Sources Cited: A New Series
Stories of research and writing
The past few months I’ve played around with how to make this newsletter more substantive. To start, I knew at least one portion would relate to the classes I’ve taught and lectures I’ve written about the intersection of research and creative writing (as a matter of fact, the next session will start in just a few weeks on May 19th, but that’s not why we’re here).
I first thought I’d write about a few dilemmas and questions that have come up in most every class I teach: how to find and talk to family members of subjects, how to navigate local archives without digitized finding aids, how to decide when you’re finished with research (you never are, not quite, but that’s alright). This written form would have given me a new way to respond to those questions or think through those persistent thoughts I’ve encountered in my own writing. But the drafting of my next book has taken up more or less all of my writing energy, so those longer essays will have to wait.
Plus, there’s only so much one can write about their own work, looking through the lens of my particular processes. I always hoped this newsletter would reflect my desire to hear from other writers on the research process, too. So, while I’m so fixated on this book, I decided I would speak to others about that thing I love and spend so much time considering. That’s where a new series, Sources Cited, comes in.
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Starting next weekend, I’ll start looking at the research stories behind the written ones. In each edition of Sources Cited, I’ll ask a writer—a historian, journalist, novelist, poet, translator—about one source they’ve collected on their way to writing their latest or not-so-latest work. They’ll describe the path they followed to come upon it, what the material unlocked for them, and where it led.
The writer will determine how they approach these questions. Some responses, I hope, will reflect the writer’s discipline, an opportunity for the lay reader to see how questions of history or reportage are considered. Others will recount a form of communion—with people, objects, other written works—that take place before the writer puts words on the page.
I’ll release new editions of the series biweekly on Sundays. To start, I’m excited to feature historian Kerri K. Greenidge, author of The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family and Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter. Sources Cited will stay free for all of you who’d like to read it. If you want to contribute to the work involved in scheduling, editing, and writing them, however, I hope you’ll subscribe. I really appreciate you reading and hope you find something in the stacks.
Until next Sunday,