Jennifer Boresz Engelking: On Giving Readers a New Appreciation of History

Debut author Jennifer Boresz Engelking discusses what led her to write her historical nonfiction book Hidden History of Lake County Ohio and how research gave her a new appreciation for her hometown.
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Jennifer Boresz Engelking is the debut author of Hidden History of Lake County, Ohio, published by The History Press on April 19, 2021. She is an award-winning and Emmy-nominated writer whose work has spanned magazines, newspapers, broadcast news, documentaries, and even film (with several lines as “Reporter #3” in the movie Unstoppable.)

Jennifer has wanted to be an author since she was about nine years old, when she wrote and illustrated her first hand-made books (on construction paper) to give to her family as Christmas gifts.

Jennifer Boresz Engelking

Jennifer Boresz Engelking

She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband and three children, and together they enjoy exploring the region’s beaches, parks, and historic sites. Learn more about Jennifer at www.jenniferboresz.com

In this post, Boresz Engelking discusses what led her to write her historical nonfiction book Hidden History of Lake County Ohio, how research gave her a new appreciation for her hometown, and more!

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Name: Jennifer Boresz Engelking
Book Title: Hidden History of Lake County, Ohio
Publisher: The History Press/Arcadia Publishing
Release date: April 19, 2021
Genre: History/non-fiction
Elevator pitch for the book: Hidden History of Lake County, Ohio, explores forgotten tales of the people and places of Lake County, which borders Lake Erie, and their ties to some of our country’s most pivotal moments in history.

Hidden History of Lake County Ohio by Jennifer Boresz Engelking

Hidden History of Lake County Ohio by Jennifer Boresz Engelking

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What prompted you to write this book?

I’ve always loved a good story since I was a kid (thanks to my parents reading to me often and taking me to the library.) I grew up in Lake County, Ohio, on the shore of Lake Erie, where I remember hearing bits and pieces of stories of shipwrecks and long-gone amusement parks and I’ve always been curious to find out more. It was amazing to think that more than a century ago, in a now-suburban area, hundreds of people died in a shipwreck close to shore and were buried along a small section of coastline in Lake County. Then decades later, an amusement park was built that is believed to span part of the shipwreck burial site. The juxtaposition of tragedy and levity at that location has stayed with me, along with the knowledge that people pass by daily without understanding its full history. 

Lake County, in part because of its location, is filled with abundant hidden history. During the abolitionist movement, slaves escaped through secret passages and tunnels that were part of the county’s active Underground Railroad, and across Lake Erie to Canada, and the lake also allowed people to transport bootlegged liquor in and out of the county during Prohibition. There are books that explain the county’s chronological history, but I wanted to write something that delves into the little-known stories. The story behind the story. I believe history goes beyond memorizing dates. It’s so important to share and preserve the stories most at risk of being lost to time, often with roots in oral storytelling, for future generations.

(How to Select the Best Topic for Historical Nonfiction—and How to Pitch It)

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? 

It took about two-and-a-half years to go from book proposal, with my publisher, to publication. However, the idea of exploring the backstories of my local communities began many, many years earlier.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

The COVID-19 pandemic was, of course, a surprise for everyone in 2020. I submitted my manuscript to my publisher in mid-March 2020, just as schools and businesses were beginning to shut down, which affected the publishing industry.

Aside from that, the entire publishing process has been a learning experience for me. It’s been eye-opening to see how many people are involved in the process of publishing a book, and I am very thankful for the supportive and professional team I’m privileged to work with at The History Press/Arcadia Publishing.

(Jaime Breitnauer: Writing About the Spanish Flu Epidemic and Its Influence on History)

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

My biggest surprise was the abundance of interesting history I discovered as I researched. I felt like I was on a treasure hunt ... constantly unearthing new gems. My biggest challenge was deciding which stories to put in the final manuscript because they were so fascinating I wanted to include them all.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope readers who live in Lake County will learn something new and those who don’t will discover a really unique section of our country. I hope it gives readers a new appreciation for history, beyond just dates and titles, and I hope it inspires them to seek out the history of their own hometowns because there are so many unknown stories that are waiting to be explored.

Jennifer Boresz Engelking: On Giving Readers a New Appreciation of History

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Write about the story you can’t stop thinking about. Your passion for the subject will come through in your writing and it will also carry you through the lengthy process of writing, re-writing, editing, and promoting your book. Also, don’t wait to write until you have the time ... As long as you are writing, even in short bursts, you are getting closer and closer to finishing your book!

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