As 2013 ended and 2014 rolled around I really began looking closely at my book, Stories of the Lost, which I had planned to publish by now. That did not happen. The final story in the book, about James Privoznik, who died on January 11, 1945, has taken on a life of its own.
When we research our family trees we are used to seeing breadcrumbs in our path. A clue here, a family story there, or a photograph that appears out of nowhere. The same is true of writing a book. Sometimes you have to just release all expectations about what you think the book will be about and contain and go with the flow. A colleague and I recently had this discussion as she told me about a book she wrote recently. The characters took her on a journey beyond what she anticipated. That is what has been and continues to happen with James’ story. What exactly do I mean?
Initially this book was to contain four stories about men who fought in WWI and WWII in my family and died. They were lost. I had three stories written previously but they needed a lot of work and updating. To explain one story, Frank Winkler’s not D-Day story, I felt I needed to know about the Graves Registration Service. I spent an entire weekend in August working on learning the basics. Then I requested numerous books and spoke to numerous individuals with knowledge. In the end I had a new chapter for my book and it totally reworked the Stories of the Lost lecture I was writing. I went with the flow.
Since then I have been adding pieces to James’ story. I was on track to finish and publish by December until September when James’ nephew handed me a bag full of stuff. What stuff? His burial flag from Luxembourg, a flag sent to his mother after he was temporarily buried, photographs, and a photo of him at Camp Butner, NC in January 1943. I had no idea he was at Camp Butner because the Morning Reports had not traced him that far back (yet.)
The research continued and a book The Ordnance Soldier’s Guide appeared in my path. I found a copy on AbeBooks and bought it. A 1942 book with valuable information on what an Ordnance Soldier would have learned. What James would have learned. Numerous other books were placed in my hands and then James’ nephew found one last photo album that contained photos of an unknown camp and a photo in a frame of James with his rifle standing in front of a tent. Do you know all those photos in the album were unidentified? I have no idea (yet) where this camp was located. Do you know that the back of the photograph in the frame was identified? It said, Tennessee Maneuvers Aug-1943. Wow – so the 126th was on Maneuvers in Tennessee. I did not know this! Now I have to chase this lead down. The fabulous researcher, Norm Richards, in St. Louis is tracking down the 126th Medium Maintenance Morning Reports for me now. (Note: If you need a good researcher at the NPRC, contact Norm and tell him I sent you – see my website Resources page.)
I’ve worked extensively with the fine reference librarians at Pritzker Military Museum and Library the last several months. They, particularly Paul and Teri, have sent me valuable websites, books, resources, and people, that will help me tell this story. And from all of their help, discussions we’ve had, the research and writing I’ve done, something new has emerged.
This one particular story in this book has a greater meaning and purpose for me, the genealogy and history community, and all of those men and women who participated in WWII to ensure our freedom. What is this greater meaning and purpose? I’m seeing glimpses of this now which I will keep to myself. But this is changing some of my 2014 plans where my military research and writing is concerned. I promise you, what emerges from this one story in this very important book will be exciting.
Will this book be released this year? Yes. All I can say right now is in the spring. Then I will redirect my attention to The Tiger’s Widow and revise that draft for preparation for publication this summer. And what comes after that? Research for Book 3 in my Stories of the Lost series which I hope to have out by the end of 2015. And research and writing on a new series I feel those doing genealogy, family history, and writing need right now.
I look forward to sharing all of this with you soon.
© 2014, Generations, Woodridge, IL