Am I always thinking about the biography I’m researching or am I always thinking about the biography I’m researching? Hard to say…
“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.”–George Lucas
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:
Until next time!
“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:
Until next time!
“The difference between doing something and not doing something is doing something.”-James Corden, May I Have Your Attention, Please?
As some of you know, I am in the early (and I do mean early) stages of researching material for a biography. The best-case scenario has me completing said research in about three years. Say, the end of 2023. It is the biggest, grandest, scariest, and most exhilarating project I’ve ever contemplated. A few weeks in, and I am having a helluva good time. Let me explain.
Since learning to read–way back when at age three–I’ve adored reference materials and all related paraphernalia. Dictionaries, almanacs, encyclopedias. Dates, facts, figures. All marvelous. Sigh. Good thing, that. Why?
Because I could not imagine trying to tackle the life of an obscure musical theater performer (whose career started 100 years ago) without this weird native penchant for unearthing mundane or evasive details. This project is hard, y’all. Daunting. Elephantine.
And all the more rewarding when I discover a tiny puzzle piece, such as her purebred dog’s birth date and parentage, 98 years after the fact. He was an Airedale, in case you were wondering. Black and tan. I imagine he looked like this:
Maybe I will eventually find a photo of her actual good boy. I’m already in possession of some of her archives (an origin story for another post). Anything is possible in the world of biography, right?
Speaking of those puzzle pieces, dozens are already in place. Those mostly belong to the outer edge. Inside? One here, a couple there. Largely unconnected but waiting to be joined to the rest. An exciting concept. Can’t wait. Only approximately 9,957 pieces to fit in place. Or more. Who knows? I certainly don’t.
I spent the first couple of weeks poring over dry historical records: census, birth, death, marriage. Obituaries, burial info. All helpful in forging connections, resulting in several spontaneous aha moments! I know I’ve not seen the back end of those. Not yet. Not for a while. Weeks? Months? Years? Who knows? I certainly don’t.
Going forward? Archives are about to be this girl’s best friend. My subject, J, performed in 45 states, lived in a couple. Traveled for pleasure. There’s so much to learn.
I plan on sharing a tightly curated version of my research journey here. What does that mean? A weekly post will go up every Tuesday, with the periodic stand-alone piece appearing as needed. Should be fun.
RESEARCH NOTES WEEKS 1-3:
“I get intrigued by a puzzle, and writing a book is the best way to solve it.”–Anthony Storr
Until next time!
A local used bookstore recently closed after 25 years. They had a fantastic going-out-of-business sale. While part of me feels “guilty” for taking advantage of their sad circumstances, the rest (and logical) part of me knows that they needed to sell as many books as possible. Through these books, a bit of their entrepreneurial and intellectual spirit will live on. With that idea in mind, I’m doing a limited-run series where I’ll spotlight each of the volumes I “adopted” from this sweet little shop. Shine on, you bookish gems!
Today’s selection? The Film Till Now by Paul Rotha.
WHY I BOUGHT IT:
The Film Till Now has been on my TBR list for more years than I care to count. My laziness in never actively looking for a copy truly paid off, as this edition dates to just a year after the book was first published. It is in wonderful shape for its age (87 years!).
Thanks for reading! I hope you’re enjoying the series. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Check it out on my sister site, Epic of World Saga! (Pssst…it features Harry Houdini!)
…is a new weekly feature over on Epic of World Saga. Although I won’t be sharing every EoWS post here (that would be annoying, I’m sure!), this series is on-theme for A Small Press Life!
Here are the first two images:
This is another Coles Phillips-illustrated advertisement for Sheaffer fountain pens. It appeared in Motion Picture Classic in 1920.