Monday, July 31, 2017

A Long View from Carla's Office

We TeachingAuthors are writing about the view from our offices during these long, hot summer days.  I look out my office window and see a flowerbed full of beautiful black-eyed Susan flowers.  Butterflies gently land on one bloom, then another.  Hummingbirds flit around the feeder on and off all day. 

Outside my office window.

I’ve written here before that I’m writing a new book about the enslaved people who lived and worked at Mount Vernon.  The working title is BURIED LIVES: THE ENSLAVED PEOPLE OF GEORGE WASHINGTON’S MOUNT VERNON.  Holiday House will publish it in the fall of 2018.  This summer I’ve been working on revisions on the book. 

In BURIED LIVES I’m concentrating on the lives of about six specific enslaved people.  I’ve gotten to know them really well over the last two years.  While rewriting the same paragraphs over and over to get them right—not good enough, but right—I’ve looked out at those black-eyed Susan flowers a lot this summer.  I’ve watched them sway in the hot breeze, but often I didn’t see them at all.  Instead in my mind’s eye I’ve seen Mount Vernon as it was in the 18th century.  I’ve imagined sweeping the stairs with Caroline; working in the stable with Peter; making perfect stitches with Oney Judge; riding with William Lee during the Revolution; caring for George Washington’s clothes with Christopher Shields, and cooking in an open hearth with Hercules.   

As a nonfiction writer, the people I write about must be real to me before they can come to life through words on the page.  The enslaved people whose lives I’ve been studying are very real to me.  I can’t wait to introduce readers to them. 

The flowers outside this window are nice and orderly.  But on the other side of the window-not so much.  This is what my office looks like when I'm working on a book.  It looks like a disaster zone, but it is controlled chaos.  I need every single thing you see here (and a lot more that you can't see).  The problem is where to put everything when the book is finished.    


JoAnn Early Macken said...

I know what you mean about not seeing what's outside the window, Carla! I look out at the houses across the street & the trees that change with the seasons, but I don't see them, either. Best of luck with your revisions!

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Thanks, JoAnn!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Carla, you've begun to bring your characters to life for me as you share pieces of your research and musings about your characters.

And boy...I can sure relate to the controlled chaos...and that the problem is what to do with it all when you're done with it!

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Thanks, April. It really is a problem because I don't get rid of the research.

Carmela Martino said...

I empathize, too, Carla. I've got boxes of research for my 18th-century novel and I'm running out of storage space! So lovely to see both inside and outside your writing space.