to your readers.
  11. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you killed the character. Because a story where absolutely nobody dies is illogical.
  12. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you love writing in poetic justice as well as justice that isn’t poetic at all.
  13. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you moved around an adverb 100 times until you realized you really shouldn’t use it anyway.
  14. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you n
  15. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you outlined your entire series when you swore you’d never use the method.
  16. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you put your jar of peanut butter in the fridge instead of the pantry because you’re mentally plotting the climax of your series.
  17. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you quit using a pen and paper, for the sake of the trees, only to remember you have five unused notebooks on your office shelf waiting and ready to go.
  18. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you realize that writing a 280 character Tweet does not count towards your daily word count goal
  19. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhenYou s
  20. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you tell people not to call you after a certain time because SHHHHH, you’re writing for goodness sake! They might incur the wrath of a Gollum-like creature holding their manuscript whispering, “My precioussssss” over and over again.
  21. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you understand the characters in your head more than flesh and blood people.
  22. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you view book reviews and “how to” guides on YouTube to help yourself step up your writing game.
  23. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you w
  24. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you x
  25. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you y
  26. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you zip home from work so you don’t forget that new funny bit you really want to include in your story.

Now it’s your turn! I couldn’t think of any for “n,” “s,” “w,” “x,” or “y.” In the comments below or even on Twitter, @ my handle, “barefoot4life85,” feel free to add your additions to the list! I figured, since many of us are in the writing/querying/researching etc. stages, that it was time to have to have a little bit of writing fun.


Research It | Covered Bridges

Pennsylvania. The land of bridges. If you read my last post about the different kinds of maps, then you’ll know about topographical maps. If not, then the briefest definition of topography is the “detailed description or representation on a map of the natural and artificial features of an area” and is used mostly in the study of geography. But if you’re familiar with the commonwealth of Pennsylvania at all, you’ll know that it’s a vast region of varied land formations from the Poconos of mid state to the low levels near Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh, located in South Western PA, is known as the City of Bridges. While they’re mostly of steel construction (another nickname of the city being the Steel City…more on that at another time), most of the covered bridges were in rural areas, used for trains or normal walking paths and roads. These days, not many of them survive but there are many covered bridge festivals throughout the year, most of them taking place in our gorgeous fall season.

Can you tell that I am a Pennsylvanian?

Washington County. Green County. Columbia County. Montour County. These are just a few of the places in the Commonwealth that celebrate this important structure.

**These condensed histories brought to you by “Images of America: Pennsylvania’s Covered Bridges” by Fred J. Mollalong with other online sources that will be cited.**


The Covered Bridges of Pennsylvania
#allthebridges

A Condensed History
The first covered bridge in the New World was built in 1805 over the Schuylkill River along one of the main routes out of the city of Philadelphia. Many of them were built over such rivers and needed to be tall enough for barges and other water traffic to travel under. Larger covered bridges even required the traveler to pay a toll to cross it for general maintenance or to offset the cost of building the bridge. Often there would be a general store or post office built next to it.

brandywine.jpgSadly, this isn’t the Brandywine on the way to Hobbiton in “The Lord of the Rings.” Pennsylvania isn’t that special! To Brandywine: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJUryaDzt9c

The earliest covered bridges were built in Philadelphia with the trend continuing westward, encouraging travel between rural communities and cities. Some were constructed out of stone and could support heavy loads of material goods. However, most were smaller, wooden structures used mostly for foot and vehicular traffic. Because of this aspect, many bridges also had advertisements from shops and companies showcasing services or products, and many were commissioned by companies or other entrepreneurs.

Sadly, not many survive today but those that have are celebrated for their contributions to the communities they serviced. These days, a bridge is seen as a common, basic thing. In America’s earliest centuries, if there wasn’t a bridge, you just didn’t go that way until one was built or you built it yourself.

1806 – King’s Covered Bridge, Middlecreek, Lancaster County
1812 – Colossus Covered Bridge in Philadelphia, PA
1872 – Risser’s Mill Covered Bridge in Mount Joy Township, Lancaster County

Covered Bridges in Modern PA…so to speak
As time moved forward covered bridge construction soon became a thing of the past, morphing into the more modern, steel trussed bridges we see today. Iron and steel were Pittsburgh’s main export for many years, so it was easy for engineers to use the materials throughout Pennsylvania for bridges of all sorts, railroads, ships, and tunnels through mountains. That doesn’t mean that by the 19th century, covered bridges fell into complete obscurity. In fact, their charm and usefulness encouraged many living near them to invest in their upkeep and future use.

Covered bridges were still being used well into the 1930s, such as the Wertz’s Mill Covered Bridge off Route 222 North of Reading, PA. The Davis Covered Bridge, built in 1875, has modern paving inside, as well as the Hollingshead Mill Covered Bridge near Catawissa in Columbia County and the Stillwater Covered Bridge, also in Columbia County. Many of the surviving bridges have either been modernized to accommodate 21st century vehicles or restored using similar materials that would’ve been used at the time of construction for historical preservation.

Train and Trolley Use
Unfortunately, none of these types of covered bridges survived the passage of time in Pennsylvania. Otherwise, as a child of a family fascinated by trains and trolleys, we would’ve most definitely have made a journey to visit at least one of them by now. My grandfather, Louis J. Redman of Pittsburgh, PA, played a role in starting the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in 1949. He was also a founding member of the Train Collectors Association (TCA) a few years later in 1954. Being born in 1916, he most definitely would’ve seen and used these bridges.

There really isn’t much change between the history of these bridges versus what’s already been discussed, but of course they had to be constructed a bit differently to support the weight of steam engines, its cargo, and house the necessary wires for trolley traffic. On September 30th, 1896, the Columbia-Wrightsville Covered Bridge was destroyed by a category 1 hurricane. I mention this one because it was, uniquely, a rail and road traffic covered bridge. The Pennsylvania Railroad took the width of the river and bay into consideration when they constructed it, but it was later replaced, as many were, by an iron bridge.


Well, that wasn’t the most colorful of histories and maybe not the most interesting, but without bridges in general, we may not have seen as much engineering growth that the Industrial Revolution was built upon. Many working parts had to happen, and advancement in travel only pushed that Revolution in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to another level.

Because, let’s face it. Covered bridges are not only practical, but magical.