I received this email recently and thought other readers of The Friendship Doll might be interested in my answers to Jess’ questions:
Dear Jess: I love that idea of being a word archeologist. . . but I think I’m more of a mucker-arounder. 😉 Since I started the research for this book so long ago, I can’t recall when I learned that the dolls were called “Friendship Dolls,” but once I did, that gave me focus. I found Bill Gordon’s site and managed to acquire the book Dr. Gulick had written (gotta love Alibris!). I use eBay for maps and photos, diaries and letters and my library allows me on-line access to the historical New York Times archive which is fabulous! I visited museums and did just about anything else I could do to track down information, including interviewing Michiko Takaoka, who is a leading expert on the dolls (if not THE leading expert), when she was director of a Japanese language school across the state from me in Spokane, Washington. I also used the Library of Congress site — they have a great resource there called American Memory.
I leave no stone unturned! But it’s not a job for wimps. After spending a day reading microfiche, I generally have a headache and my neck and back complain big time. None of those machines are ergonomically correct. It’s a problem, truly. So I love it when I can get newspapers on-line. And I can’t tell you the number of hours I spend looking for things I never find. So prepare for a bit of frustration, should you choose this path.
When I was a kid, I played Man From UNCLE with my neighborhood buddies and dreamed of being a spy or detective (preferably one like Honey West, who had a pet ocelot). I feel like my childhood dreams have come true through my work as a writer of historical fiction — but without the danger.
It’s so great to hear about your research process; very interesting. Thanks for sharing!