A great idea — and a great student

Every time I talk about this “Rebels on Lake Erie” documentary, I’m asked – where did you get the idea?
I always credit a very good student in my magazine article writing class in Spring 2007.
That semester, I asked the students to go to a newsstand and find an unusual magazine. That student found Pirates magazine.
When she brought her treasure back to class, the students talked about possible story ideas for the magazine. I playfully inquired if there had been any pirates on Lake Erie.
Anticipating my question, she responded, yes, there had been – during the Civil War.
I don’t recall if she did a story on John Yates Beall or if she submitted any story to the magazine. And, quite frankly, after bragging to my husband about my tremendously talented student (he teaches at Kent State and I teach at University of Akron, so you get an idea what dinner conversation is like), I forgot all about it.
Two years later, I was at a conference where scholars were talking about the forthcoming sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
I guarantee you the words – pirate and documentary – weren’t uttered, but the conference got me thinking again about that pirate on Lake Erie.
And the rest, I might add is history.
When I got home from the conference in 2009, I started the research process – reading everything I could about the prison on Johnson’s Island and Lake Erie pirate.
It certainly was a compelling tale – one that begged for a documentary, instead of the traditional scholarly journal article.
And, so to the talented student who found Pirates magazine and introduced me to John Yates Beall, I thank you now – and in the credits of the documentary, which will be premiering in April in Ohio.

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