'Window Of Time' Is Window Of Opportunity For Author

Former Countianbreaks Into Publishing With War

September 01, 1991|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — When a young boy crawls through the basement window of his parents' home, anything can happen.

When 11-year-old Ben Leeds of Westminster opens a boarded-up window after going through some old boxes, he finds himself transported back in time to the Civil War -- July 1863.

That's an extreme example, but for Karen Weinberg of Asheville, N.C., it was the basis for a children's book, "Window of Time," that has proved unexpectedly popular.

"It was just something I did for fun," said Weinberg, 41, who lived in Westminster from 1979 to 1985. "I used to read my sons stories, and they were so upset when we moved to Asheville that I decided to write a story for them about Westminster."

She went a step further and incorporated her sons -- Joe, 13,and Ben, 16, -- into the book as the main characters.

It is Ben who finds himself transported back to 1863, where he meets Joseph Harner, 9, who befriends Ben for six days until he's able to return to his parents' house in 1990.

Weinberg and her husband, Lloyd, also are in the book, as Mrs. and Mr. Leeds. She appears as a nurse at Carroll County General Hospital, and he as a music professor at Western Maryland College, which they were when they lived here.

Weinberg wrote the book a page a day for a year in longhand after returning to Carroll to do research.

"I wanted the story to be about Westminster,and I wanted it to be interesting," she said. "One of the interesting things about Westminster is that it was a supply center for the Union army during the Battle of Gettysburg.

"I came up here for my research. I bought all the books Locust Books had on the Civil War and took them home."

She also talked to people at the Carroll County Historical Society, the public library and in the school system to supply for authentic background on people, places and events.

"Most of the characters in this story are from my imagination, but some of the people mentioned, like the Shrivers, Mr. Baughman, J.E.B. Stuart and George Custer, really lived and had a part in Carroll County history," Weinberg wrote in the author's note for her book. "All of the major events that I included in my story are based on fact."

But Weinberg joked about how the story unfolded.

"I just wrote the first page and said, 'Gee, I wonder where this is going?' It just went one page at a time," she recalled.

"You usually start with an outline and all, but this was different."

Only as the story began to unfold did Weinberg start to think about having it published.

One of her reference books was from White Mane Publishing in Shippensburg, Pa., a firm specializing in Civil War books for adults. She decided to make the company her first try.

White Mane agreed to look at her book, and accepted it for publication, despite the fact it was written for children 8 to 12 years old.

"I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time," Weinberg said.

The front cover and inside illustrations for her 166-page book were drawn by Ben's and Joe's art teacher from Asheville, Annelle Woggon Ratcliffe.

Annelle took photographs of the boys and drew the pictures from that, Weinberg said.

"That was kind of fun. The boys enjoyed that."

Ben and Joe helped critique the book as it unfolded, offering suggestions and ideas, telling their mother what was good or bad. And everyone's collaboration appears to be paying off.

Weinberg received her first royalty check for $105 last week. She said about 250 of a first printingof 2,000 copies of "Window of Time" have been sold at $9.95 since the book's February release.

The Historical Society has sold numerous copies, as have local book stores, including Locust Books on Main Street and Waldenbooks in Cranberry Mall.

And the Carroll County Board of Education has approved the book for fifth-graders, which couldmean more sales if the book is chosen for classroom use.

"I put the book up for approval in the spring," said Joanne Strohmer, supervisor of language arts.

"Generally, it would be used as direct instruction as part of a unit. It's on the approved list now, so the teachers can buy the book if they want to."

Weinberg now works as a registered nurse and family nurse practitioner at the University of North Carolina Student Health Services.

She was an elementary school teacher in Prince George's County for three years.

She earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education at American University in Washington in 1972, a bachelor's in nursing from Towson State University in 1983 and expects to finish her master's in counseling in December at Western Carolina University.

While she's not thinking of changing careers again, Weinberg said she hopes to publish her second book,"A Cherokee Passage," about a young Indian girl in the 1700s.

A July visit to Carroll, however, may have given Weinberg something to think about. While here she visited Locust Books and Waldenbooks, where she signed copies of "Window of Time."

"One little boy came up to me and said, 'You're my favorite author, and I read your book twice,' " Weinberg said. "And his mother took my picture with him.

"I just wanted to hug him. If nobody else buys another book, I don't care. That made my whole life."

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