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The "Grandpa Book" Project

March 15, 2019


When I originally thought about launching this blog, I was intending to use it as a device to keep me accountable when working on creative projects. I have endless amounts of ideas for things I could work on, but have always struggled with committing to one and having the discipline to follow through. One such project that has plagued me for years is the Grandpa Book. I remember vividly while at a previous company's holiday dinner talking to a colleague about a vision I had for a book about my grandfather. He looked at me with completely sincerity and said "you have to write that story."


My grandfather Mel is a member of The Greatest Generation. He was in the US Navy in WWII, grew up during the Great Depression, and his childhood home had an outhouse. I know all of this from letters we've exchanged for nearly a decade, me writing them out in long form on looseleaf, he on his typewriter with his official Fire Protection Co. of Aberdeen, South Dakota stationary. He's incredibly proud to have been a part of D-Day. A couple of years ago my dad (a member of the Boomer generation, who studied chemical engineering, got a job at DuPont, and had his own business in Delaware since I was 10 years old), mentioned to me that Mel had an idea that I would write his memoir one day. Having always been considered the intense reader/writer of the family, I've had the dream of publishing at least one book in my lifetime.


Since 2014 I've listed as an "annual goal" to work on the Grandpa Book. I've worked off and on on the project, diving into all the articles and interviews my grandfather sent me, trying to put together a timeline of his life.  For my grandfather's story in particular, I've been inspired by the styles of Art Spiegelman's Maus and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis to make it both a written and illustrative work. I've dabbled in illustration on my own throughout my life and have always dreamed of taking a formal class. In recent years (especially with the 2016 Presidential Election), I realized there was more to the story.


I've always been proud that in my family, each generation has progressed ahead of the previous one in terms of education, careers, and financial stability. We've also always remained incredibly nomadic (like our ancestors the Vikings), moving across the country and rarely staying where we grew up. However, the constant mobility and different experiences does lead to tension. Take into consideration there are large generational divides between the Greatest Generation, the Boomer Generation, and the Millennials (me). Then, think about how we all live in incredibly different geographical locations (my grandfather in rural South Dakota, my dad in suburban Delaware, me in urban Brooklyn). We three have so many differences that sometimes it can be challenging to communicate; I can't even properly describe to my grandfather what I do for a living. 


My vision now for the book is to make it about generational divides, the progress one generation makes from the previous one and the existential pressure that comes from it.  My grandfather was told he was too dumb to go to college and farmlife was his future. He ended up going to college and visiting Europe as a member of the US Navy. My dad moved to the East Coast, took a corporate job, and believed in the American dream. I moved to New York when I was 18, imagining myself living in an artists' loft in the East Village (after the 1970s, yeah right younger self), only to find myself as an early pioneer of social media marketing and figuring out what makes me truly special, while trying to balance pursuing a career and feeding into more traditional desires of marriage and motherhood and what that means in the 21st century. 


While we may be different, we are very much the same. The three of us have all traveled a bit and are incredibly stubborn, headstrong, and independent. Like hell would any of us would let someone tell us what we can or cannot do. 


I have a couple of stages I want to get through in the next year until I have something ready to publish:

  • Develop a timeline of his life going through interviews and articles.

  • Archive photos and documents Grandpa has sent me over the years.

  • Interview Grandpa in South Dakota. I'm planning to fly out in May.  

  • Interview my dad, which shouldn't be hard over a good bottle of Cab. 

  • Develop outline / script. 

  • Storyboard panels.

  • Take an illustration / comic drawing course. 

  • Save money to pay for an editor / book cover designer, etc. 

  • Find a way to publish it / find a publisher / figure out if this is worth selling. 


My goal by the end of this year is to have a fleshed out outline with some initial sketches for panels. I'm so excited to focus on this project and accomplish this project that I've had floating in my head for years.


If you have any other suggestions for possible inspiration or resources, please let me know in the comments below!

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