Patchwork, Progress, Petersburg!

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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.

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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.
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