Thank you, Nancy Pinard, for the invitation to participate in MY WRITING PROCESS BLOG TOUR.
MY WRITING PROCESS
I am currently working on the final proof pages of my very first biography, Fanny Seward: A Life. It will be published in December 2014 by Syracuse University Press.
It differs from other biographies in the genre in that Fanny Seward is a little-known historical figure. Most biographies are of major figures. Think Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs. My subject isn’t.
I have written this book for the same reason I write any book: to satisfy the itch of curiosity.
Let me tell you what I can about my curiosity for this subject.
Like most Americans, I had never heard of Fanny Seward. I vaguely associated the name “Seward” with her father and the 1867 purchase of Alaska, known as “Seward’s Folly.” Again, like most Americans, I was well aware of Booth’s murder of President Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, but I was completely unaware that there were other assassinations planned for that very evening for other members of Lincoln’s cabinet, including William Henry Seward, Fanny’s father and Lincoln’s Secretary of State.
Still, until I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, I knew little about Seward and nothing about his daughter. That book and another historical marvel, James Swanson’s Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer, whetted my appetite for learning more about Fanny, whose young face and piquant comments kept peeking out between the lines of both works. After all, I had been a writer of historical fiction for young adults, and this young adult had experienced life in the front row of the theatre of the Civil War. Even better, I learned that Fanny had kept a diary, one of those primary source documents beloved by historians that recorded her eyewitness accounts of events of the Civil War, including the assassination attempt on her father. Most exciting of all was that there had been no book yet published about this privileged young woman; I saw that there was much new historical ground to break.
So I thrust my writer’s shovel into the ground and began to dig. Into library collections. Letters and manuscripts. Original diaries and letters by Fanny and her family members. Primary sources. Secondary sources. Interviews. I went from bifocals to trifocals as I gazed at microfilm.
But the result of all that hard work and obsessive curiosity was a book. A biography. Of a young woman who revealed herself as absolutely fascinating. Not only did Fanny Seward leave a gripping account of the assassination attempt on the life of her father on April 14, 1865, but she also left eye-witness portraits of one of the most tumultuous periods in American history, lived out as the daughter of one of the most powerful and progressive families in Civil War America.
In general, my writing process for this book – and for all of my books – works by means of a mechanism called obsession. Like a dog with a bone, when I get an idea in my head, I clutch it between my teeth and gnaw. Less metaphorically, however, my process works like this:
Mornings, when my mind is freshest, are for actual writing. This is when I pound out chapters, outlines, timelines, anything that focuses on the written creation of the book itself. Three to four hours is usually my limit, and as I’ve gotten older, two to three pretty much does me in.
Afternoons are for restoring me to the “real” world. That’s when I exercise, run errands, meet friends for lunch or coffee, make phone calls, take the dog to the vet, conduct my writing “business,” and do all the things that don’t require much creative or mental energy.
Evenings are for relaxing, which to me means reading. When I’m working on a book, the reading material consists of books and articles about the topics I’m researching. In Fanny Seward’s case, that might mean a Civil War journalist’s take on the Lincoln administration, a book on Civil War fashions or furnishings, or, because Fanny visited the Union camp on the eve of the Battle of Chancellorsville, a biography of Joseph Hooker, the battle’s commanding general. That kind of reading helps engage my brain with my topic so I can sleep on it and awake refreshed and ready to work the next morning.
It’s an exciting life – if you’re a writer and similarly obsessed.
Trudy Krisher www.trudykrisherauthor.com
Next up on the My Writing Process Blog Tour? Wendy Hart Beckman and Gerald E. Greene.
Wendy Hart Beckman’s Author Bio
When she was a pre-teen, Wendy Hart Beckman was introduced to Nancy Drew by her best friend. First Wendy wanted to be Nancy Drew, but soon she wanted to be Carolyn Keene. She wrote a Nancy Drew mystery wherein the criminal was revealed because she carried a yellow purse with a maroon outfit. Imagine the horror! Wendy quickly followed this literary success with her autobiography, but her mother told her that she hadn't done anything interesting enough yet that people would want to buy a book about her, thus introducing her early to the concept of writing with an audience in mind. However, Wendy did have one genuine publishing success with a poem that was published nationally in Golden magazine for children. This achievement was anomalous, as generally Wendy’s poems are terrible.
Taking a break to reflect on this success, Wendy waited 34 years before publishing her first book: Artists and Writers of the Harlem Renaissance (Enslow, 2002), a YA collective biography. This book was followed in 2004 with two books: National Parks in Crisis: Debating the Issues (Enslow) and Communication Tools Made Easy (Kendall Hunt). Enslow published three more YA books of Wendy's: Dating, Relationships, and Sexuality: What Teens Should Know (2006), Robert Cormier: Banned, Challenged, and Censored (2008), and Harlem Renaissance Artists and Writers (2013). Wendy’s latest book is Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati (Clerisy Press, 2014). In between the books, Wendy has published more than 300 articles in print and online publications and has edited and/or contributed to 14 books or anthologies. Her blog will appear on wendyonwriting.com
Gerald E. Greene’s Author Bio
Gerald E. Greene is known for his high energy and dedication to various projects he is involved with. As a founding member of a writing group called “Read-To-Write” located in Dayton, Ohio, he has partnered with fellow writers to develop a support group for people actively engaged in the craft. Although he is a retired business executive and software engineer, his love of literature has led him to republish over a dozen out-of-print books during the past year.
His first love is helping people of faith understand the positive support found in the Bible that can make life more fulfilling. His current project is the writing and publication of a new book regarding Spiritual Exercise and an accompanying blogging website called “MySpiritualExercise.com,” intended to provide a place where people of faith can meet and share their thoughts and feelings. The daily posts from this website are shared via Facebook, Twitter, Google and Pinterest. When he is not working at his various projects, Gerry can be found indulging his greatest passion: eating pie. His blog can be found at MySpiritualExercise.com.