Author finishes book, 40 years later

Published 10:48 pm Monday, August 31, 2009

Anne Dalton of Clanton started writing what would become “Massacre Island” when she was 12.

She originally wanted to write a book about a girl who visited Alabama and became friends with the Creek Indians, but as Dalton became more familiar with Alabama history, the characters changed.

“I just love Alabama history,” Dalton said. “When I was in fourth grade, I would read these little orange biographies.”

It wasn’t until 40 years later that she finished her story, a work of historical fiction whose central character is not fictitious at all.

“Massacre Island” tells of the French settling of Dauphin Island, Alabama — originally named Massacre Island after French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville discovered skulls and bones in the area.

The archaeological find was later determined to be an Indian burial ground.

Dalton’s main character is 12-year-old Nicolas La Salle, who sailed to La Louisiane (French Louisiana) with Iberville. La Salle’s father accompanied explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle as he claimed the territory for France in 1682 at the mouth of the Mississippi.

“Massacre Island,” published by Black Swan Books in 2002, is one of several historical works of Dalton. Her most recent work, “Dream Ghost,” was published in 2008. She is currently working on a sequel to “Massacre Island,” which will explore the settlement of Mobile, the oldest French settlement in the present-day U.S.

While the books — complete with historically accurate illustrations by Dave Edwards of Pensacola, Fla. — are kid-friendly, they are for readers of all ages.

“Adults like them just as much as children,” Dalton said.

Dalton, also a character interpreter, has conducted “readers theater” sessions with students using dialogue from her books. Last May, she used “Dream Ghost” to teach Verbena fifth graders how to solve a mystery using scientific inquiry.

Just this summer, Dalton attended the 25th annual Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua in upstate New York.

The workshop offered children’s writers, who came from seven countries and 30 states, a full week immersed in the world of writing for children. The intense program included one-on-one sessions, a host of small workshops, round-table learning, and keynotes by industry leaders.

She attended the workshop on a $1,400 grant from the Highlights Foundation.

“I view life as a great adventure,” she says. “I try to bring hope through encouraging words and unconditional love. I believe humor opens a door to faith, and laughter is the best medicine to bring good health.”

Dalton lives in Clanton with her husband, Perry Dalton. They have 11 children, including nine foster children, and 31 grandchildren.

Her books are available to check out or buy at the Chilton/Clanton Public Library.