A new year, a new book, and old challenges

The first day of a new year usually brings thoughts of new beginnings, a fresh new slate on which to inscribe our best intentions, a new fall of snow all ready for our footprints in a new or renewed direction.

My thoughts this new year are on (a) a renewed commitment to a book project that I began several years ago, and (b) a new commitment to fight threats to women's rights. I woke up on January 1st thinking about my main writing project for 2017 and how it relates to women's rights. And what is that book project, you ask.

Several years ago, I began to think about the women during the historic Route 66 era who made significant contributions to what we collectively think of as Route 66 culture. I began to search out and collect their stories. My recent 33-day trip to California and back afforded me some time for inspiration and research to add to the already considerable pile of books, notes, brochures, scraps of paper, business cards, and three-ring binder that recently got moved from my three (count 'em, three) sets of large bookcases to its own set of shelves.

Books for background information to supplement primary research, some from my main bookshelves and some recently purchased, moved into their own shelves--which won't be enough for long.
Although I'm still looking at several different publishers and do not have a contract yet, I'm ready to let everyone know what I'm working on. Working title: Women of 66: Their Extraordinary Contributions to the Culture of Route 66. Sometime during 2017, I expect that my almost-10,000 word outline of approximately 100 amazing women will grow up into a cohesive narrative—with a publisher, beautiful cover art, a comprehensive index, endnotes, historic photos, and, eventually, readers!

A gift from my good friend Cindy Reinhardt several years ago, to start organizing for the future book.
This project is near and dear to my heart because of, obviously, my love for Route 66, but also because of my women's history studies (MA, 2001, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville), and my fascination with material/American culture. Beyond the scope of an Arcadia Publishing book (of which I've done six), this project will draw from all three disciplines. From now on, I'll be posting, in my usual occasional and erratic way, updates on the book's process.

You will easily guess some of the women in the book, as they are true--and well-known--legends of Route 66. Lillian Redman, Lucille Hamons, Cynthia Hare Troup, Erna Fergusson, are just a few that should come to mind. But since my goal is to document how women shaped Route 66 culture, I'm not focusing only on the motel/ restaurant/station operators or on the obvious choices. Women in the fields of design, engineering, art, and politics also contributed to the culture of the "Main Street of America," and you are going to meet them in the book.

So that's the new year and the new book. Now for the old challenges—women's rights, which, sadly, shouldn't even still be a point of discussion. However, since the election of November 8, many women realize that their hard-fought rights are going to be threatened again, and we are ready to face that fight head-on. Many of us know, through our mothers', grandmothers', or other ancestors' stories, or through our study of women's history, of our sisters' struggles.

If the upcoming Women's March in D.C. on January 21 is any indication, women (and men standing with us) are ready to fight against threats to our rights. Sister marches are scheduled in solidarity around the world. Women are forming coalitions, planning local political campaigns, and making thousands of calls to their representatives. This is a fight we don't plan to lose. Because we remember the Alice Pauls and the Lucy Burnses of history, and because we remember our mothers' or grandmothers' stories. And because we know this debate isn't really between two political parties, but between right and wrong, between misogyny and human rights.

The women included in my book lived and worked during different stages of the evolution of women's rights. Somehow, they did what they did anyway. Their accomplishments were often remarkable, at a time when there were few women in their respective fields.

So that's what I'm thinking about at the beginning of this new year, and what I'm working on. What we women face now will help to inform my insight into what women faced then, and vice versa. I'll try to use it to its best advantage.

Because we've already fought that fight.

And because I want this book to be the best it can be. Stay tuned.


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