research: book 3 sixties trilogy (TRIBE)

I'm gonna do occasional posts on research as I move deeper into Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy. I house research links on my Pinterest boards, but I also want to document my process, thinking, and resources here. I'll label all research posts as such.

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Full disclosure: I am stuck with book three. I don't know my story. I'm frustrated. So I'm contenting myself with research, which I've been doing intensely (ebb and flow) for about a year now, which has been mostly reading, and with no real focused objective but to understand the late sixties.

I did this with REVOLUTION and COUNTDOWN as well -- I read for about a year. You can find my bibliographies on Pinterest -- they are incomplete but will be added to as I can get to it.

So I'm working on scrapbooks today -- the non-fiction pieces of the documentary novels. I need about seven songs, one to anchor each scrapbook. They will change as the story is known and changes, but I need something to get me started, and I'm wondering if listening to the songs of the late sixties might also help me with finding my way into the story itself.

I spent most of my research day listening to the Billboard hits of 1967, 1968, and 1969. I dipped into 1970 as well. I want book 3 to be (in part) about ROCK-AND-ROLL. We've not had the chance to really do rock-and-roll with COUNTDOWN and REVOLUTION, so here is the chance to Go Big Or Go Home, and I want to revel in the music. Maybe I have a character who does the same (that's what I've been playing with, anyway).

This is the kind of day where I have 24 windows open online at once and jump back and forth between YouTube and Wikipedia for lyrics and cursory information about The Rascals, Chicago (can only use their first album), Buffalo Springfield ("For What It's Worth" is perfect, about the Sunset Strip riots in 1967 -- I can use it for larger meaning), Jefferson Airplane (which leads to a lengthy side-trip down the "San Francisco Sound" tunnel), The Fifth Dimension, The Isley Brothers, Steppenwolf -- yes, I can use "Born to be Wild," now that I have moved book 3 from 1968 to 1969.

Last year, anticipating the long flights to Hong Kong and back, I invested in Bose noise-cancelling headphones, and they are perfect for this task. I'm listening a lot right now, trying to find a way in, and pulling out a line here, a line there, of select songs (not scrapbook anchors) for inclusion somehow -- don't know how yet. I'm going on faith here that I'll figure out a way to do this, and if I don't, it's not time wasted.

Delicious lines like "It appears to be such a long long long long time before the dawn." Know it? "And the beat goes on." "The past is just a goodbye." "All the world over it's easy to see, people everywhere just got to be free." And many more.

I've been wondering if I can put more of myself into this book, like I did with REVOLUTION and COUNTDOWN. I've said I'm going to the Bay Area for book 3, but I lived in Charleston, South Carolina in 1969, my dad flew into and out of Vietnam, our high school was integrated - in spite of Strom Thurmond's defiance - by the National Guard, boy picketed to grow their hair long, girls picketed to shorten their skirts, and I loved Crosby, Stills and Nash and the Beatles and many more... the music was fresh, new, energizing, and amazing.

I was 16 years old and wanted to see the film Easy Rider. I didn't have the $3 it cost for a movie ticket. My dad said, "I will not give you three dollars to support Peter Fonda's drug habit." He forbid me to see Easy Rider. So I told my parents I was off to somewhere or other on a date with Jim (that took care of the $3, and besides, it was JIM), and instead went into downtown Charleston, South Carolina to see Easy Rider.

It. Was. Thrilling. Imagine sitting in the theater, a sheltered child of strict Southern, military parents who didn't even want rock-and-roll in the house -- I'd had to "audition" rock-and-roll in order to be allowed to play it -- I chose my 45 of "We Can Work It Out" by the Beatles and got a reluctant okay.

Imagine this kid sitting in the theater and watching Easy Rider unfold. Born to be Wild indeed. Here is the beginning of the movie with Steppenwolf's signature anthem (if you can call it that):



That's it for today. I've listened until my ears hurt. And we've got to get myself back to the garden....


dispatch from mississippi: belonging

I was born in Mobile, Alabama, while my dad was stationed at Brookley Field. He had gone off to the Korean War in 1951, just after he and my mother married, and now here I came, in 1953, on the heels of his return. We lived in Mobile for five years, until the Air Force transferred us to Hawaii. I have always claimed Alabama as the land of my birth, and I also claim Mississippi as home, as it was the land we returned to over and again as I grew up, and as my own children grew up, as my people were there. And so was my heart.

My mother was born in Mississippi and grew up in West Point, MS. My dad was born in Jasper County and grew up there. I grew up there, too, with the wacky grandmother who became Miss Eula in LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER, and the three maiden aunts who become Ruby's chickens, and all the cousins and aunts and uncles and a decaying town that is even more of a ghost today than it was when I was wandering its one main road and its cemetery and crossing the railroad tracks to visit Aunt Mitt and playing piano in the unlocked Methodist church.

Mississippi doesn't claim me, though. According to book committees who decide these things, I didn't live for five continuous years in Mississippi, so I am not in the club, even though I am a Mississippian by blood and by words.

This is a long story and one I hope to write about at some point, so I can figure out how I feel about choosing home. Home is in Atlanta today, of course, but home will always be where I've hung my hat: Hawaii, Maryland, D.C., South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia.... and Mississippi as well. "What you know first stays with you." I am a Southern Girl, through and through. I am a human being with stories to tell. What does that mean?

Here's what it meant this week, as I took part in the first-ever Mississippi Book Festival, visited that family I love so much (Uncle Jim is our patriarch now, about to turn 92), and that place that defined me as a child -- and as a writer. Photos below of what becomes Aurora County in my books LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER; EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS; and THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS.

And then there is my first book, FREEDOM SUMMER. I have never before posted pictures of the pool and roller skating rink that closed in 1964. The forest is claiming it now. I have taken photos there for many years, and have documented this abandoned place as it goes back to forest land. I wrote FREEDOM SUMMER -- and REVOLUTION -- to understand what happened. To keep this time and place alive, so we remember our history. So young people will know what it was like then. What it is like now.

Dispatch from Mississippi:

Picking up Kerry Madden along the way
downtown Jackson, Mississippi. My folks retired to Jackson after a long military career, and I kept coming to Mississippi with my own kids as they grew up... Mississippi has been a constant in my life, all my life.

With Ellen Ruffin at the Eudora Welty house on Friday night at the author reception
Kimberly Willis Holt, moi, Chris Barton, and Karen Rowell of USM.
Jamie Kornegay and Turnrow Books in Greenwood, Mississippi has been such a staunch supporter of my books. Jamie's new novel is SOIL. "It has saturated the South!" Jamie says.
Kelly Kornegay, who (among other things) reads and buys children's at Turnrow. She heard me whining about not being recognized literarily as a Mississippian and said, "Debbie, people who have lived here all their lives are trying to ESCAPE Mississippi!" which made me laugh and gave me perspective. She also said, "Your books are THE quintessential books on what it means to be from Mississippi, to be a Mississippian. You're IN." hahaha.

Fuzzy photo of a bunch of us including Lori Nichols, Ellen Ruffin, Greg Leitich Smith, Susan Eaddy, Kerry Madden
taking in all in. What a lovely evening.
We had to turn people away, in Room 113 of the State Capitol, for the Young People's Literature panel. It was that way on all panels, all day. The turnout was tremendous. HOORAY!
Pontificating. Which I am very good at.
This is what it's about at a Festival.
And this. Clara Martin is the children's book buyer at Lemuria Book in Jackson. Last year on the REVOLUTION tour, she had me sign her copy of LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER that she has had since she was a fourth grader. "My favorite book!"
Chris Barton signing Shark vs Train and John Roy Lynch in the Lemuria tent.
At dinner, Saturday night, with my loves.


My son Jason with his Great-uncle Jim. Both of them jesters.

Two more Jims: mine, and the cousin I have always called Bubba.

If you're a RUBY fan, you recognize this sign!





My grandmother's house, The Pink Palace, in RUBY, Snowberger's Funeral Home in LITTLE BIRD, House Jackson's home in ALL-STARS, and Young Joe's home in FREEDOM SUMMER. This was my world every summer, and the place I longed for when I wasn't there. Still do, I guess.
The back kitchen. Sloped ceiling, lightbulb on a string, Nanny eating buttered toast and milky coffee at the enamel table, closthepins in a bag hanging on the door, a pan of green beans waiting to be snapped. I did dishes in the deep sink with my Aunt Evelyn, who we all called Goodness. Once, when my mother sent me in to dry while Aunt Evelyn washed, Goodness waved me away with, "Go play. I let God dry the dishes."
My friend Howard now lives in Rhiney Boyd's house, across the road from my grandmother's. Rhiney had a son named Luther Rhinehart Boyd, which is where I took Mr. Norwood Boyd's name from in ALL-STARS.

Kerry listens to Merle's stories. Merle now owns my grandmother's house (The Pink Palace, in the background).

I adore Lois. She has just entered the Witness Protection Program. I think she got dressed just for us. "I used to wear all black and brown, but now I wear COLOR all the time." You go, Lois. Go on with your colorful self.
This is where I'm sitting this morning. Back to the pink chair and back to work. Knowing that it doesn't matter if Literary Mississippi claims me or not. I claim me, and those people who are, and who once were: moments, memory, meaning, as I always say when I teach. 

I will never live long enough to write all the stories asking for my attention. They claim me. And for that I am grateful.

heady stuff

OMYGOODNESS life is on and on and on this week. Next week is an off week, where I'm writing, so there will be lots of sitting in the pink chair by the (cold) fireplace, and putting words to paper, before we head to Mississippi for the first-ever Mississippi Book Festival. More on that next week. In this week I have visited Scholastic Book Fairs' Southeast Regional Office; I spent some time at re:loom gathering stories; I worked at Georgia State's College of Education doing a video podcast for NCTE's Language Arts, and I hung out with some wonderful folks at the Georgia Center for the Book and DeKalb County Libraries for the event "Books Every Georgian and Every Young Georgian Should Read." Met Congressman Lewis, who has written MARCH, a graphic memoir, made new friends, met old friends... celebrated stories all week long. A few snaps with captions:
Laurel Snyder, writer extraordinaire, and Joe Davich of the Center for the Book.
Meeting John Lewis
Signing books to each other.
At the Square Pub in Decatur, reception for the book event, with Pearl McHaney, Lisa Wise (The Initiative for Affordable Housing and re:loom), and Kelly Bingham, another writer extraordinaire (Z is for Moose)
In which I brave a terrible picture of myself in order to show a beautiful picture of a writing hero of mine, Mary Hood.
Terry McVoy, Laurel Snyder, Moi, at The Square Pub
Selfie of same
catching my breath....
Heading to Georgia State to work with Laura May (NCTE's Language Arts) and Brian Williams, professor and director of the Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence.

We were so caught up in the camraderie and good work and richness of conversation, we didn't take one photo of ourselves.
Trust me, though... it was an amazing afternoon. You'll be able to watch the podcast in January.
I'm heading from these heady events to Chuck E. Cheese tonight, to celebrate with my favorite four-year-old her first full week in a new school. Pretty heady stuff for a four, and for her grandmother, too. Can't wait. Happy weekend friends, wherever your travels take you. A little bit of out-there goes a long way for me. I'm going to hunker down and stay home and quiet this weekend and all next week, before the next round of traveling begins.

I crashed into bed and slept 10 hours last night. Ha! I'm patted together and good to go. Tea with a friend today, then back to the page.