Just like good sex, writing, even bad writing, starts in the brain. Before the first word ever appeared on my computer screen, questions etched their way into my consciousness. Before I even wrote an outline, I questioned the existence of Woodlake. I pictured this foothill community without a town.
- Guiding Questions I started with the question, “What makes Woodlake unique, and why did it become a town?” The vision developed. I wondered if the people who ranched here, and the Native Americans, the Yokuts, whose culture had survived the early settlers’ arrival objected to Gilbert Stevenson’s dream of a town. Wondering prompted a several tasks.
- Research: Reading & Interviewing In step two I sought answers the basic questions, and got a feel for Woodlake’s uniqueness. This was an ongoing task, of course, but first I needed to get an overall vision of the book’s focal points. I could do both tasks simultaneously on Facebook which put me in touch with between 1,000 and 2,000 group members. I quickly made some friends, only to discover that they lived clear across the United States. That was bad for face to face interviews, but great for the Woodlake Foundation when it comes to marketing!
- Create a timeline to identify iconic events and people that contributed to the vision. Events blurred in my brain, so I started a timeline. The first years were easiest to order because they had already been documented in two books, and published and unpublished articles. The later events still remained fresh in people’s mind, but the middle episodes remained fuzzy, except that everyone seemed to LOVE Woodlake and love living here in the 1940s to 1980s. As events became clear, so did iconic individuals. After reading entries on FB, Gus West assumed a bigger than life place in my brain. He was the one man police force starting in 1941. Most of his clients were naughty boys that did bad things to street lights and outhouses. He seemed to know just how to deal with them. I pictured Andy Griffith of Mayberry, and the more I read, the more central he became to the story of Woodlake’s lost middle years. Printable pictures of Gus seemed non-existent, but his influence pervaded my thoughts, and guided the story of Woodlake. I wondered, “Would I EVER find a picture of Gus West?”
- Rough in an outline of the book. In a small town life-changing events, patterns and iconic people surface quickly. In Woodlake the last major event that everyone mentioned was the high school fire. Since history becomes valid after about 25 years, this 1980 blaze marked the latest date in the book. At that point I didn’t have any pictures of it, and didn’t know who did, but the vision of what I needed was clear. Since this was a picture book, all I needed to do was find a source. Friends recommended the name of a photographer, who was gone. The search for pictures is another topic, but photographers became somewhat iconic, too.
- Determine Structure of the book by examining similar books. Many of the Images books are topical, but my brain works chronologically. So I combined the two approaches. Chapters 1-4 are chronological, while the last two chapters deal with influential topics that adhere to the vision. The theme that Gilbert Stevenson and Gus West both wrote in history had a dreamy quality. Stevenson saw a tourist town. West protected it. Celebrations attracted attention to it, and Churches and Schools gave it the solid foundation it needed to become reality .
Finding a vision for the book emerged through the questions that arose in my mind. Finding answers to the questions, and finding 200 pictures to convey the story created another series of tasks for another post.