Historian and author uncovers "Washington Spies"


Historian and author, Mr. Alexandra Rose gives advice to Convent of the Sacred Heart students November 9.

Journalist, author, and historian, Mr. Alexander Rose gave insight on his career as a historical non-fiction writer to Convent of the Sacred Heart American Literature classes in the Lennie and John de Csepel Theater November 9.
Upper School English Teacher Dr.  Cristina Baptista, after attending a discussion panel about Turn:

Historian and author, Mr. Alexandra Rose gives advice to Convent of the Sacred Heart students November 9.
Historian and author, Mr. Alexandra Rose gives advice to Convent of the Sacred Heart students November 9. Kristen Davis ’17

Washington’s Spies, the show based on Mr. Rose’s historical non-fiction book, Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First,  in April,  contacted Mr. Rose to express her admiration for his work. Following an exchange of emails, Mr. Rose volunteered to speak to Sacred Heart students on advice he has gathered throughout his career. 
“When I read an author’s work and truly enjoy his skill, I like to let him know. Typically, I am intimidated to reach out to other writers but his website looked so encouraging of correspondence that I could not resist,” Dr. Baptista said. “He mentioned that he did not live far from Convent of the Sacred Heart and offered to come speak with students about history, writing, researching, and working in television.”
Mr. Rose was born in the United States, raised in Australia, and attended Cambridge University in England.  After obtaining his Doctorate, he worked as an editorial writer for the Daily Telegraph in London, England. Later, Mr. Rose joined the staff at the National Post in Toronto, Canada, where he spent time writing as the Washington correspondent, and as a member of the editorial board for foreign affairs. 
As a journalist, Mr. Rose felt constrained by his position on the editorial board and decided to write his own work.
“It was difficult to write what you want to write, and it was getting boring, so I thought maybe I would brush off some writing skills, and see what I can do,” Mr. Rose said.
Mr. Rose published his first historical non-fiction book, Kings in the North: The House of Percy in British History, a biography on the most powerful noble family in England during the Middle Ages, in 2002. In 2006, he published Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring, an account of the Culper Ring, George Washington’s personal spies during the American Revolutionary War.
In 2014, American Basic Cable and Satellite (AMC) television channel picked up Mr. Rose’s Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring, renaming it Turn: Washington’s Spies.
For the second and most recent season of the show, Mr. Rose and five other writers joined the writing staff to draft storylines. Mr. Rose expressed the difficulty in transforming from a historical non-fiction writer to a scriptwriter.
“Once you see how the script is made and watch actors at work, you realize that you got to write the picture in your head, and think visually about how people interact, clash, and compromise. I had to write less, and let the actors do their jobs,” Mr. Rose said.
Mr. Rose also published American Rifle: A Biography in 2008 and his latest book, Men of War: The American Soldier in Combat at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima, in June. He is currently conducting research for his new book on the German airship Hindenburg that burst into flames while attempting to land in New Jersey in the 1930s. He will also continue to write for Turn: Washington’s Spies, which begins filming in Richmond, Virginia in February.
Dr. Baptisa expresses the importance of students learning from an experienced historian and author like Mr. Rose.
“Alexander Rose is an excellent example of a researcher and writer whose career feels forged by both hard-work and fate. Washington’s Spies did not get written in days and published within a few months; the television series, too, was not shot in one fell swoop, with everything falling into place,” Dr. Baptista said. “A fast-paced society where we often want immediate results or answers, with little to no waiting time, Mr. Rose’s rather candid and laid back attitude about simply letting time do its thing and allowing events to fall into place felt refreshing.”
Mr. Rose also encourages high school writers and journalists to find themselves in their own writing.
“You got to find your own voice, don’t copy what you read, but be original. Don’t confuse the forest from the trees, meaning you need to step back and look at what you have. The first draft is always garbage. As the author, write it, hone it, and publish it,” Mr. Rose said.
– Kristen Davis, Sports & Health Editor