Add it Up

Add it Up

“Wait a minute honey, I’m gonna add it up…” — The Violent Femmes 

Everyone gets their picture taken at the John Harvard statue, so I did, too.

I just spent a month thinking and writing and reading and researching. I lived like a monk, haunting the libraries, completely focused. There were no distractions other than the ones I created for myself. Do you know what it’s like, someone giving you money to think about something for a month? I’ll tell you what it’s like: it’s pretty freaking awesome.

This is what I accomplished:

For my novel-in-progress:

I wrote two new chapters (25 pages) and completed a 10-page synopsis.

For my nonfiction project (for which I got the funding):

I read and/or reviewed 16 books and 15 articles or book chapters. I generated 100 pages of notes. Single spaced. I took 400 digital photographs of Linda Porter’s scrapbook pages. There are 86 volumes of her scrapbooks at the Houghton, and I reviewed all but a few of them, along with scrapbooks belonging to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Charles Eliot Norton, and Josephine Prescott Peabody, just to name a few. I also interviewed Daren Bascome, who owns his own branding business, Proverb.

How was this idyll made possible?

  • I received a Beatrice, Benjamin and Richard Bader Fellowship in the Visual Arts of the Theatre from the Houghton Library at Harvard University and an ASPiRE Research Grant from Ball State University. Thank you.
  • My colleagues at Ball State Tony Edmonds, Robert Habich, Mark Neely, Rai Peterson, Elizabeth Riddle, and Joe Trimmer looked over my proposal and/or showed me their own research proposals. Thank you.
  • My husband Eric Kroczek took care of everything during the month I spent hammering out these proposals, and he took care of everything during the time I spent at the Houghton Library. Thank you.

And because I couldn’t work all the time, I took breaks with my former TCNJ colleague Michael Robertson, my old college chum Karen DeTemple, and my new writer friend, Lise Haines. It was also great to meet Elizabeth Searle, who was kind enough to let me sit with her at a production of Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera, one of the funniest and saddest and most wonderful things I’ve witnessed in quite some time.

A typical day included 6-9 hours in the Houghton Library reading room, a very pleasant place to spend the day, especially when it’s 100 degrees outside. To save money, I’d bring something to nibble on outside rather than go out for lunch. Some days, I’d go to the Lamont or the Widener libraries to work and write, and a few days (not very many), I never left my little studio apartment. In the evenings, I found that I couldn’t read. I think the human brain can only absorb so many words in a day. So, I watched a lot of BBC and Masterpiece Classic series on Netflix or YouTube. My favorites were North and South (based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the Civil War) and Daniel Deronda. Many thanks to the Facebook group British Period Drama for the daily suggestions.

It was a great month. And now I return to real life with a purse full of receipts for the other kind of accounting that I will no doubt have to do.

Mrs. Cole Porter Writing

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