Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Write Idea

Let's write some books!

I'm going to start two this year: The Write Idea (a book about writing) and Bagley Beginnings (a book on my roots that I've been researching since 1985.)

Looking for graves in Newfoundland, 2004

It's time—I'm on the downhill slide. All my information is stored in my head or in my personal shorthand; it won't be useful if I don't get it down somewhere. Think of the Bagley clan, here and there, then and now, who will miss out on stories of Judith Gator (1588,) Henry Perkins (1536,) Elizabeth Sawbridge (1541,) Joan Reade (1423) and Sir John Colepeper (1404.)

Library in Lancaster, MA

As an apprentice for 25 years (77 books worth,) I've learned from a master how to organize, research and write. I've listened to Dee conduct oral interviews, I've dug through old library archives, I've taken rough drafts and transcripts and compiled them into chapters. I'm not inexperienced: I have a few children's books, magazine articles, and a family history book to my credit. Although I know it's a ton of work, I feel compelled.

Bagley Beginnings will actually be a series of young adult books on the order of the American Girls, the Little Maid books, or Little House on the Prairie. Instead of Meeting Molly, readers will be Meeting Isabelle Ivey. Instead of Little Maid of Old Vermont, I'll write true stories about the Little Kids of Beccles, England. I envision these illustrated volumes as Hero Books for my grandkids, however, the information will be accurate, interesting reading for adults as well.

What do I already have?

Collecting family names, dates and locales has been a hobby for decades. I have stories about ancestors who came from France to England with William the Conqueror in 1066, having descended from Vikings, with tales of how they inherited the Bagguley lands (in the Cheshire area) for their valiance in battle. I know where they lived, who they married and when, and what was happening historically during their lives in medieval Britain.

I'll create a space where my info will be handy.

Orlando Bagley came to Amesbury, MA (just outside Boston) in 1640 with Governor Winthrop's fleet. The Bagleys helped colonize Massachusetts, were involved with the Salem witch hunts, served in local government, raised crops and families. Then they moved to New Brunswick, Canada (in about 1825) and eventually to Utah as Mormon pioneers. Julia Ann Grant Bagley and two of her young children died the same day of cholera while crossing the plains. (Talk about a tear-jerker.)

Now I'll divide the information into categories
eventually the files will be filed under chapter headings

Isabelle Ivey's story is as compelling as any fiction, but it hasn't been told. She lived in 1506, at the same time and in the same vicinity as Anne Boleyn. Nobody knows much about her yet, but my cousins and I carry her DNA, her physical characteristics, and the consequences of her decisions. She's important to me. If she hadn't had kids clear back then, I wouldn't be here now.

I can grab a file, see what I have and determine what I still need to find.

I want to know more about Isabelle, acknowledge that she lived and contributed to the life I have. I want to honor my ancient fathers and mothers: recognize, respect, appreciate, understand and salute. So, that's the scope of Bagley Beginnings. (I'll feature segments on my blog.)

Everything's ready for me to start Bagley Beginnings.

The Write Idea will be a book about writing. I'm going to write these books simultaneously.

The Write Idea research shelf.

There's method to this madness. I want to wrap myself in words, breathe metaphors, vibrate with verbs.

The Write Idea
will have chapters on blogging, creative non-fiction, memoir, research, organization, family history, publishing—subjects I know about, or need to learn about. I'm going to draft these chapters as blog posts a few times a week, with assignments, prompts and examples. You're invited to gather at The Write Idea and we'll polish our craft together. Link to your work, join in the discussion, or just drop in from time to time.

Gift from my mentor.

For Christmas Dee gave me a tutorial on how to take piles of boxes, and stacks of books and notes, and actually start a project. (I usually come into his projects after the set-up process has taken place.) He gave me a laptop so I can work when I'm away from home, and some out-of-print books for helpful background. Plus, he gave me a British coin purse (stuffed with old French, British and Canadian currency) to start a fund for a major research trip.

Where did it happen?

We are experts in research on location. Dee's specialty is finding hidden details in unpublished documents filed away in local archives, museums, churches and libraries. On-site photography puts time and place in perspective. It's easier to get a feel for a person when you've walked his walk, and Dee's writing is enhanced by that point of view.

My project will be different from his in one major way. It will be on my own dime. Dee has families, businesses, towns, etc. who sponsor his work. His research trips are paid for by clients. And he has a partner who does 1/3 of the work for free (me.) I, of course, have no such sponsor. What I do have is purpose and passion.

Dee has two projects that will involve a combined trip to England this year. His research trips are always very targeted and bare-bones, so any extra travel days always come out of our pocket. We've had many research trips to areas in England, France, Boston, Canada and Newfoundland, close to the actual villages I've wanted to explore. But when a client is paying, we can't just add in the extra travel and hours it would take to do our own research. We've often passed ancestral towns with a wave, and an "I'll be back."

In the fall we'll be in the vicinity of Bagley Beginnings sites. My goal now is saving $5,000 for the time, car rental, and hotels to tack on my very own research trip. (And I'll have a partner who will do 1/3 of the work for free!)


My goal is public now.
There's no going back!
In the meantime, I'll be blogging my progress.


~Think about what you want to write. Whether it's a better blog, or an epic novel, what sounds fun and possible in your circumstances?

~Ask yourself: What topics do I think and talk about? What's something I'm good at? What's something I want to learn? What's an experience I ought to share? What's a book I wish someone would write?

~Write a commitment statement: "I will . . . " Make signing it an important ceremony for yourself. Post it on your blog or declare it in my comment section for added motivation.

~Prepare a computer file, a cardboard box or a manila folder to collect the materials you already have.

~Make a space on your desk, bookshelf or behind your couch to keep everything together and handy.

That's the write idea!


Christie said...

Fantastic idea! I can't wait to read what you've written. Maybe you'll inspire me to write something, too...

Jake said...

Goody! I can't wait for the kids' books.

Susan said...

Very exciting news! I'm looking forward to reading all about it. :)

Misty said...

Perfect! I am oh-so excited! Good luck!

Diane said...

Wonderful goals! One of my goals this year is get my personal history going - I've got a bunch of pictures to scan, and would like to write memories that go with the pictures. I think I'll do drafts on my blog. You have inspired me, and I will use your write place prompts to help me along.

Thanks for the push.

The Grandmother Here said...

You are so ambitious!!! And now that we all know that you are writing you really have to get on with it. Best of luck! I too look forward to reading your books.

Anonymous said...

I too want to write a book this year. I"ll call you when I get my first draft done.

Miranda said...

Gah! This post has me brimming with excitement for you. Is there anything better than a gigantic project? I absolutely can't wait to read your books.

Jessica said...

I'm so excited for you! I love family stories. And now I'm all gungho to get myself published... thanks!

marta said...

mom, i'm always inspired by your gung-ho attitude. leave it to oma to get the job done write.


Kay Dennison said...

I really love this post!!!! I'm saving your writing list and hopefully, it will bear fruit.

Thank you!!!!! Your enthusiasm is contagious!!!!

Allison said...

That's awesome how much information you have on your ancestors! Tracing our lineage has been a hobby of my grandpa's for years, and one day, I want to write a fictional story about my ancestors who owned a general store in the 20's...who may or may not have been bootleggers and tied to the Mob.

In the meantime, I'm spending this year trying to write another novel, and I'll probably save a lot of your tips and assignments to keep me on track! Thanks!

diane said...

Are you related to David Bagley in San Diego? He and his wife are good friends of ours.

Unknown said...

I wish I could trace back my family history. Unfortunately, there is the question of whether or not my mom is adopted. No one will tell us.

Then on my father's side, he's a right old jerk, so I don't feel comfortable in talking to him.

Therefore I envy you that you can find out so much and wish you well. I'll be following your blog as you go along!

Heather Scott Partington said...

I love the photo in the graveyard! :) Great post. Here's my statement: I will sit down and figure out what to write. I know I want to write something, but I haven't given it the consideration to figure out what, yet. Your organization ideas inspired me. :)

audrey said...

I am so excited about this. I cannot wait for your books to be done.

My two writing goals this year are to write a better blog (and I'm on my way by having a huge file of ideas I started writing down beginning while I took your writing seminar) and to write the personal history of my husband's grandfather. We have 14 hours of audio files of him sharing his life story that we went and collected two years ago. I need to transcribe it, scan boxes and boxes of photos and documents, and turn it into a book. Those are my two writing goals. I don't care if I don't finish the personal history this year, but I need to get a major portion of it done.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Sheri said...

You are SO ambitious! Good for you. You have inspired me in the past and I hope I catch the bug from you this year--we're headed for the final countdown--I've got books to write also.

Your ideas sound fascinating and I can't wait to read them. I hardly read any blogs last year, but this year I'll be reading yours, for sure.