What kinds of research are you doing for your writing projects?
Most of the research I did for the book I just finished was on dead people: bodies, dead bodies, the weight and feel of things, bathing the dead, embalming.
I watched YouTubes of surgeries and autopsies to listen to sounds of cutting and the sounds of the room itself. I learned about tools and machines. I talked to morticians and I listened to people who had lost loved ones.
My favorite research books were Mary Roach’s Stiff, a collection of essays about what happens when you donate your body to science, and Richard Selzer’s Mortal Lessons, a book of essays I’d first read in middle school when I found it on my mom’s bookshelf. That book is pure poetry.
What I discovered as I delved into the research was this: the more you study and write about death, the more you are examining what it means to be alive. And this became something I wrestled with via my narrator, an embalmer who would rather spend her time with the dead than the living. So I gave her the uncomfortable task of leaving her basement workroom and stepping into the world of the living, where she feels so vulnerable.
There’s research for this new book, too. But I’ll keep it to myself for now. I always love the spectacular alone time with a book in its earliest stages, when no one in the world knows what’s in your head and what’s developing on the page. Some people like to share and get feedback early in the process. I don’t.
I’ll end (as usual) with the books I read since my last post:
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
Karan Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs
Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right
Miranda July, No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories
Jose Saramago, Blindness
Elizabeth Crane, The History of Great Things
Ada Limón, Bright Dead Things: Poems
Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run
Andre Dubus III, House of Sand and Fog
Jim Crace, Harvest
Natashia Deón, Grace
William Gass, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country
Elm Leaves Journal, The Dirt Edition (Winter 2016)
Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Empty Mansions
Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, Whole30
John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, March: Book Three
And two re-reads of poetry collections:
Jim Daniels, Punching Out
Cornelius Eady, Victims of the Latest Dance Craze
In the comments, share with me the research you’re doing, or have done, to find a way into your stories. Also, share any good books you’ve been reading, or just share about your life in general. It’s always good to hear from you.