In a meeting with one of my professors back in March of 2016, I described several Facebook messages and texts I had received that day. A family member Facebook messaged me the following digital copy of a family Christmas photo, but added that they weren’t sure of when it was taken.
I immediately replied with a similar family photo I had. It was taken about twenty years prior. Both photos tell such interesting stories, even to an outsider who is unfamiliar with our families. I texted both photographs to my mother. (She’s the little girl grinning in the far back in the photo above.)
In turn, my mother replied with a photograph of my great aunt’s journal entry for December 25, 1965, which confirmed the date of the photograph. I sent the journal entry as a reply to the family member who sent me the first photograph.
It was such a remarkable exchange of information, one which digital communication made possible despite three different time zones. I told my professor I wanted to document this trail of discovery in some way, and the idea for this blog was born.
The site has since turned into something much deeper and broader as both the project and thesis have grown. I was inspired by my family, and there are archetypes of them in this novel—even family structure and naming conventions. In this book you’ll find the names of people Ig rew up with, but as I wrote, they became their own individuals. Cal is heavily inspired by my grandfather, but my grandfather died when I was in middle school, so the Cal you see on the page is a mix of my memory of him and characters in books I’ve read and other strong (farming) men I know. The same goes for Selma (who is at times one of my cousins, at times my mother, at times both of my grandmothers) and Ada Claire (who is my grandmother in as many ways as I’ve been told about her, but since she died when I was one, is also my mother, my best friend’s grandmother, etc.)
This blog has become more about developing these characters as they grown and shift inside my brain, and about following this novel on its journey from infancy into adulthood. I hope to continue to update it (and my social media accounts) as I continue to write, edit, turn-in—and hopefully one day SHOP—this novel. It was never my intention to come to graduate school just for the education. I came for the time to write a novel, and this blog has been about that process and will continue to be about that process as I continue to work on this project.