Writing the introduction for my Capstone project was impactful because it helped me realize underlying motivations I have for writing a novel. Subconsciously, I was aware of these feelings, but I had not considered them as primary reasons for why I wanted to write a really long book (that is extremely likely to manifest into a trilogy).
My little brother is going to be the best husband (I promise there is a point to this). He grew up with three older sisters who have pounded the “Women are to be respected” mantra into his head. He can and has played every sport he wants to. He also plays guitar and piano and has an elaborate ramen bowl every day after school that he makes himself. He loves with his whole heart, something I have been given the delight of experiencing. He is a modern-day renaissance man. I love how he embraces the different ways God has made him. I don’t know if he’s had to deal with pushback from the world that says he has to fit in a box, or that cooking or hugging are not masculine. Nothing makes me angrier than thinking about the possibility that this might occur.
It is important to me that I am allowed to be a mix of person, too. I can receive joy from smashing a volleyball, singing Defying Gravity, and walking into the Clements. I used to picture librarians, or even women, as quiet and dispassionate and weak. I do not think this anymore. I am a strong woman writing about strong women.
Writing the introduction helped me solidify my primary characters. I will be writing flashbacks about Anna Pope, whom many scholars consider America’s first great female book collector (FBC), and Estelle Doheny, a devout Catholic and philanthropist who started collecting when her corrupt oil tycoon husband was convicted of a whole bundle of crimes. However, the story will revolve most heavily around Margaret and Anna. Margaret is my first minor character. She is based on two real women in my life: Margaret Carney, the Director of the International Dinnerware Museum in Ann Arbor, and Emiko (Emi) Hastings, the Curator of Books and Digital Projects Librarian at the Clements Library in Ann Arbor. They are my mentors and role models for my future career in libraries and museums. Margaret (the fictional one) is Anna’s mentor in the story. She will be written into many scenes, hopefully when she and Anna meet and as the narrative progresses.
Anna’s name is still in-process. I like the name Anna because it means “grace” and it is a family name. I have given her the last name Forbes, because it is a middle name. I originally named her Sophie Forbes, the name of my great, great grandmother, but it felt too selfish. It is also on my list of possible baby names for the future. I will report back on my final decision.
Names and motivations included, the most surprising revelation I had while writing the draft of my introduction is the opportunity fiction affords. At first, I placed the setting of Anna’s childhood in Camarillo, California, where my step-grandparents live. It did not feel right, because so much of who I want Anna to be is personified in Sylvania, Ohio, where I grew up. I modeled Ana’s childhood library and literary pursuits after my own. Everything in this snippet from the introduction is true:
She found escape and retreat in the attic-turned-library her mother built for her on the second floor. There were many places to sit: the window seat overlooking the driveway, the fluffy green rug that followed her to her college dorm room, the Pottery Barn Kids bean bag that seemed to decrease in surface area as she got bigger. There were many books to read. Her grandmother took her on a book-buying spree every birthday until she was 18. Some of her favorites over the years included The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes, the Harry Potter series, Anna Karenina, and an Introduction to Medieval Architecture (in that order).
At first, this too felt selfish and a bit annoying, but it is what I know. I know the way Anna thinks because I know the way I think. It is easy this way.
I also came to points when I felt like it was necessary to diverge from my personal story. An example of this is that Anna is 23 and already a graduate student in the University of Michigan’s School of Information. She is ahead of me, but I thought this necessary to build her credibility for the reader. It was a weird moment at first. I had the thought, “I can’t do this, it’s not real,” but then it became, “I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT, IT’S FICTION YAY!” I usually cringe at dishonesty, and that’s what fiction feels like to me. Going forward, I need to find a way to shift my mental stance on fiction from dishonesty to fun storytelling.