One thing I know for sure: books evolve in their own way regardless of the author’s intention. The books that arrived on Januray 12, 2011, did not meet the plan Eleanor and I intended in spring of 2005 after she saw the video tape and said, “There is your book.”
We planned a book that spanned forty-five years made up of stories from 1965 to 2005. We proposed sharing the events of the summer of 1965 and to show how those events led to personal relationships with several families that have lasted more than two-thirds of my life.
But we never found the method for tying them together in a way that was satisfying. We met together three hours a week, at her kitchen table or mine, to craft each vignette but the power that would bind them together would never come. Oh, and books of short stories don’t sell well.
And so began the first of several overhauls. What did seem to come together was a book about the summer of 1965, in Pineville, South Carolina, where I registered black voters for Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I had a generally reliable reference – a journal I kept that summer.
But I needed more. Stories are one thing, but how do you write a book? That’s what I wanted to know. Eleanor had been an assistant at the Maui Writers Retreat and Conference for many years. Her suggestion: go to the Maui to learn whatever I could. I had a good excuse to go to the islands. My husband and I packed our bags.