Posts Tagged ‘Lacey Davenport’

2013 BIO Conference

Docent-led tour at the New York Public Library

Docent-led tour at the New York Public Library

Last weekend I attended the fourth annual Biographers International Organization (BIO) Annual Conference held in New York City. This year more than 225 biographers gathered at the Roosevelt Hotel to discuss research, writing, book reviews, social media, and a host of other topics.

I had the pleasure of moderating a panel entitled “Crafting Biography” featuring three biographers – Kate Buford, David Stewart, and Marc Leepson – who among them have written more than a dozen books. My favorite tidbit from this panel was from Marc Leepson. He does not sleep with a notebook by his side to capture all those brilliant late night ideas. Instead, he uses his phone to send himself e-mails about his words of wisdom. Why didn’t I think of that?

For those that lament the obstacles of finishing a book, feel sorry for yourselves no longer. Amanda Foreman, award-winning author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, managed to finish her second book, A World on Fire, with five children under five and a husband diagnosed with cancer. She regaled the audience with tales of how she accomplished this feat including how she had to return her original advance and find another publisher.  I will never complain again.

The conference isn’t just about what you learn, but who you meet. On Friday, I took a research tour of several libraries with our guide, Nancy Goldstone. At the New York Public Library I learned about the Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Papers, and have since found correspondence between him and the subject of my next book, Nicholas Katzenbach. One letter in particular provided me with a timeframe for a William Safire column I have tried to track down. I was off by about a decade, no wonder why I couldn’t find it?!?

Networking is another perk of BIO. At the conference I met fellow writer Steve Weinberg who is writing about Garry Trudeau. I did a slew of research about the evolution of Lacey Davenport, most of which I didn’t include in my book due to space constraints. Now, however, I plan to give the Lacey research to Weinberg so it can be put to good use. And for me, Weinberg offered to put me in touch with his father who was in the same POW camp, Stalag Luft III, as Nicholas Katzenbach during World War II. I’m always surprised by the bountiful serendipity that occurs at BIO.

Katherine Hourigan, Knopf’s managing editor, accepted the Plutarch Award on behalf of Robert Caro.

Katherine Hourigan, Knopf’s managing editor, accepted the Plutarch Award on behalf of Robert Caro.

I could go on and on about all the connections made, but I don’t want to bore the reader. So I’ll conclude where the conference ended, awarding the first Plutarch Award to Robert Caro for The Passage of Power, his fourth volume on President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Ironically, Caro was in Texas doing research for his next LBJ volume so one of his editors, Katherine Hourigan from Knopf, accepted the award on his behalf. Well-deserved.



As Indispensable as Sensible Shoes

Garry Trudeau has a great many talents; chief among them is his Doonesbury characters that make his comic strip come to life. Of course it’s no surprise that Lacey Davenport is my favorite.  The idiosyncrasies embodied both in the real life Millicent Fenwick and the fictional Lacey Davenport are uncanny. Both served as the conscious of congress, cared passionately about their constituents, and minded the purse strings be it their money or ours (as taxpayers).

Hanging proudly in Millicent Fenwick’s bathroom was an original Doonesbury cartoon panel. It featured a campaign ad for Lacey with the slogan “Davenport. As indispensable as sensible shoes.” On the bottom it read, “Paid for by her chums.”

I couldn’t help thinking about that cartoon tonight as I hailed a cab. Usually the walk from the Library of Congress to Union Station is a refreshing way to end a long day once the doors close at 9:30 p.m. Every evening is like an August recess. The only signs of life are of those protecting our national institutions – the Library, the Supreme Court, and the Capitol. But tonight was different. The walk was not enjoyable and I had my shoes to blame. I’ve literally worn them out. I could feel the pavement on my skin. My black open-toed comfortable heels are no longer comfortable.  They’ve logged more miles than most people and traveled all over the country. They’ve walked the halls of Congress, the tunnels of the Library of Congress, and the corridors of the Justice Department, but they are done. 

That became clear when I was halfway to Union Station and spotted a cab on Constitution Avenue. I got in and told the driver how happy my feet were. He started laughing and then he saw my shoes. He wanted a picture of them. He’s writing a book and I’m now going to be in it. Needless to say it was a great ride across the city listening to him regal me with his stories as a cab driver, invisible to many. He hears you on the phone, he knows your secrets, but yet you don’t know him. He has a story too. He’s from Ethiopia and wants to return to his field of study, medical-related. Next year is the year.  Grad school is calling.

We talked about his sisters and all their shoes. And I learned something new. Apparently, CVS sells shoe stretchers. I definitely need to buy one so I can break in a new pair of shoes!