|Me reading from Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe at the launch of the Marmauke Writing Factory, Pleasantville, NY, Dec. 15, 2010.|
Spending several years writing non-fiction narrative is kind of like being a spy. No one knows where you are for weeks at a time. You float from archive to archive, a parasite sucking information from sources (archivists) deeply undercover in the bowels of historical societies and Special Collections in places like Canton, Oklahoma City, Cooperstown, and downtown Los Angeles. If you're into it, it's irresistible.You have to have the instincts -- and passion -- of a sleuth. Or a bloodhound, nose to the ground, following the scent to the source.
Then you have to write up into persuasive narrative written form all the information you've found. Hole up in an office somewhere -- like upstairs in your home -- and turn straw into gold. It's lonely, or at least other people tell you it must be. You aren't aware of feeling that way. If you were, you'd be doing something else with your life. However, when you start feeling agoraphobic, it's time to reach out.
Which is where a writers group comes in. I've been in such a group before. We met every week at a wonderfully welcoming restaurant in Chappaqua, NY (Le Jardin du Roi - great lobster salad) and read our stuff, shared war stories. But recently this idea got taken to a whole 'nother level. In September the Marmaduke Writing Factory Marmaduke was formed in Pleasantville, NY, just east of Chappaqua in Westchester County. Not only is there a group of about 10 writers, there is a designated space -- a craggy, rocky, edgy basement cave -- for established authors to go and write, think, and help each other.
It's warm (there's a gas fire), there are desks, tables, armchairs, and copies of all our books on shelves to distract us. Very cozy and reassuring to literary spies coming in out of the cold of lonely endeavor.