I’m a fan both of Elizabeth Partridge and of John Lennon, and therefore a big fan of her recent biography of him. So, I’m glad to see both Partridge and her editor, Jill Davis, quoted extensively in Judy Bradbury’s article “Inspiring Subjects, Winning Biographies” in the June 2006 issue of Children’s Writer.
The degree to which Partridge has immersed herself in her subjects comes as no surprise, but it does make me just the slightest bit green with envy:
I traveled to Liverpool, hung out in the museums and library, walked the streets for hours, talked to people, and visited John’s childhood home. Only then did I begin to feel I could write about John’s first few years. … Only when I am full to bursting do I feel I can begin writing.
In my own nonfiction, I’ve relied on a combination of secondary resources (books and magazine articles) and primary research (letters, lab note, etc.), but I have yet to physically get myself to the places where my subjects lived and worked.
So, what can I do to get to the point where Partridge is? Well, there’s “being patient,” which I hate, but will probably pay off eventually — at some point, my track record as a writer, my choice of subjects, and an editor’s interest will result in an advance that can fund the sort of on-site research that I’d like to do.
But maybe there’s a local subject that has the makings of a good children’s nonfiction book. That would be ideal, wouldn’t it? It’s one thing to sequester myself at the library on my lunch hour — that time to myself is rejuvenating — but to be able to carve time out in the middle of the day for Partridgesque immersion…