I hit the skids with my sample chapter for Pasta, but I’ve figured out why, aside from just being brain-tired (which I’m remedying through ways too mundane to mention here). This is the first time that I’ve ever had a biographical subject’s memoir available as a source, and I’ve been leaning on it too heavily for this early draft.

This memoir (as all good memoirs should be) provides lots of tasty details knowable only to the subject himself, but there’s so much that necessarily got left out about the time and place in which he lived — things he never noticed, things he took for granted, things he forgot, and things he chose not to include. (I suppose it’s unreasonable to expect memoirists to recount every sensory impulse they ever experienced.) And it’s those environmental, incidental details — and the flavor that they inject — that my draft is missing.

So, as of yesterday, I’ve got two or three thousand pages worth of books about my subject’s time and place wending their way through the request systems of my local libraries. Those should give me all the flavor I can stand. And I’ll try to keep this lesson in mind when I tackle my children’s-book adaptation of one of my favorite books from my own childhood.