Last week I went down to New York for a day and a half to do research for the novel I tell people I’m working on. It was a really illuminating experience for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I don’t really know what doing research with primary documents entails. For a library school student at a college that boasts a huge archives program, I’ve never really been in an archives, so stepping into Schomburg was new for me. And then I’ve also never done research to write a novel before, not having finished a long narrative work since the novel I wrote when I was 12 (I think it was 54 pages, single spaced, which is actually not all that bad). But I’m in the school of fake it til you make it, so I was all prepared to fake it.

Fake it I did. But I felt rather awkward. The biggest two things I’ve learned in library school thus far are that everyone is excited that you’re in it until you ask working librarians for help/interviews/jobs, and then they stop being interested in you, and also that you can’t work in a library unless you’ve already worked in a library/you can’t know how to use an archives unless you already know how to use it. And that’s exactly what happened at Schomburg–I’m sure it’s not on purpose, but archivists tend to kind of look at you like you’re a jackass for not knowing how to behave in an archives, but really that’s absurd, because it’s not even a library, so it’s not exactly like you learned the proper usage of one back in elementary school. Anyway, I figured it out, got my temporary NYPL card (!), and found out that the sound archives I requested weren’t there yet, but that I could go upstairs and look at the rest of the stuff I wanted. Continue reading


miracle of miracles!

This is very exciting. At this very moment, I am sitting at my desk, writing.

That may not seem all that interesting, but let me paint a picture for you.

Generally, my desk is where my textbooks sit when I am not using them at my dining room table to read or write papers. It is also where magazines and journals that I have not yet had time to read live. So imagine a desk that has been cleared off, save for a faux vintage clock radio/iPod dock and various other regular desk implements. Also, the light in the hallway is on, but the bedroom light, in the room where I am writing, is off. I’ve always been kind of a vampire when it comes to light. My eyes are sensitive to my computer light, and overhead lights just add to that mess. So, hallway light plus liliko’i scented candle on the bookshelf and tealight in a recycled materials lantern on the desk is what I’ve got. Love it.

Diane Birch singing to me about fire escapes and Valentino. The delicious smell of wick burning and wax melting. Late night mood conducive to writing. Continue reading

writers who consistently inspire me

My plan for the rest of the semester, as far as non-school things are concerned, is to read a lot, write the book reviews I owe to this blog, my food blog, and TeenReads/BookReporter/KidsReads, write a short story I’m playing around with, and go to the Schomburg Center in Harlem to do some research to get me back into the scheme of my novel. Then, when I go home to Tucson for a month, I’ll spend the majority of my non-family time finishing the novel. I’m confident that I will have enough time to do that–I’m already between 1/3 and 1/2 done, and my family will be working and I will be car-less a lot, so I’ll have the free time. I just have do sit down and do it.

Inspiration, imitation, emulation….it all kind of runs together at some point. After all, good writers borrow, great writers steal, right? So I’m finally beginning to understand those authors who say that once they’re really in the throes of a project, they have to stop reading, and I’ll accept that as soon as the semester is over, since not reading is totally impossible right now. I get it–you read so much and either you absorb another person’s voice or you spend a lot of time worrying about your project and whether it’s too derivative. I do both of those things. Almost immediately after reading Amelia’s Notebook when I was young, I pulled out some sheets of paper from a notebook, stapled them together, wrote Amelia’s Diary on the front, and got to work on my own story, which really had nothing to do with the original book except the obvious copying in style, format, and protagonist name. Anyway, that’s a really good developmental activity for a budding writer, but not so much for someone who’s working on conceivably publishable material.

But for now, I’m going to read and enjoy it. Because I can, because I have to, and because I want to. And at the risk of being derivative later, I will probably spend some time enjoying the writers I have consistently enjoyed, been inspired by, or just been encouraged by. Continue reading