Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Years Roundup

I know I have been remiss in keeping up my blog. An error that I will endeavor to rectify. I hope your New Year is off to a great start. Mine is. I’ve been diligently working on my book project. However, I thought I might take an afternoon off to write about that a few miscellaneous items.

Who says you can’t walk a battlefield in the wintertime?
Okay, I know I did in an earlier post. Nevertheless, this past Saturday morning we walked the Snavely Ford Trail at Antietam Battlefield. This easy hiking trail is under 2 miles. It begins and ends at the parking lot above the Burnside bridge and most of the trail is beside Antietam creek. It was beautiful. We had a good ten inches of snow in that area two days prior. Only a few people had walked it before us. We did not need them, but we actually could have used our snowshoes. The point here is that although the area is historic, hallowed ground…our National Parks like Antietam, Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry, and the C&O Canal are wonderful recreation opportunities. Get off the sofa, get out of the house, and take a hike! It’s a great cure for the winter blues. (or winter grouchiness, whichever the case may be.) If you are not here in Maryland to enjoy the trail yourself, here’s some pictures for you.

Learning how to be a writer…
One of the best things my dad ever did was to teach me how to read. When I was a little kid, still in elementary school, he’d take me to the public library to get books. He told me that whatever you wanted to know, someone had written a book about it. I used to think that was true, but unfortunately I have never found a book that tells you how to be a popular history writer. I wish Steven Ambrose had written about his methods of research, organization, writing habits, etc.

This is my first book. Therefore, there is a learning curve. I have never written anything this long before, and the majority of my other writing was done in a more academic style. I hope that I will do the veterans of the 509th Parachute Infantry justice. While I will not disclose any of the work until it is finished, I can talk about the process, which is exciting. Well, if you are a history geek like me, it is exciting. I’ve gathered my research through several trips to the AHEC and NARA. I’ve corresponded and conducted telephone interviews with several veterans of the 509th, which is an honor. They have been very open, forthright, and have even shared photographs that I have not seen in archives or other sources.

I’m enjoying this process so much that Sheila and I are already talking about the subject of the next project. It might be something during the Vietnam period, or Army Aviation, of which I am intimately familiar having served as an instructor pilot. A veteran of the unit suggested the 509th project to me and I am forever grateful for him steering me toward this compelling story. I know there are others out there.

I’ve completed the first draft of about a third of this book. I have a sense of urgency to finish the project by the time of the next 509th reunion this summer. I’ll share with my fellow would-be writers the perfect cure for writer’s block (procrastination). Just make up a spreadsheet with a column for the day and one for the number of words you wrote. Pick an average number of words a day you want to write like 500 or 1,000 (harder than it sounds). If you fall behind your goal average, you don’t get a day off. Treat it like a job or that long-term project will never get finished. So if you don’t hear from me, I’m in the office working, where I’m supposed to be. ;-)

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