Wednesday, July 8, 2015
One of my three current editorial projects is now complete and my collaborator sent me these beautiful flowers as a thank you. I'm happy she's happy! She is a rock star and I hope I get to work with her again sometime.
I'm back to the book now, the first half of which is due this month. I had a great interview with a person peripheral to the story this morning. It reminded me that I really do love reporting. I'm just so curious about how lives unfold. It has also just occurred to me that I'm going to have to do endnotes, there is so much history covered in the life span of the good doctor, the woman who is my extraordinary 97 year old subject. I've had to do tons of research as I go, to make sure I'm getting it right, and of course, I can't just dump secondary facts or quotes into the narrative without sourcing them. This is a rather belated realization. Fortunately I've been keeping track of my sources.
I have no idea how people wrote books containing actual historical detail before the internet. I imagine they just moved in to the library, and got very familiar with its card files. And took a lot longer to complete things no doubt. Capote, the biography of Truman Capote by Gerald Clarke, for example, took eight years to complete. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, which won a Pulitzer, took 11 years to complete. I am trying to do my subject's life justice in just one year, yet these are the books I'm looking to as examples of what I strive for. Talk about aiming high.
From her writing retreat at Hedgebrook Elizabeth posted a Virginia Woolf quote the other day. For me, it was right on time, the perfect description of what it feels like to undertake something so ambitious as a book. I'm reposting it here, because it reminds me that I am not going it alone, and I am still on the path, even when it feels as if I have fallen into the weeds.
"Anyone moderately familiar with the rigours of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote and it seemed good; read and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in; was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good nights and bad mornings; snatched at ideas and lost them; saw his book plain before him and it vanished; acted people’s parts as he ate; mouthed them as he walked; now cried; now laughed; vacillated between this style and that; now preferred the heroic and pompous; next the plain and simple; now the vales of Tempe; then the fields of Kent or Cornwall; and could not decide whether he was the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world."
Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography