So, there have been several developments, some of them social, some of them literary. I went to a book festival in Kentucky last month as a spousal tagalong while my husband talked America 1844. It was interesting to go to the seminars—all two of them, his and one other—on history. The second seminar was on the Civil War, and not as instructive as I could have hoped. I asked about reading through the bias of Southern sources, and sort of figuring out what was really going on vs. what was being cleaned up for history. The author of a book on Mary Lincoln came off a bit disdainful and told me I should consider the sources—”for example, why would I include ANYTHING Herndon said about Mary Lincoln?”—while the author of a found diary of a Tennessee woman made the friendlier (but also not particularly helpful) point that I shouldn’t let my modern biases get in the way. Finally, the author of a biography of Benjamin Buckner spoke up and actually addressed my question, saying that in his view, it wasn’t entirely necessary to draw any distinctions; that as a writer, it is entirely in bounds to say,”this person did A and B during the day, but at night he went home and wrote X and Y in his diary,” and to let readers draw their own conclusions about whether the actions or words are louder. This suggestion actually DID help.
And with that in mind, I finished my first draft a couple weeks ago. I am terribly excited about this, although I am miles from being close to an “acceptable” draft. Citations, revisions, and then (in perhaps just a couple of months) submission, and all the grief (and joy! There will be joy!) that augurs!
Then this past weekend, I went to a symposium called After the War that focused on Reconstruction, largely within Prince William County. While I didn’t get quite as many local anecdotes as I’d hoped, I did get a couple of good perspectives on how to deal with some historical issues I’d been struggling with, and I got to introduce myself to some of the speakers, all of whom seemed genuinely nice and engaging, and you should go find them on Twitter: @censerbilityVA, @historyGuy6465, and @JohnHennessy2. (I think I scared Jane Censer; I’d already read her book about women in the postwar South and cited one of her constructs in my own book’s explanation, and I was so effusive I think she was afraid I might try to eat her up. I intend to send a lower-key and less fangirly email some time soon.)
And then of course, over the course of a month there was all the reading. (Admittedly, there’s not as much as there probably should have been. It is spring, after all.)
1: I finished Sin in the Second City (again). I see poor Abbot is back in the news for plagiarizing; whether it was an honest mistake or malice seems sort of hard to tell from here. While I don’t condone ripping off someone’s words, I do find the schadenfreude from other quarters a tad distasteful.
2: I am now on the second book in the Outlander series. I should probably be farther along, but this one is slow-going compared with the first, and I find I tend to read it more when I am waiting in line than on a regular basis each night. Now that I’ve knocked some other things out of the way, this might change.
3: I finished listening to 1776, but I feel like I need to listen to it again. I have a terrible time with books on CD. I listen to them during my work commute, so I start out strong, but then something in the book sends me down a rabbit hole about related topics, or I see something on the road, or I start thinking about what I need to do first when I get to work, and the next thing I know, I’ve missed a couple minutes and have to back up. It is embarrassing. I thought maybe it was just that book, but when I finished that one I started listening to Founding Brothers, by Joseph J. Ellis, and the same thing is happening, albeit to a lesser degree. And it’s not that it’s dry, history writing—Ellis is absolutely amazing and engaging and FUN. It’s all my lack of brain. I’m not sure what I need to do to bring it around. Maybe I need to read the nonfiction on the page and listen to the fiction in the car?
So, this weekend, I have signed up for a tour of the jail (under reconstruction) where most of the events in my book occurred, so that will be another fun weekend of inspiration/excuse not to make any progress! (And now that I have committed to not working on revisions, I will commit to trying to do some.)
Hope you all enjoy your Memorial Day weekend.