Becoming a literary citizen
Happy Autumn. It’s been a productive time! I had spent the fall and winter of 2021-22 reading more than a thousand letters between two of my ancestors. The letters gave me a personal view of American history before, during and after the Civil War – and an up-close look at the tedium and heaviness of women’s domestic labor. Even better, I witnessed a novelist slowly being born within my ever-so-great grandmother Julia after her fourth daughter entered high school.
In spring I joined Biographers International and attended their online conference, mulling over how we give true stories their shape. Truth be told, I would have spent another year just researching and not writing at all. I wasn't sure how to get started, still wanted to rest after a corporate writing career. But NOT writing was not doing me any good. Some meetings with coach Joey Garcia gave me a reality check and helped to relight my fire. I began to write essays about different parts of the research, and send them out.
A writer I met at the Biographers conference, Susan Bailey, graciously allowed me to guest post on her blog called Louisa May Alcott is My Passion. I was finding connections between reactions to American art students in Europe in 1897, and a guidebook for art students written by Louisa's younger sister May in 1879. Here is the post. That led me to a Facebook group for fans of the Alcotts, where I found some important answers to my research questions!
Santa-Cruz based Catamaran Literary Reader accepted one of my essays, and I was invited to their amazing conference in Pebble Beach.
In this creative atmosphere I read, wrote, walked, even painted a little. There's nothing like having your meals prepared for you in between bouts of creativity.
The teachers were great, the community of creatives was sublime. Our week culminated in a grand performance in the property's beautiful Forest Chapel.
In the meantime, a friend asked me to review his forthcoming book of poems. Luckily I had gotten some training from the sensitive and articulate poet and reviewer Erica Goss, so I reread Marc’s entire book once a week for three weeks; by the time I wrote the review, the book had opened to reveal gems. He seemed pleased with the review – and I sent it off to the Rumpus. No word from them yet.
No word either from several other places to whom I sent stuff this summer. But it really doesn’t matter because I’m slowly getting the hang of the 'brainstorm -> pitch -> write -> wait -> publicize results -> repeat' cycle of becoming a contributing literary citizen. Meanwhile, the research continues -- and so does the brainstorming.
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