I achieved a major milestone a couple of days ago! What is it? Thanks for asking. I finished cataloging the contents of J’s main scrapbook. Hallelujah! I’ve already added the relevant information to her Master Timeline. This means that I can move on to the next phase of research. Not sure what that is going to be, just yet. There are many, many options.
RESEARCH NOTES: WEEKS 23-24
VICTORY: Finally finishing the scrapbook project, obviously.
HAPPY DISCOVERY: I came across a marriage announcement (of sorts) for J and her husband R. Baby steps.
FRUSTRATION: I’m being spread very thin these days. Not enough time. The usual, right?
CURRENTLY READING: Lots of century-old newspaper clippings.
HOURS SPENT ON RESEARCH: Approximately 12, across two weeks.
Hi there! It’s been a hot second since the previous entry in this series. My silence wasn’t from lack of research; far from it, actually. It’s because, six weeks later, I am still cataloging J’s main scrapbook. The reason it is taking so long? Early in the process, I also decided to start working on her main timeline. It simply makes sense to do one alongside the other. Current me is quite pleased with past me. Great choice, me. However, I didn’t want to bore you with the same spiel week in, week out for months. Thus, the lack of [R]evolving Research content as of late. Going forward, I will do posts when I have enough new content. Let’s see how that goes.
RESEARCH NOTES: WEEKS 16-21
VICTORY: Sticking with this project (and looking forward to working on it) even when I am super busy with life. Knowing that I hold a huge responsibility in my hands is very grounding.
HAPPY DISCOVERY: Every new entry on J’s Master Timeline gets me a teensy bit closer to seeing her life in a more cohesive way.
FRUSTRATION: Just the usual: not enough time or energy to do all of the things at once.
CURRENTLY READING: The contents of J’s main scrapbook.
HOURS SPENT ON RESEARCH: Haha, I’ve truly no idea.
You may have noticed that there’s a Ko-fi button hanging out on the sidebar. If you have questions: Here’s an article explaining what that is all about. It’s truly a no-pressure situation. I will not mention it going forward, except on posts about my biography research.
Sorry for posting this two days late. I had internet problems on Tuesday and was too busy to fit this bit of writing into Wednesday’s schedule. Let’s get started!
And I thought that endlessly staring at online copies of census records was hard.
It turns out that poring over century-old newspaper clippings (I’m talking physical copies) is even worse on the eyes. Who knew, haha? I finally forced myself to start cataloging the contents of J’s small but mighty scrapbook. It’s tedious only from the standpoint that it is going to take weeks (I’m on page 8) to finish. Other than the necessarily slow nature of the process, it is really damn exciting. I’ve already learned a great deal more about J and her early career in Memphis. This has also, of course, opened up many, many, and I do mean many, new avenues to explore. Dozens. All by page 8. Researching a biography is hard, y’all. That’s mostly a good thing, so I won’t complain.
RESEARCH NOTES: WEEK 14
VICTORY: Making it to page 8 of the scrapbook in about an hour. It’s not that impressive (the early pages aren’t very dense), but it’s a nice start.
HAPPY DISCOVERY: I’ve been able to add a few songs and engagements to J’s timeline.
FRUSTRATION: Being unable to work at this full-time.
CURRENTLY READING: I’m tying up loose ends with a couple of previously-mentioned books.
Last week was extra busy because of Christmas. We didn’t go anywhere, of course, because of the pandemic. There was a lot of baking and some last-minute decorating, though. I still fit in a fair amount of reading amidst the chaos. I also learned a new fact about J, courtesy of a nearly 101-year-old source. Yay!
RESEARCH NOTES: WEEK 12
VICTORY: I feel as if this is something I frequently mention, but continuing my research, every day, no matter how busy I am is definitely a victory.
HAPPY DISCOVERY: A small newspaper blurb from January 1920, when J was 19, describes her as a “uke-banjoist.” This is the first indication I’ve had that she was also a musician. Another course of research to follow up on in the future.
FRUSTRATION: Sometimes I feel as if three-plus years is not enough time to research the life and career of J.
CURRENTLY READING: A Guide to Historic Downtown Memphis by William Patton
Alternative Muses has been an occasional series on A Small Press Life for years. The name and the concept also fit my bio subject, J, so well that I decided to combine them into a new website. This comes with a couple of bonuses. 1) All things J will be found in one handy location 2) ASPL won’t be entirely overrun with the details of this huge project.
[R]evolving Research, however, will remain a Tuesday “tradition” here on ASPL. If that’s enough J for you, great! You’re all set. If you’d like more, then you can follow my research and biography writing adventures over on AM.
One of the first things I did at the start of my research was set up Google alerts for J and her husband R, on the off-chance that it would eventually pay off in some murky way. Since then I’ve received three relevant alerts and one false alarm. They’ve been great in helping me track professional engagements. When you are dealing with people constantly on the move, every filled-in date is helpful.
RESEARCH NOTES WEEK 9:
VICTORY: A book I had on hold suddenly became available AND the timing was perfect.
HAPPY DISCOVERY: The 100th anniversary of a small-town review of one of R’s productions, allowing me to place him in Michigan on 8 December 1920!
FRUSTRATION: Adding 30 books to my TBR list for every one I finish.
CURRENTLY READING: Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression by Studs Terkel.
HOURS SPENT ON RESEARCH: 12
I’m reading an e-copy but here’s a nice edition available on Etsy:
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.