Thursday, March 01, 2007

History Goldmine

I'm taking a minute away from book rewrites (one of the less-fun parts of the publishing end) to mention one of the coolest experiences I've had in a while.

Backing up: Last November, I got a phone message from one Darrin Smith, a historian living in Cache Valley. After reading House on the Hill, which is set in Logan and focuses on the Logan temple, he knew I had a love for that building and the area. (He was absolutely right. Even though I've gone on to research other temples and parts of Utah and write about them, my heart belongs to Logan and Cache Valley and always will.)

He gave me an amazing offer: I could have free rein of his archives, which include diaries, theses, photographs, newspaper articles, letters, and a ton more on two conditions: that if I ever publish another book about Logan (which I plan to--several, actually), that he can be in the acknowledgments and that he can have a copy.

Holy cow! Are you kidding me? DONE!

The problem with his voice mail was timing--I got it right before the Utah Chocolate Show, during which time I'm little more than a blur. After the show came Thanksgiving. Then final manuscript preparations so I could submit my latest book to my publisher, and on top of that was Christmas (no need to elaborate there . . .). Put mildly, I was busy. Then the New Year arrived, with more deadlines and craziness.

Throughout the entire time, Darrin's name and number sat on a scribbled note right next to my monitor. Every day I'd look at it and think, "Dang! I've got to call this guy!" But I also knew that it would make little sense to call without having an idea of when my family could make the trek up north. Finally, toward the end of January, I found a few clear dates and called him back.

By this point, he likely thought I had droppped off the planet and didn't want to take him up on his offer. He graciously invited me and my husband to come visit.

Last weekend, we did. For a couple of hours, he showed us some of his huge collection, including original photos of Logan in its early years and photos of some of the real people in my book. I almost trembled when I got to hold the picture of Billie King, who died in a tragic snow slide. It was like finally meeting an old friend.

My husband and I packed up a few armfuls of records and photos and headed to the nearest Kinko's. We spent hours frantically copying documents on two different copiers (and quickly blowing through over a hundred dollars), leaving only when they closed for the night and kicked us out (who knew that a Kinko's in a university city wouldn't be open 24 hours?).

When we returned everything to Darrin late that night, he graciously gave us some photographs he had taken of the Logan temple--one of which is so darn cool that I can't wait to post it on my web site. (I'll be sure to include information on how others can purchase a copy of the photo--it's timeless, beautiful, and unlike any photo of the temple you've ever seen.)

I have yet to go through the big box of copies I have sitting next to my file cabinet now. Thanks to rewrites and other editorial deadlines, it may be a little while before I can really sit down and dig through it, enjoying the rich history and compelling stories.

But I can't wait to do that. Some of the information comes from the very things that Nolan P. Olsen used to write his volume about the Logan temple--the very book that got me excited to write a novel about the construction. Now I get to read HIS original sources and learn even more.

Darrin's generosity has been tremendous--and he's saved me literally years and years of research, much of which it would have been impossible to duplicate even if I had tried. Since I'm a storyteller rather than a historian, this experience has been a once in a lifetime goldmine for which I'm truly grateful.

Thanks, Darrin!


Josi said...

wow, Annette, what an amazing experience. Isn't it incredible to think back to when we started this whole writing thing and where we are with it now? Who knew you would become a conduit of such amazing information. I can't wait to see what you'll do with it. Way to go

Unknown said...

Score! Truly, people are put on this earth to help us along the path. He is definitely a blessing.

Now, onto equally important matters: Utah's Chocolate Show. What is it and WHY didn't they have it when I lived there?! :-)

Annette Lyon said...

The show is a chocolate expo, with vendors selling and sampling, hands-on classes, demonstrations, and lots of other fun stuff. Last year we had a chocolate sculpture gallery, a chocolate fountain wonderland, and a kids' chocolate craft area. My older sister is the brain behind the machine, and my younger sister and I follow behind and help produce it. Come on down in November!

Tristi Pinkston said...

That is so stinkin' cool, Annette. It must feel like Christmas every time you look at that box.

Annette Lyon said...

You have no idea, Tristi. (Or as a fellow historical writer, I guess you probably do!) It IS, as you said, stinkin' cool! There's no way I'll ever use all the information in books, but I don't care. I love learning it all, and it'll be so much fun sorting through it and deciding WHAT to use in future stories.


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