On to the Second Draft

Standard

The review of the first draft is finished.

Complete with notes to self, on the text, on hot pink Post-Its, and note cards.

It’s a five-chapter mess, not counting the bibliography and notes section.

It is a relief to have gotten through a complete first draft. But, no lie, the real work begins with the second draft.

The good news is that I have enough information, but about a third of it needs to be put somewhere else and massaged into shape.

The bad news is that this is the first rough draft, and frankly, it looks like it.

And sometimes, the problem with the text simply comes down a need for clarification.

I’m not sure when I’ll have a final draft in hand. I wish I knew, but for now, I’m good with not knowing. As my friend Nancy used to tell me, the book is meant to be; it is a matter of time. It will come together when it is the time is right.

I tell my students that writing is both a journey and a process:

  • Much of what and how you write is about self-discovery, and finding out where you need to change. I noticed in the review of the draft that I am uncomfortable talking about Emmett’s alcoholic behavior. The writing feels stiff and awkward; as if I’m trying to save face for him — when the reality is that writing about the discomfort, shame, and embarrassment of his drinking misbehavior closely resembles my drinking behavior. Even though I’m almost 10 years sober, I’m troubled thinking about my past; I know that if I don’t address this, it could lead to trouble.

In AA literature, the third Promise tell us that, as we become sober people, ‘we will not regret the past, nor will we wish to shut the door on it.’  Becoming truly, completely sober doesn’t happen overnight; it requires living the principles of the program every day, and being mindful of them. Emmett’s story has helped me discover my need for a close relationship with my program, and that I can’t ‘wing it,’ as Emmett tried to do (and failed).

  • Your first draft will not be perfect; neither will the second, and maybe not the third. My experience has almost always been that the first draft is the worst, especially if the particular writing project is new. For example: In my writing classes, the first papers almost always reflect the lowest grades of the semester. It isn’t that the assignment is particularly hard; mostly, the issue is that students do not proofread final copy before submitting it for a grade. But almost always, when students do second, even third, drafts, the writing is dramatically improved.

The other issue with drafts is time: Writing can be tedious if you dislike the topic, procrastinate, or simply don’t have enough information/research. With Emmett’s book, I worried constantly over the past four years whether I had enough information to tell the story adequately. There are still information holes but there is enough to do a decent biography for Emmett.

[I am also hopeful that perhaps one day, someone may read this blog (or read the book!) and realize they have one of Emmett’s scrapbooks in an attic somewhere.]

More later!

Modeste’s License

Standard

The excellent Jacki Wilson, archivist at the University of West Florida Historic Trust, sent the following:

Modeste Hartgis’ pharmacy license! Source: UWF Historic Trust

If you are just now joining the Emmett Wilson Program, Modeste was Emmett’s pharmacist while he lived in Pensacola. Last year, I did a short essay about her here. I reached out to Jacki about two weeks ago with a query about Modeste and her family, and Jacki sent the image of Modeste’s pharmacy license, along with a few short articles. Isn’t that great?

Here’s a transcript of the license:

Board of Pharmacy for the State of Florida

This is to certify that Modeste Hargis is a registered pharmacist in conformity with the Act of the Florida Legislature, entitled

“An Act to regulate the Practice of Pharmacies in Cities and Towns of more than two hundred inhabitants and the Sale of Poisons in the State of Florida and to affix Penalties,”

Approved May 30, 1889. In testimony whereof, witness our Signatures and the Seal of the Board, Ocala, this 3rd day of August in the Year of Our Lord 1893.

Dabney Palmer, President

Sydney B. Leonard (?)

 

Modeste Hargis, on the day she graduated from pharmacy school, 1893. Source: womenofhistoricpcola

Jacki also mentioned that the photo of Modeste in the earlier post was taken of her on the day she graduated from pharmacy school.

A researcher interested in historic pharmacy of Pensacola found the essay. Long story short, I agree with the researcher that Modeste is deserving of recognition as the first and youngest female pharmacist in Pensacola. I am hopeful we can work together to do something about it!

===

In Emmett Wilson book news — I am down to the last 30 pages in the read-through of the rough draft. The read-through has been stop-and-go all week; I’ve been doing it in-between grading papers and client projects.

The real work will begin next week, when I plan the second draft, and assemble the notes and bibliography pages.

Today in pictures

Standard

It snowed last night,

A view of the chicken coop in the snow behind my house.

Spring, meet Winter. My poor frozen daffodils.

which brings our early Spring to a temporary halt.

The schools are closed as well, which brings all best intentions of writing on Emmett’s book to a temporary halt.

Sledding and fort-building…

…and a kiss from my youngest son.

Although I don’t expect to make progress on Emmett’s manuscript, I figured today would be a great day to immerse myself into a wonderful collection of vintage books I picked up at a used book sale this weekend.

My most recent haul from a used book sale this weekend.

The snow turned to slush around noon. My children came in for lunch, then decided to settle down in front of the television for a movie. The house got quiet, and I settled down to read a few pages of Emmett’s chapter.

Chapter three, with notes.

I found this:

So, no Emmett today. Just Mom time with my kids. I’m sure he would understand that.

Patchwork, Progress, Petersburg!

Standard
young-frankenstein

I could have used an extra brain last week. Image source: http://www.borg.com

It has been a crazy, patchwork kind of existence in Emmett Wilson Land over the past two weeks — a lot of writing, a lot of teaching, a lot of deadlines. My writing life has felt cobbled together, much like Dr. Frankenstein’s creature: It works, but it looks (and feels) scary and out of control.

As mentioned in the previous post, I submitted an Emmett Wilson essay to The Ponder Review, a literary journal published by the Mississippi University for Women, with only 15 minutes to spare on Monday night. It was the first essay about Emmett to a professional journal; so, I was angsty about it.  And I have to tell you — I’m not super thrilled with the final product, even after eight drafts, and significant editing. It went from a first draft of more than 6,000 words to about 2,800 words, well within the required maximum word count of 3,000.
The editing helped, but I don’t feel as good about it as I did with the little essay that went to Saw Palm.  I was well into the second draft when I realized my problem:  I wanted to get an article submitted to a literary journal so I could check a box off my bucket list.
Sure, I could have picked another journal with a later deadline; I could have planned the writing project better, definitely. I could have tried to do this article when I didn’t have two other writing deadlines to meet all within the same week! But I felt I HAD to prove to myself I could write under a tight deadline like in the old days, when I used to work for The Commercial Appeal and the Vicksburg Evening Post (now The Vicksburg News).
Now I remember why I changed from covering the education and police beats at the newspapers to a career in education:  The daily deadlines (three or more stories a day) drove me crazy.

Regardless, I’m glad for the experience. I will continue to write for literary journals, but with realistic writing plans in hand. Live and learn! And write!

This week, I’m reading the third chapter of Emmett’s manuscript this week. It is in fairly good shape; I’ve rediscovered some interesting facts about Emmett’s relationship with Frank L. Mayes, one of the protagonists in this biography.

mayes73gbs

Frank L. Mayes of The Pensacola Journal. Champion grudge holder. And a jerk.

For instance, Emmett met Mayes at his family home in Chipley, only two days after graduating from Stetson University’s Law School. Why was the editor and publisher of West Florida’s largest newspaper at Emmett’s house in 1904? It wasn’t to laud Emmett; he was a virtual unknown.

It was, however, an important meeting for Emmett: Frank Mayes was visiting Chipley with Walter Kehoe, a friend of both Mayes and the Wilsons. Mayes was interested in building his connections in Washington County; Kehoe knew that Emmett’s father, Dr. F.C. Wilson, was one of the most important citizens in the community — and the timing was coincidental.
Mayes took note of Emmett, his achievements, his ambition, and mentally filed them away. He’d find a way to use Emmett to further his own professional goals. Emmett may not have realized at the time that Mayes was a master manipulator; I do have the impression that Emmett did not like Mayes after this first meeting.
Hmmm… Frank L. Mayes as an essay subject. Now that may be worth exploring!

Finally — I have purchased train tickets to Petersburg for an Emmett Wilson field trip!
Last summer, I posted a story about Emmett dedicating a Tiffany window at the Old Blandford Church in Petersburg, Virginia. I will be visiting Old Blandford Church and Petersburg on March 29-31 with my wonderful writing friend, Ann!
I’m also hoping to visit the Historic Petersburg Society archive — there’s old newspapers to see, specifically the one about the dedication ceremony. The ceremony was a very big deal in the community, and Emmett gave a speech. I haven’t found a transcript or text from that speech in any of the Richmond or Florida papers; I’m hoping the text of that speech was reproduced in one of the Petersburg papers. I don’t think the newspapers from 1912 have been digitized — but I will find that out this week.

Not Dead

Standard

Greetings, friends:

I have not fallen off any writing or sobriety wagon. I have been working feverishly to finish an article for submission to a literary journal all week — and I made the deadline tonight with only 15 minutes to spare.

I have not written anything on that tight of a deadline in years. Gah. Let’s just say I will be doing a better job of planning articles for journals in the future.

This week, I’m back on Emmett’s manuscript, and diving into the third chapter. I’ll be back tomorrow for an update on research and other goodies.

Journaling & Self-Editing Finds

Standard

I’ve been posting less on Emmett’s blog this month because I’m working on Emmett Wilson-related articles to submit to two publications:

lpr

I met the representatives of the Little Patuxent Review literary journal when I was at the AWP Conference two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, they told me to submit my article.  The deadline is in two days, and my piece is in rough condition. No pressure. 😐

durmar6I also met a few representatives showcasing a new literary journal, The Ponder Review. I spoke with them about my Emmett Wilson project, and was also encouraged to submit my article; I have a little more wiggle room with their deadline, which is March 6.

And, in the midst of preparing journal submissions I am halfway finished with the first read-through of Emmett’s 450-page manuscript. So far, the quality is mixed — the first chapter is in fairly good shape. But the second chapter is awful.

Frankly, I’m not surprised at the poor condition of the second chapter, because when I look back at my notes on this section, I saw that I was complaining to myself and to Nancy mightily about how hard it was to write. In my notes, I said that I couldn’t figure it out why this was so hard, because ironically, it is one of the periods of Emmett’s life where there are relatively few information holes.

20170124233249jekyllhyde1931

Source: Wikipedia

But now, after eight months since I drafted the chapter — what immediately jumps out is Emmett’s Jekyll-and-Hyde behavior, and I can see that I was trying to present Emmett’s behavior consistently, when in fact, there was nothing consistent in his behavior at all. He was up and down because this is when Emmett’s drinking habits became entrenched. He’s only 22 years old in the second chapter, but there’s already evidence of blackout drinking.

The inconsistencies are quite telling, and an important aspect of Emmett that needs to stay in this story.

I’m kind-of surprised I didn’t notice this pattern eight months ago, when I was in the midst of writing the chapter, but then, I had a similar situation back in my dissertation days. My dean recommended that I step away from the research for about month — do something different — then come back with fresh eyes, because it would make all the difference.

Such good advice then, and now.

I should clarify that when I say ‘Jekyll and Hyde,’ I don’t want to imply that Emmett was evil; but when Emmett became intoxicated, he became a different person. Perhaps he did seem as if he was possessed by an evil spirit once he had had too much; it is clear that Emmett Wilson was a completely different person when he was sober.

 

 

I’ve made the notes and crafted a more cohesive structure for the second chapter, which I’ll rewrite after I’ve gone completely through the manuscript.