A friend who is teaching Green-Wood to her creative writing class recently asked me to jot a few notes about the process of writing the book. I thought I’d share them here as well.
It took me six years to research and write Green-Wood (more or less). I wrote it by taking notes–during and after time in the cemetery, and while reading source texts. I literally cut the notes into separate bits and then organized them by theme or “thread”–like, “birds of paradise” or “industrialism.” I covered the walls of my room with homasote boards (kind of like bulletin boards) and tacked up the notes so I could see them all at once. Then I used various techniques to weave the threads together–I tried actual thread to make connections, but that didn’t work very well. I spent a lot of time on my knees on the floor arranging and rearranging bits.
You can’t tell this from the published book, but I designed each 8.5 by 11 page as a visual and textual unit (hence the asterisks). That gave me a constraint to work within. So the task was to organize bits of text on each page, and then order the pages.
Of course that sounds more organized that it really was. There is probably another Green-Wood worth of notes and threads that didn’t get into the book. And actually I first wrote an entire Green-Wood manuscript that had discrete sections of poetry and prose that just wasn’t working, so I tossed it and started over.
In terms of content, I just sort of followed the cemetery and the source texts where they led me!