Since embarking on my new book project on the Rhythm Club Fire, I’ve gotten questions about why I’d want to work on something so depressing, which is a blog for another day, but mainly they’ve been about what I’ll say. At this point, I cannot answer that question. None of us who has authored a book can, especially when we are so early in the process. So, I’ve come up with a metaphor that I think works, and one which people who’ve never written a book can understand.
“It’s like putting together a 500-piece puzzle,” I answer.
At the beginning is the idea, and all of those pieces of evidence.
In the early stages, you begin pulling together ideas that form the basic framework for the book.
Further into the project, some of the ideas begin to take shape.
Eventually, the day comes when you have figured it out and hooray!
As with any puzzle, it takes time and patience, but part of the joy is in the process–figuring out where the pieces fit. When it’s complete there’s a moment of euphoria, but it is fleeting.
As a pre-teen in the ’70s, I was a fan of the show “What’s Happening” with Roger, Dee, their Momma, Rerun, and Dwayne. And let’s not forget Shirley. So, even though I’m writing about what’s happening with me as an author, I can’t help but think of that show.
I’ve got a few speaking/book engagements coming up, too.
University of Michigan, March 12th
Tennessee Williams Festival, March 25th
Univ. of Louisiana-Lafayette, April 10-11th
Seminary Co-op in Chicago, May 3rd
DePaul University, May 4th
Then, in May, Louisiana University Press will release the volume Reassessing the 1930s South, which I co-edited with Sarah Gardner, a professor of history at Mercer University. The volume is truly interdisciplinary as it brings together scholars of history, literature, and American Studies.
This summer, I’ll return to Natchez for local research on my newest project, which will examine the Rhythm Club Fire that took the lives of 209 African Americans on April 23, 1940. It was one of the deadliest fires in the history of the U.S., outranking the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York in 1911.