Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Writing Process

I’ve been tagged to do the Writing Process Blog Post by Vickey Kalambakal. You can read her blog post here:

If you follow these posts–which you can on Twitter by using #MyWritingProcess–you’ll see the wide variety of practices that creativity engenders. We all do it differently, there’s no one right way to write.  Which can be comforting where you encounter dogmatic rules or teachers who insist that their method is best.

So, here are my answers to the four questions:

1. What Are You Working On?

I seem to be juggling a few things at the moment.  I am finishing up an article for the winter issue of Scoliosis Quarterly Magazine and I have just been asked to write two more pieces for their Spring Issue next year.  Nothing like planning ahead, but it’s all good.  One of the Spring articles requires that I interview two physicians—one in Italy and one in Spain!  Can anyone spell S-K-Y-P-E?  Hopefully, English won’t be a problem! 

I am also in the midst of co-writing an historical novel called Secret Hero.  It’s based on a real woman who disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the Union Army with a Michigan troop.  Remarkable story about a remarkable lady.  Then there is my next Hollywood book that I try to fit in as best as I can.  Hollywood history is still my favorite topic as most of you who follow my Facebook page ( already know.  

2. How Does Your Work Differ from Others of Its Genre?

I don’t think much about genre, but for the most part I write historical pieces.  All three of my published books (and one CD) are non-fiction.  I love the challenge of researching and getting it right.  I do not, however, like to write dry textbook-type material.  My goal is always to educate AND entertain.  I love finding obscure facts and sharing those facts with readers.  The key is research and persistence to keep looking for the truth.  There are so many fallacies out there (especially in cyberspace) and it’s often difficult to muddle through.  But without accuracy, your work and your integrity as a writer are questionable.  I never want to be in that position.  It can get tedious and there are days I wish I could just make stuff up—but I am not so good at that so I do my best to stick to the facts!

Of course, sometimes, the facts can be surprising.  For example, while researching Jeanne MacPherson whom I wrote about as one of the 36 Academy Founders in ‘Bringing Up Oscar’, I found several references about her mother noting she was a fine lady from France.  After days of searching, however, the truth, was finally revealed—MacPherson’s mother was really a Michigan gal, born to a man who ran a local newspaper.  Franch had nothing to do with it.

And, sometimes, facts can be found in the oddest of places.  For one article I was writing, I needed to verify that a man who died in the 1800s really had two daughters.  I researched for days until I came across a small article in an old British newspaper.  It seems his mother had died and an ad appeared in the paper looking for her two granddaughters as they were her only living relatives and she had left her estate to them.  Who knew that a newspaper ad printed more than 150 years ago would tell the true tale?

 3. Why Do You Write What You Do?

Mostly, I write about things or people that interest me.  Other times, I might be assigned a topic by a trusted editor.  I am always open to learning new things and that is what usually happens when I take on assignments for Scoliosis Quarterly.  Writing about genetic testing, cutting-edge surgeries and the history of back-bracing all taught me something that I didn’t know before.  Hopefully, my readers learned something, too. 

Sometimes, I get assignments that become personal—like when the editor of Michigan History Magazine asked me to write an article on entertainer/philanthropist Danny Thomas, founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennesse.  I was honored since my grandparents knew Thomas in his early days when he was still Amos Jacob and working in Detroit radio.  They were always proud of his accomplishments and growing up I remember the entire household gathering around the television whenever he appeared.  Best of all, I got the cover story for that issue and emails from St. Jude’s thanking me for doing such a fine job.  Of course, Danny Thomas was the one who did all the work. 

4. How Does Your Writing Process Work?

Before I begin writing anything, I like to gather my research materials.  I use online articles as a start and then I comb old newspapers and magazines that have been digitalized.  From there, I find books that contain information about my topic.  I often use my library’s ‘inter-loan’ service and borrow books from as far away as California or Florida.  It takes a little time, but it’s almost always worth the wait.  Once I read through everything, I write a draft.  I am obsessive about making that draft as close to perfect as possible.  This is silly because a draft is a draft and not meant to be flawless, but for some reason I can’t help myself.  On my second go round, I correct any errors, fill in any blanks and round out the article with additional information like quotes or anecdotes.  Next, I remove all of the unnecessary words and phrases because I tend to get wordy.  Then after a break, that may be as short as overnight or as long as a week (depending on other projects), I do a final polish by reading aloud before submitting the work to the editor/publisher.  There is something about hearing the rhythm of the words that helps smooth things out.

For books and lengthier pieces, I always enlist friends to read them over for clarity.  I also have someone read aloud to me so I can hear exactly what I’ve written.  It really makes a difference when correcting word flow.

Now I Tag Three Other Bloggers:

The problem here is that I only have two bloggers—not three.  So if anyone is interested in participating , let me know and I will include you here. 

Mary Glickman, author of Home in the Morning, One More River, a National Jewish Book Award Finalist , and Marching to Zion. Glickman lives on Johns Island, South Carolina with her husband and cat." That's enough, isn't it? And I'll be blogging my answers at

From an early age, Martin Turnbull was enchanted with the old movies from — and the history of — Hollywood’s golden era, from the dawn of the talkies in the late 1920s to the dusk of the studio system in the late 1950s. He has spent many happy hours watching Garland, Gable, Crawford, Garbo, Grant, Miller, Kelly, Astaire, and Rogers go through their paces. So it’s no great surprise that he is now writing a series of historical novels set in and around the real-life Garden of Allah hotel, which stood on Sunset Boulevard from 1927 to 1959: the exact same years of Hollywood greatest years.  You can read his blog at: