One of my favorite postcards from the astonishing collection I have is this one, and I love both front and back.
This photo of the front is blurry; my apologies for early morning before-work photos taken with my phone. I only wanted to capture an essence of this period, to add visual inspiration to the work I’m doing so that it makes more sense, has more impact than just the words.
These are the things which started me off, which confirmed my research efforts, which found me story seeds within the larger story of Our Kate. These are the things which carry me onward, help me create an essence of the time for my readers. They also help me understand the period for myself, help me to deepen the layers of description and do it accurately for the time period. I believe, as a writer of historical fiction, that I owe a debt of accuracy to my readers, even though I know that this is fiction. It’s like being an archaeologist. One can only surmise some things, but if there are facts to be had, one ought to adhere to them as possible.
That is my goal. So why does this card bring that to mind? The picture is one of a statue in downtown DC, and in the note to her Mother, Kate speaks of passing it each day on her way to and from work. Most delightful to me is that it was dated. Many dates on postcards are hard to decipher now, so very many years past their posting, so a visible date which confirms when Kate was in D.C. is a huge piece of a clue for me.
It helps me build the story. It helps me put some fact into the work and to truly understand the chronology, Kate’s own personal time line. I’ve learned much from these postcards and letters; who was married when; when Kate was at Pullman in school and when she was at home in Burley. I’ve learned the long pattern of her time in college,punctuated by these cards. Together with these and an understanding of the War and its time line, I have built a story. It’s Kate’s story, but it based on the story of a nation at war, and her time in D.C. has its own important part to play.
I wrote a letter in the book, to Kate’s mother. She describes this statue, as she did on the card, but in much more detail. She describes her walk to work. I used a historic map of Washington D.C. to create this daily journey on foot, and I really can imagine her making her way to the boarding house in springtime as well as in a heavy snowstorm.
This is the archaeology. This is the inspiration. This is the story. I hope I can do it the justice it deserves in the end.
And speaking of an end, today is the last day of November, the last day of NaNoWriMo. I reached my 50.000 word goal today, and am ready to keep writing more. It feels good to be charged up to continue work on it.