Putnam Valley Library Book Talk


I spent a wonderful morning with patrons of the Putnam Valley Library and Putnam Valley Historical Society. I am so very grateful for their warm reception, especially since they’re coming off a horrific week after back to back Nor’easters which plunged so many into darkness. I passed more than fifty electric company trucks from places as far away as Canada and Florida.

As the group was a small one given so many residents remain without power, I passed on the podium that was set up, preferring a circle of chairs that I’m comfortable with in my classroom. Coffee, juice, and muffins created such a warm, intimate atmosphere on a chilly morning. I  met so many interesting people who shared an interest in reading, historical fiction, the history of Putnam County, women’s suffrage, and World War 1.

I loved the opportunity to share the research I’ve conducted using archival issues in local newspapers. I passed around images provided to me by the Putnam County Historian of the Drew Seminary for Girls, the inspiration for my Haviland Seminary for Girls.

I will be at Ruth Keeler Library this Monday, March 12, at 4:00. I hope to see many of my former fifth grade students from Pequenakonck Elementary School there.


A visit with eighth grade students at H.H. Middle School Students

Hello readers,

On February 9, I had the pleasure of visiting eighth grade students at the H.H. Wells Middle School in Brewster, New York. The students were wonderful. Together we explored articles in archival issues of The Putnam County Courier that inspired events in the book. As with my 12/13/17 visit to Mahopac High School, students had the most thought provoking questions. Eric Gross from The Putnam County Courier came in with a camera man and interviewed some of the students for a newspaper article as well as for a local television program. You can click on the below link to read the article:


I’m moving along with the sequel, and hope to be finished this coming summer.

Upcoming Appearances!






















Hi everyone,
Just wanted to let you all know about some upcoming appearances. I will be speaking at the Putnam Valley Library on Saturday, March 10,at 10:00 A.M. I will be speaking at the Ruth Keeler Library in North Salem on Monday, March 12, at 4:00 P.M.
I will be speaking at the Kent Public Library on Wednesday, April 11, at 5:00 P.M.
I am currently working on dates for the Reed Memorial Library in Carmel, the Patterson Public Library, the Pawling Library, and H.H. Wells Middle School in Brewster, I will let you know the dates when they are finalized. Hope to see you at one of these book talks. Thanks so very much for supporting The Girls of Haviland!

With gratitude,



Newspaper Interview and Reprint of Book

Hi everybody!

I was interviewed by Bob Dumas from The Mahopac News about the book. The article is now available online. Check it out https://www.tapinto.net/towns/mahopac/articles/mahopac-grad-pens-teen-novel-inspired-by-local-events

My apologies to those of  you who had trouble purchasing The Girls of Haviland in November. My good friend, Phyllis, was gracious enough to proofread it for me after she found a few errors in the book. I’ve had the book reprinted. The corrected version is now available at Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Girls-Haviland-Deborah-Rafferty-Oswald/dp/1548860085


Upcoming appearances and another sneak peak of the sequel

Hi everyone,

Thanks so very much for your support of “The Girls of Haviland.” The book will be available for sale at the North Salem Middle School book fair this week.  Vin D’Aquino will be interviewing me this Wednesday for his local television program, “One on One with Vin D’Aquino.” The program airs on Mondays on Comcast Channel 22.

I will be speaking about the research I conducted for the book using archival issues of The Brewster Standard and The Putnam County Courier at the Brewster Library on Saturday, December 9 at 1:00, and at the Mahopac Library on Thursday, December 21, at 3:30.

Here’s another sneak peak of the sequel:

“I can’t stay in the dorm!”

I wanted to go home. No I didn’t. I wanted my room back.

Florence shut the door to the room so Evangeline couldn’t snoop on our conversation. “Why are you so late? Evangeline didn’t even want to let me in to my own room! I had to get Betty to come down and insist that a third bed be moved in for you, Jay, but then Helen showed up at 7:30, furious that she got kicked out of the room she shared with Nathalia last year, because Mercy got here before her and claimed the bed. Now we’re stuck with her!”

“You mean you’re stuck with her. And it’s not my fault I’m late.” I pointed to the school’s entranceway, still clogged with cars and wagons. “Traffic is backed up all the way down Gleneida Avenue.”

“Well, we all managed to get here on time. Now I’m stuck with those two snobs. Thanks, a lot!”

“I’m sorry, Florence. I had no idea. Listen, I’ve got to get out of these wet clothes, so I’d better get going.” Dejected, I picked up my sodden bags.

“Don’t go around with the puss on, feeling sorry for yourself. Wait here while I grab my raincoat. I’ll drag this trunk down there for you.”

We sloshed our way through the mud leading to the Fowler House. Carcasses of deer, rabbits, raccoons, and turkey vultures swung from tree branches, dripping blood tinged water in the mud. Hills Brothers coffee cans, riddled with bullet holes, topped every fence post and tree stump.

“This isn’t going to work.” I grabbed the knocker and rapped it against the front door a few times. Once it was opened, six dogs charged us.

“Run!” I yelled. Teeth bared, the dogs jumped at us until we were corralled in a circle, trying to fight them off.

A skinny old lady wearing a coonskin cap opened the door. She placed two fingers in her mouth, and gave a shrill whistle. The dogs backed off, just a bit, still growling. Foamy drool dripped from their exposed gums.

“There’s two more, Hazel!” she called. “It’s a sin having students move in on our Lord’s Day of rest. A sin against God, and I’ll not have it!”

“At least let them in out of the weather, Tillie.” A short, plump lady descended the few stairs leading from the house. She approached us, lifting her skirt up to her knees, and holding a huge umbrella over her head.

“Call off your dogs!” yelled Florence, above the barking. Her fingers dug into my upper arms.

“Sorry, ladies,” The short lady shooed the wet mongrels up toward the house. “They’re watchdogs, not used to so many visitors!” She summoned us in with her free hand. “I’m Miss Hazel Fowler, and that’s my sister, Miss Tillie Fowler, at the door. Come inside.”

From behind, the sisters resembled a hot dog and a hamburger.

The stink of cat pee hit me the moment I set foot through the door. And no wonder, for cats were crawling along the head rests of the sofa and Queen Anne chairs set before the fireplace. Cats tiptoed in and out through the rows of galoshes lined up inside the entryway. An orange tabby slinking around my ankles was wearing a knit bonnet tied under its chin!

“Oh God, look at that!” I nudged Florence in her ribs and pointed. Mounted above the fireplace hearth was an enormous moose head, its head turned, the dark lips set in a ghoulish grin. All four walls were covered with deer mounts, stuffed raccoons, pheasants, turkey vultures, and what I thought might be a bobcat. One of its paws was raised, claws outstretched, ready to pounce.

“Look at its eyes!” Florence whispered out of the side of her mouth. “I think it’s watching us.”

Several needlework bible verses were displayed among the dead animals. One read, “If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. Leviticus 20:9”

I thought of how many times I had cursed Da when he was alive.

“Here, let me take those wet things for you, ladies,” said Miss Hazel.

We tentatively removed our coats.

“Sit by the fire and dry off while I pour tea.”

I checked for cat droppings.

Miss Tillie, dressed in black, was seated in a rocking chair close to the stingy light of the window. She looked up from her bible. “Afraid you ladies made a trip for nothing in this rain,” she said. “At last count, there were ten students settling in upstairs.”

“Well, then, we won’t be wasting any more of your time.” I rose up from the seat upon which I had never fully sat down.


A million thanks for supporting “The Girls of Haviland!” How about a glimpse of the sequel in progress?

I am completely blown away by the support of “The Girls of Haviland” has received since the print edition became available on Amazon on September 14.  Please be sure to write a review on Amazon if you enjoy the book. Thanks to the help of my friend Lynn, the book is now available at the Brewster, Carmel, and Mahopac Public Libraries, and I’m in the process of arranging book talks. I’m also trying to organize book talks at the Brewster, Carmel, and Mahopac High School libraries.

I’m about 100 pages into the sequel, which finds Jay starting her junior year at Haviland in very different living quarters! Take a peek at the opening scene here.


By Deborah Rafferty Oswald



Chapter One

Carmel, New York

September 22, 1919

“Who are all these people? I don’t recognize anyone!” I strained my neck in the pouring rain to see around the car in front of us. “We’ve been stuck in this line for over an hour, and I’m late for check in!”

“Traffic’s stopped dead far as I can see with the fog coming off the lake.” Henry jumped down off the rig. “Mulligan’s getting restless, and Maisie looks like a wet mop.” The horses snorted and stamped their hooves in the puddles on the rutted road. “This weather’s no good for their joints.”

“Oh God! Don’t look Henry!” I watched two girls jump out of a car and hold a blanket in front of an older woman who proceeded to relieve herself on the shore of Lake Gleneida.

Henry smirked. “Classy bunch, these Haviland folks.”

I climbed down from the rig, the wind and rain slapping my face. “I can’t wait any more. I’ll just grab my stuff and walk the rest of the way. You’re going to be late for church, and you can’t keep the horses out in this weather.”

“You can’t carry everything all the way up to the dorm! Your trunk weighs a ton!” Henry pulled my soaking laundry bag down from the back of the rig.

I gave him a wet hug and a quick kiss. “I’ll manage. I’ll write, I promise!”

My arms felt about ready to fall off by the time I lugged my trunk up to the dorm, where I had to wait on line to sign in at the reception desk. The dark vestibule stunk of wet wool and too many bodies crammed together. My braid dripped water down my back. I dropped my book satchel when it was finally my turn and flexed my fingers, which had turned white from lack of blood circulation.

“What’s going on here, Betty?” I wished Lydia was still here.

“It’s been like this all morning!” She pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and tucked a strand of frizzy hair behind one ear. “I don’t know where they’ve all come from, and I’m the only RA on duty!”

I grabbed the pen from her hand and dipped it in the inkwell. “Well, I know where I’m going, so I’ll just sign in and leave you to deal with everyone else.” I heaved up my trunk and proceeded down the hall to Florence’s room, where I was looking forward to reliving our summer adventures in Albany.

“Jay, wait!” Betty came from behind the reception desk, leaving the chorus of complaints from the bedraggled line of parents and students.

“Hey!” I swung open the door of our room. “I’m back!”

“Late as usual!” Evangeline Sprague, my obnoxious roommate from sophomore year, was lying on my bed.

“What are you doing here? You left!”

“Mother and I agreed that Wooster Seminary was lacking, so I decided to resume my studies here,” she explained. “Sans Mary Agnes, of course.”

Betty’s flushed face looked about to explode. “I tried to catch you Jay, to let you know there has been a huge increase in students this year, and it’s resulted in a housing shortage.”

“So what?” I said, pushing my trunk alongside Evangeline’s. “Florence and I reserved this room before we left in June!”

“Now Jay, let me explain, ”said Betty. “The new school administration has adopted a first come, first serve policy to try and accommodate everyone. Evangeline was here at 6:00 this morning, and therefore had her pick of rooms. She chose this one!”

“So I’m stuck with the third bed?” I groaned.

Betty scanned her clipboard. “I’m sorry, Jay. That bed was claimed by Helen Starr 7:30 this morning.”

“Helen Starr? Where am I supposed to sleep, on the floor?”

“The early bird gets the worm, Jay.” Evangeline plumped the pillow beneath her greasy head. I forced myself not to grab the pillow and hold it over her face.

Betty tapped the clipboard with her pen, spraying Pacific Blue ink all over my face. “Patience Hall is now completely filled. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. You’ll have to stay at the Fowler House. The Fowler sisters have agreed to board some the overflow of students who have not been able to secure rooms.”

“You mean I can’t live in the dorm?” I felt my lip start to tremble.


The Girls of Haviland Kindle Edition is now available on Amazon!

Great news! I was notified this morning that The Girls of Haviland is now available on Amazon!https://www.amazon.com/Girls-Haviland-Deborah-Rafferty-Oswald-ebook/dp/B075H52Q36.

CreateSpace has mailed me an author copy of the book. Once I acknowledge receipt, I will be able to publish the print edition on Amazon. I am  hopeful that this will happen next week.

If you enjoy the book, please write a review on Amazon. Thank you!IMG_3860.pngIMG_3936.png

The Cover is Ready!

Hi everyone!

The book is expected back from the proofreader this coming Friday, so I thought I’d share this image of the cover of The Girls of Haviland. After Friday, the book should be ready to upload to Amazon. I’m hoping to have the book ready for sale by Labor Day. So excited!


We’re getting there. A bit more of the book…

I’ve received quite the education this summer. I heard once that the more you learn, the more realize just how little you know. I embarked on this journey with little to no knowledge of self-publication. The “self” part reflects the actual story writing, but it takes quite a few professionals to bring the published book to fruition.

“The Girls of Haviland” is in the hands of a professional proofreader and editor until August 25. The cover should be ready on August 17. I am hopeful that the book will be published in the final days of August before I go back to my position as an elementary school teacher.  I’m going to use the time between now and August 25 to try and finish the sequel. I want to savor the luxury of having these fleeting summer days to write on my front porch with my dogs.

Here’s a bit more of the opening pages of the book…

Christie took off toward the north end of our property, where the airplane was attempting to land. Da hobbled behind us, swearing as he held his sore back.

The Salmons were already climbing over the stone wall that separated our farms. Mrs. Harkins was pulling her son Ambrose by the arm, followed by Doc Birdsall, carrying his cracked leather bag. Miss Addison from the newspaper was running up Brewster Hill. The drone of the biplane’s engine became piercingly loud. Poor Ambrose covered his ears and started rocking back and forth.

“It’s the noise!” Mrs. Harkins yelled. “He won’t stop for me! Calm him, Jay, please!”

I tried covering Ambrose’s ears, but he let out a terrible yell and started banging his head with the heel of his hand.

Against the deafening crush of sound, I whispered, “It’s okay, Ambrose, the noise will stop once the airplane lands.”

He slowed down the rocking.

“We’re all going to die!” screamed Mrs. Salmon. “It must be a spy plane! He’ll shoot us all!” She tried to calm the screeching toddler in her arms. “Oh hush, Nell, please!”

“Give her to me!” Mr. Salmon grabbed his daughter, who was struggling to escape from Mrs. Salmon’s tight embrace. “You’re scaring her!”

Sullivan, along with the Salmon’s dogs, barked at the plane that was rapidly descending. Ambrose started rocking again.

“Keep those damn dogs quiet!” Da kicked Sullivan in his ribs.

“Leave him alone!” I grabbed my whimpering dog.

“Move back, everybody!” warned Doc Birdsall. “He’s trying to land!”

A sudden assault of noxious engine fumes made my eyes water. I tucked Sullivan’s head under my arm to protect his lungs.

“Mama!” Nell wriggled out of her father’s arms and ran toward Mrs. Salmon, but tripped over the dogs. The little girl lay sprawled on the ground, screaming as the plane came closer.

“My baby!” Mrs. Salmon rushed to scoop Nell up. She stood fixated on the plane.

“Move! It’s going to crush you!” I pulled Mrs. Salmon and Nell toward me with my free hand. I held onto Sullivan as I felt myself falling backward into the crowd. Someone pushed me back up on my feet.

“Here it comes!” Christie yelled. The silver underbelly of the plane forced us all to spread out in a haphazard circle.

“Oh my God, I am heartily sorry, for having offended Thee,” Mam and I prayed in unison.

The earsplitting noise started Ambrose wailing and hitting himself again.

When the sputtering engine finally ceased, a young pilot emerged from the cockpit, bathed in sweat and grease. “She was right behind me, I swear! I, I don’t know what happened!”

Da charged him. “What in God’s name is going on?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know!” The pilot unstrapped his aviator helmet and goggles, then bent over and clutched both hands on his thighs.

I took a closer look at the biplane, noticing that it was a two seater, with no gun mounted. This was no fighter plane.

“You’d better start talking soon!” roared Da. “Somebody just fell out of your airplane! Did you push her?” He scanned our frightened faces gathering around the airplane. “Who’s got a rope? Let’s tie him up until the sheriff gets here.”

I approached the shaken pilot. “Do you know what the girl would be doing up on the wing? I mean, was she -”

“Sheriff Stevens is on his way.” Margaret Addison pushed her way through the crowd. She took a pencil that was resting behind her ear. “Sir, I’m with The Courier. Can you tell me exactly what happened?”

Da grunted and pushed Miss Addison out of his way. “Get out of here, you fool woman! What went on up there? Start explaining!”

“Da, you knocked her over!” I helped Miss Addison up.

“She doesn’t belong here!”

He continued with his rampage. “You shouldn’t have been a flying a plane if you can’t keep your passengers safe!”

“It was nothing like that, I swear, Mister!” the pilot panted. “I’ll, tell, you, everything, if, you’ll just, let me catch, my breath!”

“Well, go on then!”

“Please stop bullying the man and give him a minute to collect his thoughts, Da!” I said.

“Jay, run up to the house and bring the pilot some water,” said Mam.

Mr. Salmon produced a silver flask. “The poor fellow’s had the stuffing knocked out of him. I’ll reckon he needs something stronger.”

“At this hour of the morning!” Mrs. Harkins said. “Is there any decency left in this village?”

The pilot took a long swig from the flask before beginning.

“Let me try to think. We were flying over Brewster at about 2,000 feet. I thought a bird hit the top wing. I look back to see that the seat behind me is empty and, and, oh I don’t know what happened –“

“Did she say anything before climbing up onto the wing?” I asked. “Was anything on the plane broken?”

“I just remember leaning out and seeing her up there on the wing and, Oh, God, I can’t believe it!” He held his head, and his voice broke. “I’m hollering and trying to grab her back in, and the next thing you know, she’s gone! Honestly, miss, no fooling, that’s how it happened! You’ve got to believe me!” Two tears were dripping clean lines down his dust streaked face.

“Do you know where she could be? Maybe she’s still alive!”

“Nobody could survive that fall. We were flying over trees and rocks, for gosh sakes. Why in the world would anybody…”

Miss Addison elbowed her way back up to the front of the crowd. “Did she tell you why she wanted you to take her up in the plane?”

“Not much, just asked me to tell her when we were flying over Haviland Seminary.”

Haviland. I couldn’t believe my ears.