My book (working title: Searching for the American Dream in Frog Hollow, and yes, the title needs work, as does the rest of the manuscript) is due to Wesleyan University Press on Wednesday, but I’m dedicated to turning it in on Tuesday because if I don’t, I will run over my own head.
I cannot emphasize enough that I am a sprinter — a sprinter, I tell you, so when I sit down to write a book, I tell myself that this is not a book I’m writing. Instead, it is a series of long-ish essays, easy-peasy. I’m good at essays, which is something else I tell myself.
The problem is that I have a hard time believing me when I call up the manuscript and it’s 270-some pages with more than 600 endnotes that I really hope I got right. Essays don’t usually require endnotes. Books do.
The photo above is one I’d like to see on the cover. It’s from a series shot by Lewis Wickes Hine, a social-justice photographer who traveled around the country to take pictures that showed the horrors of child labor. He came to Hartford in 1909 and was drawn to the children — some as young as 6 — who sold papers in town. Connecticut’s labor laws at the time were pretty toothless, and these children hawked their wares downtown, in Frog Hollow, anywhere there was a bar because drunks made the best customers, one little newsie told Hine.
In this photo, these children mostly look happy, but their hours were long, the pay was lousy and their jobs kept them from going to school.
Still, for so many families in Frog Hollow, the pittance they brought in sometimes meant the difference between survival and starvation.
Frog Hollow has a million stories like that. I hope I’ve chosen the right ones. I’ll be back on the blog on Wednesday, and I’ll let you know how things went.