From Expert to Novice and Back Again

So I’m still here, at the start of a new project. I’m trying to stay focused on phase one: pull enough stuff together to write a winning book proposal.

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It’s strange to be back at the beginning where I’m still learning. Since the publication of my first book

PIP cover

I’ve been an expert on this one thing: the history of American women in the Philippines. I wrote two more books about them, so I’m not exaggerating the expert thing too much.

With the new book project, I only possess a very basic knowledge of the subject, barely enough to write a cohesive introductory paragraph. So I’ve been researching like mad, trying to get a feel for a new place and time, trying to understand the lives of a different group of women.

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And already I’ve been stunned by the professionalism and generosity of archivists at two different institutions who have responded to my inquiries with lightning speed, offering to get items to me as soon as possible and even offering additional suggestions. I wish I could name them right now, but that would prematurely give away my book’s topic. I’m already keeping a list of names to include in the book’s acknowledgments. It’s a small way to pay a big debt. (That, and maybe a free copy of the book.)

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I know the archivists aren’t working just for me, but it seems like they are. No one writes a book alone, and archivists are an essential part of the book creation community. I’m fortunate to be able to tap into their expertise. Pretty soon, some of that will rub off on me.