Tuesday, March 8, 2011

As usual, when I start any new project, I leap in without any idea of what I’m getting into. This was true when I agreed to write a biography of Berta and Elmer Hader, an amazing couple who wrote and/or illustrated nearly 100 books in the 1900s--fondly referred to these days as the “golden age of publishing.” Three of their books received Caldecott Medals: two were honor books, and The Big Snow is still one that teachers read when winter arrives.

So that’s what the Haders are known for. The challenge for me was to find out what kind of people they were, and what makes them worthwhile subjects for a biography in the 21st century. Fortunately, many resources were geographically available: the University of Oregon holds an extensive collection of manuscripts and letters, and their niece who lives in my home town has inherited much of the family papers. So the raw materials are available.

But where to go from there? I am still struggling over filing my notes where I can retrieve them when needed, working on the chronology of their lives and their published books, and researching the very famous and not so famous people of the day that were close friends.

There isn’t a lot of information out there about writing in this particular genre. Memoirs and autobiographies, yes. Biographies of historical figures: not so much. I’m hoping that perhaps others of you can chime in with your own suggestions and problems and tips. Berta and Elmer were good networkers in their day. I know from experience that sharing ideas with others makes both of us richer. Someone wrote that when each person shares an idea with each other, each has gains two ideas and they can multiply.

I’ll share my journey, and hope others will share theirs.

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