Slow & Steady Wins…An Eventual Book Deal?

Well, this time it’s been a somewhat respectable month since my last post. Since then, I’ve written about 6 pages. That’s not terrible, but it’s also not very good. Reflecting on my process for my first chapter draft, the first few pages definitely went the slowest–things sped up once I got to actual analysis rather than introductory framing. So let’s hope that holds true now, as well!

I’ve found that each time I sit down with the DOS-D (which I’ve learned never to do unless I have at least 3 uninterrupted hours ahead of me), I only manage to crank out about 1.5 pages before I’m completely exhausted. Part of this slowness is due to my meticulous citations & endnotes, which I insist on completing at the time of creation because I’ve heard horror stories about what happens when one leaves too many dissertation citations for “later.” Yesterday, for example, I found myself in a 15-minute endnote black hole while writing an aside-with-citation about the politics of historically black neighborhoods in old northern cities like Philadelphia. What does this have to do with my DOS-D, you may ask? Well, in trying to explain the Nicholas Brothers’ relative privilege within the black community, I point out how, in both Philadelphia and then New York City, their parents were able to move the family into the “wealthy” parts of black neighborhoods. This is easier to explain re: Harlem than it is re: Philadelphia…thus the endnote black hole.

All of this is to say that I am, by all measures, moving “slow and steady” now. This is much preferred to last quarter’s “slower and unsteady,” and I can only hope that moving a little more slowly now will help me out down the road when it’s time to (attempt to) convert this manuscript into a book manuscript. The one compliment from one of my committee members I took most to heart on my previous chapter draft was that she found the prose unusually clear for a first draft of a dissertation chapter. I’m hoping to maintain that advantage as I continue!

In any case, these 6 pages land me at the end of my first section, which is about the Nicholases’ early lives and entry into professional dancing (it’s short because little Harold was only 7 when they went pro!). I skimped on the literature review for now (my most dreaded part of everything I write) so I’ll have to come back to the opening and flesh it out somewhat, but it’s otherwise pretty thorough. I made some notes to myself at the end of my workday yesterday to prepare me for a final paragraph about the brothers’ ongoing contract at the Cotton Club in the 30s, but other than that, I’m ready to (finally) dive into the actual screens part of the chapter.

So, I will leave you today with a screenshot of the Nicholas Brothers in their 1932 screen debut, Pie, Pie Blackbird. This was a 10-ish minute Vitaphone short produced at the end of the Vitaphone era. It’s sort of a miracle that it still exists! And it’s really wonderful, I think, to see the brothers so young, just 2 years into their professional career, and still fresh imports to New York City.

Pie Pie Blackbird (1932)

Harold (left) and Fayard (right) Nicholas in Pie, Pie Blackbird (1932)

Like An All-Colored Vaudeville Show (1935), which I posted a screen shot of in my last post, this film falls before the time period I focus on in my dissertation (roughly 1945-1965…which in actuality spans 1943-1968, I think) but it’s really very important pre-history.


Well, until next time, folks!