The Allure of the Archives

There’s a misconception out there that everything worth knowing is available online. Not true! There are whole worlds of information only accessible to those willing to take a journey, brave the sometimes intimidating protocol of an archival collection, open boxes or folders full of random papers, and dig into material that very few people may… [Read More]

Work in Progress #14: Mini-Timelines

As I emerge from the holidays and sit down at my computer again, I find it takes a long time to even remember where I was when I left off. I had written the first few paragraphs of Chapter 7 but stalled out for some reason. As I reread those paragraphs I find I don’t… [Read More]

Work in Progress #13: Holidays and Writer’s Guilt

It never fails. Every year about mid-November, my writing grinds to a halt for about six weeks. Every year, I try not to let it happen and every year it does anyway. In my defense, Thanksgiving is when our children and their families try to make it home. And Christmas is the time when I… [Read More]

Work in Progress #12: Pesky Permissions Issues

When I wrote the first draft of The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton, I quoted with wild abandon from her autobiography, her letters, and her fiction. I wanted readers to hear as much of the story as possible in Edith’s own words. I also quoted (with equally wild abandon!) from letters written to Edith by… [Read More]

Work in Progress #11: Umbrella Research

There’s another aspect to research that I never realize the importance of until I stop doing it.  I call it “Umbrella Research” because it covers everything I write from Esther Morris taking a stagecoach out to Wyoming in 1869 to Edith Wharton living in her two elegant homes in France just after World War I. … [Read More]

Letters vs. E-mails

I plan to stop writing biographies as soon as the necessary background research takes me from old letters stored in archives to e-mails stored goodness knows where. I get nightmares thinking about researching e-mails and, frankly, I just don’t think I’m cut out for it. So I’ll continue to write about people long-gone who tended… [Read More]

Work in Progress #10: Writing and Living

I finished chapter 6 at a week-long writer’s retreat where I was happily holed up in a cabin in Pennsylvania and had no distractions. There were no “real life” things to do like dishes and laundry and I was surrounded by thirteen other people, busily writing in their own cabins, which spurred me on. The… [Read More]

Work in Progress #9: Here to There

I finally finished my narrative outline for chapter 6 last week and sprinted through the actual writing of it. A confession: I cheated a bit! There were supposed to be two major “points of focus,” two major events, that were to form the basis for the chapter. When I actually did the writing, the first… [Read More]

Work in Progress #8: Through the Nitty Gritty to the Good Stuff

I’ve hit yet another “thin” place that I’ll have to thicken up with more research before I continue with my narrative outline of chapter 6. My subject took a “motor” trip from New York to San Francisco in 1915. It seemed like a bit of a lark that had nothing significant to do with the… [Read More]

Work in Progress #7: Writing Thin

As I was plugging ahead with the narrative outline for Chapter 6, I discovered I was “writing thin.” As thorough as I try to be with my research before sitting down to write, there are numerous spots along the way when my writing gets “thin” – it becomes hesitant, tentative, and starts to sound like… [Read More]