Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eleanore Gray

I have a project. 

Oh, my, what a project it is. Allow me to explain. I'm a writer. Now, some people might wonder where I get all that natural creativity, but those people are not related to me. No, people I'm related to know exactly where I get any talent I possess. I get it from my Dad's mother, Goldie.

This is Goldie when she was quite young.

Backstory: (Yes, I have a backstory problem. Stick with me here.) Goldie was born and raised in the Missouri Ozarks a long time ago. In fact, her family was displaced by the building of the Bagnell Dam and the creation of The Lake of the Ozarks. Goldie's whole family was inherently gifted with words. Her sisters wrote novels and poetry; Goldie herself wrote the poem that described the Lake as the Dragon Lake, which it's still known as today.

Goldie married Pop and together, they had nine kids.

My Dad is the second youngest. We used to go visit in the house he grew up in; by my modern standards, there was barely enough room for two people in that house, but Goldie and Pop raised all nine kids there.

Goldie's health failed her sooner than it should have, and she died when my Dad was 13. I never knew her. I knew Mema Maggie, who married Pop some years later and was a wonderful mother and grandmother. But even though Mema was the only grandmother I ever knew (on Dad's side; Gram is still alive and kicking!), I always knew about Goldie. My Aunt Naomi (the oldest girl out of the nine) gave me a cup from Goldie's china set when I graduated from high school.

A few months ago, I learned a lot more about Goldie. My Uncle Jim called me up one day, and said he had something he wanted to give me.

I'd always thought of Goldie as a poet, but that turned out to be wrong. When she died, she was working on a novel about an Ozark family displaced by the Bagnell Dam in the 1930s called Eleanore Gray. Uncle Jim had the whole darned thing in a box in the bottom of a closet.

Time was not kind to the book. The pages are crumbling, and, clearly, at some point a mouse made off with some action verbs.

Over the years, Uncle Jim had tried to do something--anything--with Goldie's last work. He'd had 'some gal' in Iowa finish it, but when Jim gave the completed manuscript to my father to read, my father found a mention of air conditioning in a car in the third paragraph, and the realization that the 'gal' hadn't done a stellar job of saving the book pretty much put the whole thing back in the box in the closet for another few years.

Enter me. I'm an author; I'm also a writer and editor at the day job. Uncle Jim's eyesight isn't what it used to be, so he decided to give the whole thing to me in hopes that I could turn 288 page handwritten manuscript into a book that we could all believe Goldie would have been proud of.

As I said, I never knew Goldie. But reading her book, I feel like I know her a whole lot better now.

For example, she only wrote on one side of each sheet of paper, saving the other side for edits or doodles. My grandparents were not rich; with nine kids to feed, they were probably danced around the poverty line. But Pop made sure Goldie had enough paper to write on. To me, it says if it was important to Goldie, it was important to Pop.

Goldie got stuck. And when she got stuck, she doodled.

I don't know if these women are supposed to be Eleanore or if they were just flights of fancy. Looking at them is like watching my grandmother think on paper.

Like I said, the book isn't finished. That's my job. This piece of Goldie is now a piece of me. She's got a real lyric way of turning a phrase, and the 'gal' from Iowa doesn't quite match Goldie's flow. I don't know if I can salvage Goldie's voice on the electronic copy my cousin Faith typed in, or if I've got to start over from the manuscript. I put each sheet in its own page protector, though, so hopefully no more action verbs fall off.

I'd like to get it done soon, because Goldie's kids--Dad included--aren't getting any younger. My plan is to publish it on Lulu so that everyone in the family can have a copy. I want to have it done by the end of the summer.

So, keep your eyes open for Eleanore Gray by Goldie Lucas and Sarah M. Anderson, coming soon!


Blythe Gifford said...

Oh, this is so cool. You ought to consider putting out an e-version - or at least letting your agent read it! You never know...

Aili said...

What an precious heirloom! Can't wait to hear what you do with it?

Sarah M. Anderson said...

I'm not sure the market is there--it's a soft, sweet historical women's literary fiction, I think. But an e-book . . . hmmmm. This requires more research!

Yes, updates will follow--you all have to keep me on track!

Gerusa Bernardes said...

WOW..she draws too...this is amazing!

Carolyn said...

What a wonderful tribute to Goldie...I think a local press or even national , but a local press should love it. There are many localized books in the bookstores down there. Thank you for doing this.

lucylucia said...

I TOTALLY want to read it too! So make it available to non-Lucases please. :)

Sarah M. Anderson said...

Oh, I will, Lucy--I will!

Mary D. said...

Sounds like a much more interesting project than your other SPARE TIME gig!

Sarah M. Anderson said...

Mary, what is this 'spare time' of which you speak?


Hannah said...

Love it! Can't wait to read it.

Whisper said...

Oh my goodness... Dad never talked about when he was growing up much except for the Shenanigans he and Uncle Don would get themselves into..
I remember mom talking about a book Goldie had been working on that Uncle Jim was trying to get finished.. I'd love to take a peek at it sometime :)