In 2000, while working for the Chautauquan Daily as a summer music reporter, I met the bandleader of Independence Jazz Reunion. He hired me to write a biography about the band’s colorful 50-year history. I traveled to Maine and New York to interview “the guys,” and put together a full-length manuscript, which I sent to all of them for editing. The book was about the band itself as well as each member’s life over the years.
I had written a book before–a novel I started after college–but I never quite got around to the ending. Or the revising. The Independence Jazz Reunion project taught me how to do longer interviews, how to incorporate feedback from multiple people, how to work as a writer-for-hire and how to arrange a lot of material into a cohesive format.
Best of all, it gave me confidence. I wrote a book! And I finished it! That success led to me focusing on finishing my next novel, which earned me an agent, but that’s another story.
The bandleader planned to self-publish the biography I wrote, but then 9/11 happened, and the project slipped away. A year passed, then two, and now it has been twelve years since I first met the guys, each of whom inspired me in their own unique way.
There’s no book–at least not out in the world. But I hope the manuscript was a gift to the musicians and their families, even if it never did get sold at concerts. And I’m still very thankful for the opportunity to interview those amazing musicians and to learn from their life choices.
I recently spent two weeks at my parents’ house on the East Coast going through old boxes, notebooks and files. I found a whole Rubbermaid tub full of drafts of the Independence Jazz Reunion biography. That’s a lot of drafts and research material! Most of it I recycled–with a heavy heart, certainly, but I couldn’t keep all of it.
Do you have a long-ago writing project that taught you something important? If so, please share!