‘Pen Pal’ in Japan Aids My Book Research

Ichiro Fudai

This is Ichiro Fudai. We’ve never met. But he and I have corresponded online for many weeks, after he learned about my book project on Eliza Scidmore through a TV program that aired during my research trip to Japan in 2013. Ichiro, who has visited the United States and has an excellent command of English,…

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Robert Caro Stresses ‘Sense of Place’ in Biography

Robert Caro

There’s no greater master of biography writing today than Robert Caro. I recall being mightily impressed with his keynote speech at the 2011 conference of Biographers International Organization (BIO). So I’m grateful to Steve Weinberg, a journalist and biographer (and one of my former journalism profs at the University of Missouri), for flagging this article…

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In Boston, Biographers and a Special Letter

BIO conference 2014 in Boston

Anyone writing life stories has a great resource in Biographers International Organization. The group began five years ago through the efforts of prize-winning author James McGrath Morris and others to provide collegiality and support in the often-long slog of writing biography. I’ve attended three of BIO’s annual conferences. They seem to get better every year,…

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Shut Out From the Library of Congress

Study desk Library of Congress

Bruce and I are now a 100-percent furloughed household. He’s in a “non-essential” federal job and thus on unofficial R&R. And here’s what the government shutdown looks like from my little spot in the universe. It’s my tiny “study desk” room at the Library of Congress, on the fifth floor of the Adams Building. I’ve…

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A Retreat in Santa Fe for Scidmore Book

Time was my Valentine this year. Long blocks of uninterrupted time. I’m just back from three blissful weeks of solitude and seclusion in a cozy casita in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains outside Santa Fe, where I worked on my book about Eliza Scidmore. Amid the desolation of winter in the East, I came home…

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Mayborn Conference Gives Me Biography Fellowship

Last month at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference in Grapevine, Texas, I received the organization’s annual fellowship in biography. The award provides an “emerging biographer” with writing time during a short-term residency in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, north of Santa Fe, N.M. I’ll be working on my biography of Eliza Scidmore.…

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Reading at ‘New Mercury’ Series in Baltimore

Last Saturday night I read, along with three other nonfiction writers, at the Windup Space in Baltimore as part of the monthly New Mercury Readings series. Many thanks to Deborah Rudacille and John Barry for inviting me. I read from my book in progress on Eliza Scidmore, describing some scenes from her 1883 journey aboard…

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Andrew Carnegie, Libraries and D.C. History

Carnegie Library D.C.

Last week the Library of Congress held a seminar on Andrew Carnegie‘s legacy of establishing public libraries in the United States and other countries, beginning in the late 19th century. About 1,600 were built in the United States. One of them is at Mount Vernon Square in Washington. Today it houses the Historical Society of…

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Quoted as ‘Scidmore Scholar’ by Washington Post

The Washington Post published a special supplement today spotlighting the 100th anniversary of the city’s Japanese cherry trees. Reporter Michael Ruane quoted me at length in his very good article about Eliza Scidmore. She’s finally getting her due, after being overlooked for a very long time.  

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Scidmore Book Titles at 1893 World’s Fair

Women's Library at Chicago World's Fair

Women’s History Month begins this week. The Center for the Book at the Library of Congress kicked things off things with a presentation March 2 on a new scholarly work, Right Here I See My Own Books. The book  describes the woman’s library of 8,000 titles assembled for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 (officially the…

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