Archive for February, 2012

Biography Progress Report #8 – One Step At a Time

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

In our last thrilling installment of “Ann Dvorak Biography Progress Report,” I had submitted the first seven chapters of the book to a prospective publisher for their review. They sent the manuscript to two anonymous readers who quickly sent back their assessments which I received in mid-January. Overall, their comments were very positive and both agreed that a full length book on Ann Dvorak has merit.  They both said my research was excellent, and much to my relief, thought my writing was strong. They did have some suggestions and a few criticisms which were totally fair and have helped strengthen the manuscript considerably.

This week, I completed the revisions based on the reader’s comments and have re-submitted it to the publisher. They will now send it back to at least one of the readers for a reassessment. If the response is positive, then it will go before an editorial board who will determine if they want to commit and give me a contract. I have also imposed on myself a September deadline for completing the book. This is the year the damn thing is going to be done!

One of the reader comments, which really stood out for me,  stated that there were not enough quotes from Ann herself and it was had to see things from her perspective. I kind of had my suspicions about this, and the reader confirmed it. I went through my sources and realized that I had been incredibly conservative in using quotes from the old movie magazines. I know there are people out there who have a big problem when biographers use these magazines as a source, which is why I was so gun shy. However, while I have some great primary sources for Ann’s later life, these magazine interviews are what exist for the early part of her career.

Author Patrick MacGilligan has been a huge help in guiding me through the writing process. When I posed the question about the legitimacy of the fan magazines, his response was, “Some of the people who wrote for fan magazines were journalists and some of those pieces are honest and factual enough.  (Some magazines are better than others, just as some of the journalists are better than others.)  I think if they “seem” accurate and journalistic to you that is good enough; you are the Ann Dvorak expert.” After re-evaluating these articles, I have to agree with him and I really think many of them are legit and the quotes ring true with Ann’s voice.

One of the pieces I really grappled with written by a journalist who claimed they had Ann’s journal from her chorus girl days. At first, I completely dismissed it because I could not imagine anyone handing over their diary to a magazine, plus I figured some of the naysayers would crucify me for using it as a source. I did include a small quote from it in the original manuscript, and this was something one of the readers targeted as a great example of Ann’s insight. I went back to the article, which I had only previously skimmed over, and realized that the entries were incredibly detailed and matched up to concrete sources I have. For example, one entry had Ann listing her weekly pay at MGM at $37.50, which her contract confirms. The scheduling of certain productions and gaps in employment coincide with MGM’s  records. I supposed the journalist  could have taken the time to do this kind of in depth research and create a long list of journal entries, but I really doubt it. The other thing that occurred to me is that while Ann may have not forked over the journal to a reporter, her mother would have in a heartbeat.  Ultimately, I decided the source was legitimate and the quotes were too good not to be included.

There have been other articles that do seem generic and fabricated, and those I have not used. Therefore, I will not be sharing Ann Dvorak’s fudge recipe or her personal beauty regimen, but there are many other quotes that are being included after careful evaluation. For those of you who loathe the use of movie magazines as a source,  you now have fair warning and may not want to read the book when it comes out.

Since I am now on a deadline and am using most of my spare moments for working on the book, the posts on this website will be minimal for the time being. Thanks to everyone for your continued support. Hopefully, the next progress report will include a confirmation on a publisher.