Yes, I have worked hard for the past two years and have made substantial progress accumulating and organizing all the information I need to continue writing the book. I even changed the title, taking Gloria Steinem’s advice to heart when I met with her last year.
On October 23rd, I finished transcribing the Dusty Roads and Jean Montague interviews. It was important to me that I do this work myself so I could capture the inflections, tones, and emotion in their voices as they were speaking about their experiences as flight attendants. I also annotated each interview on what facts and details need further corroboration.
These notes will help during my research visits to the Library of Congress (LOC), the EEOC, the FAA, Cleveland Recorder’s Office, Gates Mills History Museum, and the APFA union archives in Dallas. The LOC Women’s Studies Dept. mentioned that all the information I need there is still on microfiche! That ought to be a blast to the past when I get there.
There were over 150 hours of 85 interviews to transcribe. Hardcopies of the over 550 pages now reside in two 3-inch binders in my office, and the MS-Word files and recordings are on multiple backups. I have more material than I probably need but that sure is better than not enough. As frustrated as I was at how long it was taking, I now know it was worth every minute I spent which was about 2 to 3 hours per interview.
By New Year’s Day 2020, I accomplished another major milestone. I finished indexing 598 topics of varying lengths, covered in the interviews I had with Dusty and Jean. Now I can look up any topic on her life by interview number and page number on my computer or in the printouts. Reading and annotating every interview to create the index was some of the most tedious work I’ve ever done but, it will serve as a handy guide to her life. Now, I’m culling, cutting, and pasting the information into the Chapter structure of the book—and I even added a new Chapter.
Biography, as a genre, is not for the faint of heart as it takes a long time to interview, research, and write with historical accuracy. Read Robert Caro’s “Working” to get an idea of what it takes. It took over four years to get all the information I needed from Dusty and Jean. But that was just the beginning. I wish I realized that sooner. So, I know I am doing the right thing in taking my time with all the details and minutia. I’m excited I finished creating such a valuable historical archive on Dusty’s life as a flight attendant, labor rights leader, and legislative lobbyist.
Now, I can move forward on writing and rewriting what I’ve already written, including query letters and the book proposal to send to interested literary agents. It was the right thing to do to stop hunting for an agent until I had all this done. It won’t be until after my editor edits what I’m writing now, though, that I’ll be looking again. Stay tuned for more on that and my plans for pre-publicity soon.