I just found the last binder clip in my desk and attached it to my friend’s story about the enslaved girl who ended up in prison when her owner’s bedroom caught fire. It wasn’t the girl’s fault, but what did that matter.
Beside that clipped stack of paper sits the story of The People of Mt. Pleasant Plantation. It’s two hundred pages of dates and names – names I need to find the “further back” of the people I seek.
On the floor next to my chair is a stack of folders – “Slave Inventories, “Slave Mentions,” “Slave Timelines” – each page important, precious even, to these stories. This search. On top sits a tax list from Seven Isles Farm, which sits just across the river on a bluff. The list has names I know – Lucy, Giles, Ned – and I need to find the connection between these names and the ones I think of as “mine” now, like they are my family.
On a shelf behind the chair where my cat snoozes, I have piled more folders, bulletins from the Fluvanna County Historical Society, books – John McPhee’s Back of the Big House, Joseph Ellis’s American Sphinx – and more.
So much to read, to glean from, so much more to do. It could be overwhelming.
Instead, I get a little giddy with all this prospect. This is the land veined rich with names and stories. Mine to claim. Then to share. I love it.
How do you feel about research? Does it hold you back? Invigorate you? Call up dread? Glee? How does research play into your writing, if at all?
If you’d like to know more about my book project, please visit my Kickstarter campaign and watch the brief video there. Thanks.