Thursday, April 19, 2012

Everything I Know I Learned from Will Parker

In the interest of full disclosure I have to say I'd really rather write about Ado Annie, you know, the girl who "cain't say no" in Rogers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma. You just know a girl like that is going to be fun and complex and interesting. But apparently I'm nothing like her. I'm more like her loyal beau, Will Parker.

I'm not even talking about love and marriage here. I'm talking about writing. You may have noticed that for the past few months this blog has been MIA. I haven't posted since before Christmas, and I expect that posts will still be spotty for the next couple of months. That's because I've been working on a middle grade nonfiction book about the burning of the White House in 1814, titled The White House is Burning. It's due out from Charlesbridge in 2014 in time for the bicentennial anniversary of the event. It's my first middle-grade book, and it's like running a marathon when you're used to sprinting. Every chapter is about the same length as one of my previous biographies, and it's a new experience for me.

Now don't get me wrong. I LOVE doing this book. Connecting with so many great subjects who lived two hundred years ago has been fantastic, and I love the privilege of making their voices heard again. But balancing the work--both researching and writing--with the rest of my writing, working, and personal life is a challenge. I've had to come up with a stategy. And what I've discovered is that, like Will Parker, with me it's "All Er Nuthin." And "nuthin" is not an option.

To keep my head in the game, I've had to whittle away everything that isn't TWHIB or otherwise essential, and put a lot of things on hold. I've put Facebook, Twitter, and blogging on a back burner and concentrated pretty much all the time on August 24, 1814. I think 8.24.1814 when I wake up, while I drive to work, while I eat or shower or wash dishes, while I'm falling asleep at night. It's a little OCD but it works for me. I just don't think I'd be able to do justice to the subject if I were pulled in too many directions. With me it's all er nuthin.

I have to say, though, that I really have missed you all. I've particularly missed blogging, and I'd forgotten how much until I started this today. But I hope that it will all be worth it. I hope the single-minded passion will show in the work, and that The White House is Burning will be good. It worked out for Will and Annie after all.


  1. Giving your all is commendable. I completely understand eating, breathing your story. It's an exciting story and such a historical event. I know there's a lot of research besides just the writing. You are taking on the responsibility of telling the story accurately and injecting entertainment in it, and I know you want to do it right (write!). However, take a break and escape for a bit. So happy you are on the blog. BTW, your dedication to the event is reflected in your storytelling. Take a little time to enjoy the spring flowers. Best wishes!!

    1. I will enjoy the spring. And I have a whole list of books to read that I have been denying myself. I am salivating at the thought! So glad you found me, JQ!