Curiosity: forget “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the woman.) “Cherchez l’histoire.” (Look for the story.)
Disunion is the NY Times blog which follows the Civil War as it unfolded–often from the perspective of ordinary or little known people. I discovered it last spring, shortly before beginning to work on my book with CreateSpace. “Ah-ha,” I thought, “perhaps someday I can contribute!”
I follow the column regularly, and even posted comments about Christian Wolmar’s piece, The Iron Horse at War, and Bully for Garibaldi, by Don H. Doyle. The story of how John H. Bailey went from Toronto to Alexandria and became an engineer on the US Military Railroad seems like a good fit–but won’t work until October, 2013.
I found no hints on the website explaining how to submit essays. At Wordstock early this past October, I spoke briefly to a woman who was working on a piece, based on the diary of a woman living in one of the war zones. She did not, however, tell me how to make contact with the blog-master.
I googled names of people who’d had several pieces published, looking for an email address. One of them gave me the key.
Finally, belatedly, it occurred to me on November 1 that perhaps a piece on the first Union victory, the naval attack on Port Royal, SC on November 7, 1861–from the perspective of the man shoveling coal in the engine-room of Admiral Du Pont’s flagship, USS Wabash: Francis Bailey–might be of interest.
I sent an inquiry regarding that idea, as well as a few more for future years, and got this response the same day:
“diana, thanks for your note, and thanks for reading the series. we’ve already got port royal covered, but maybe there’s another peg down the line (and before 2013) that might suggest a piece to you. let us know, and we’ll take it from there. best, george”
I re-applied thinking cap firmly, and concluded that my imminent foray into public speaking on the subject of the brilliant bridge, tunnel, pipeline, and railroad construction engineer Herman Haupt might provide such a “peg.” Our Christmas escape to someplace warm and sunny became something of a writing retreat, and I sent two drafts about Gen. Haupt off to George on January 5, a couple of days before we came home: Rules for the Road and Better Rules for the Road.
I awoke on January 9 thinking that Better Rules…, which was considerably longer, should probably be made into two shorter ones and sent a msg. to that effect. George responded directly:
“diana, many thanks. these are really nicely done. we think probably they work better as two (rather than three) pieces–that is, there’s no need to break “better rules” into two. the only other suggestion at this point is to recast them both in the past tense. present can work great, of course, but the series has mainly, if not entirely, been rendered in the past tense, so it would be a good idea to remain consistent. best, george
I am pleased to tell you that both pieces have now been “recast in the past tense” and sent off. Rules for the Road should be published on May 23, Better Rules… in mid-August.