Biography Progress Report #20: Better to Get It Right the First Time

Year of Ann Dvorak: Day 124

The past two weeks, I have been going through corrections made by the copy editor assigned to the Ann Dvorak book. Proofreading is not my strong suit, so I am in awe of anyone with the patience to copy-edit a 100,000+ word manuscript. Since this is my first book, and I have the tendency to abuse commas and under use periods, I appreciate having an expert set of eyes to tighten things up.

What I didn’t expect was for her to be so on her game that she would point out a bunch of citations from newspapers where I failed to note the headlines and bylines. When I first started working at L.A.’s Central Library in 2006, my lunch breaks for the first six months were spent glued to the microfilm machines. I poured over Los Angeles newspapers until my eyes crossed, looking for any mention of Ann. I found a lot of items in the Hollywood columns and just printed out the portion discussing Ann, which means I ended up with a few citations without headlines and bylines. By a few, I mean there were thirty. That’s right, I started this week off with a list of thirty undigitized articles I needed to find the “old fashioned” way.

So, the last couple of days I have been reliving my early years as a librarian with a stack of microfilm by my side and eyeballs ready to start bleeding. My advice to any of you contemplating writing a non-fiction book – get the citations right the first time!



  1. Scott May 4, 2013

    Just curious as to how many different Los Angeles newspapers were around during the 1930’s? Which ones, if any, are not around today? Were any of them not available for perusal on your library’s microfilm? Did each of them have their own ‘resident’ Hollywood columnist? Were some better than others in providing the kind of information you were looking for?

    It may sound boring or tedious to some, but looking through microfilm at old newspapers can be a fascinating journey through time. The editorials, the photgraphs, even the advertisements — from fashions and hairstyles to the price of coffee and toothpaste — can provide an interesting and unique perspective.

  2. admin May 4, 2013

    There were A LOT of newspapers in Los Angeles in the 1930s, but the only one that’s still around is the L.A. Times. Fortunately, I work in a library that focuses on Los Angeles history, so we have a fairly comprehensive run of the local papers. Here’s a list

    The papers did have their own columnists, though some were syndicated like Louella Parsons at the Examiner. I came to like Elizabeth Yeaman at the Hollywood Citizen News because she did not pull punches when Ann walked out on her contract in 1932. Robbin Coons was another one I liked because he would sometimes write longer pieces. While looking for Ann stuff I came across a 6 part story on Jean Harlow that he did. Good stuff!

    Because the L.A. Times has been digitized, that’s the paper people default to now while researching. It’s unfortunate because the other papers were sometimes superior when covering local stories, so researchers are missing out when they just rely on the source that’s easiest to access.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *