This week brought our first real snow of the season, more reading (lots of it), and a new tidbit about J’s husband that should open the floodgates to a considerable amount of fresh information. All in all, it’s been a relaxing and productive period.
RESEARCH NOTES WEEK 8:
VICTORY: Reading at a pace that actually satisfies me.
HAPPY DISCOVERY: I discovered not one, but two “new” musical groups that J’s husband, R, produced. Both pretty prominent in their day.
FRUSTRATION: Directly contradicting point one: not being able to read 24/7.
CURRENTLY READING: Babbits & Bohemians: The American 1920s by Elizabeth Stevenson (see here).
Some weeks involve direct research about J or her family; other weeks are devoted to general history reading. I’m currently in a flurry of the latter activity. I learn a lot during these times, just not about J. It’s all necessary and enjoyable work. Time well spent.
After I’ve finished my current book (see below) the pendulum will likely swing back the other way. I love history, but I might just love J even more. That is saying something.
RESEARCH NOTES WEEK 7:
VICTORY: Waking up every day and doing the thing regardless of what the days threw at me.
HAPPY DISCOVERY: None. I’m okay with that because I learned tremendous amounts of historical information.
FRUSTRATION: Also none. That’s a win.
CURRENTLY READING: A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe
Researching J also means researching her husband, R, and his career. Being twenty-one years older, his advent as an entertainer and theatrical manager nearly coincided with his future wife’s birth. Later, their showbiz careers were inextricably connected for the two decades preceding his death.
Going down all of these necessary by-roads and highways is one of the reasons I expect my research to take around five years.
RESEARCH NOTES WEEK 6:
VICTORY: Once again carving out “enough” time for my research.
HAPPY DISCOVERY: A three-page spread about R and his various theatrical and musical companies, in a 1910 issue of Lyceumite & Talent.
FRUSTRATION: Not being able to read all the things all at once.
Once upon a time (it was so long ago that it feels like a fairy tale), I was nominated by Leah @ Cary Grant Won’t Eat You for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Normally I don’t accept awards, but this format is super fun and I felt flattered. Said I’d post my answers in a week or two. That was…July? Maybe. Then I got busy with all the things. Most of you know what those things are, so I won’t go into detail here.
I have to go back to those things, but I just wanted to say, “Hey, thanks so much for the honor. Wish I could answer those cool questions. Thanks for making a girl feel all fancy and special.”
This last week was extremely busy for non-research reasons. After years of hard work, my mom’s little tea/coffee shop/bookstore/art gallery/bar finally opened. It has been all hands on deck since last Wednesday. I couldn’t dedicate as much time as normal to my bio subject, J, managing about 30 minutes each day. That is the absolute minimum time that I’m happy with, preferring to dedicate at least 10 hours per week to this project. As busy as I’ve been, though, I’ll consider this a victory.
I’m still doing tons of reading. Books and periodicals. Once I get through this week, it’ll be back to regular morning “office hours” up in my studio. I’ve found that’s the best way to plow through big information searches/dumps. It’s tiring, at first, for this night owl but, hey, that is what a big cuppa is for.
RESEARCH NOTES WEEK 5:
VICTORY: Not falling asleep whilst reading late at night, haha.
HAPPY DISCOVERY: Finding a brief notice of J in a 1922 issue of The Music News.
FRUSTRATION: So tired. Overworked. Not doing all the things.
CURRENTLY READING: The August 1910 issue of Lyceumite & Talent
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”-Kurt Vonnegut, If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice for the Young
How many lists can a person make about writing lists? I’m not sure, but I believe this project is going to test existing limits for me. And I say this as someone who is a lifelong list producer.
Of the many lists I worked on this past week, one is head and shoulders above the rest as the most epic and time-consuming. It’s still a work-in-progress and will require near-constant updating for, well, years. This list contains pages and pages of books I’d like to track down and read, in any format I can get my hands on. Books about Memphis and its history, books about the 1920s-1940s, books about the early 20th century, books about 100-year-old stage musicals…just for starters. I might have to transfer this list into a separate journal. Sigh.
Incidentally, this was also the week that I more or less gave up on the very idea of reading for pleasure. Fortunately, I honestly love all of the subjects I need to research whilst bringing J and her world to life. It’s not a problem, exactly; but, rather, a temporary pivot to a new and differently fulfilling mindset.
RESEARCH NOTES WEEK 4:
VICTORY: I’ve not missed a day of research in the first month of work.
HAPPY DISCOVERY: I found J’s high school diploma for sale on eBay. For real. From 1918!
FRUSTRATION: I have yet to purchase the above diploma due to weird COVID-era finances. Sob.
CURRENTLY READING: The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, The Epidemic That Shaped Our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby