Sunday, September 20, 2009

Traveling with a Purpose

As I visited Ellis Island on Thursday, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum on Saturday, I kept wishing that I wrote historical fiction. It would have been so satisfying to have been touring these wonderfully restored historical sites to soak up atmosophere for a book, do onsite research, luxuriate in period detail to help me create an authentic story set in the past.

But I don't write historical fiction. I wrote one historical novel, What About Annie, published a long time ago, and I don't think it was all that good. I still remember one critical review that said that story was "marred by too much intrusive period detail." Having gathered it, I couldn't resist not putting all of it in. I much prefer writing stories set in the kinds of real, contemporary elementary and middle schools that my own kids attended and that I visit as an author. I never really feel confident just making things up about times gone by.

But still, it seemed like such a waste to be right there at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and not at least groping toward a book about an immigrant girl doing piece work by a kerosene lantern. Everything is more fun for me if I can write about it. But at least now I can blog about it! And blog about how I wish I could write about it.


  1. You can do it, and it will be wonderful.

  2. Just luxuriate in, as Richard Feynman put it, "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out"