Al Gore: Earth’s friend or foe?

What I love about doing biographies is that the subjects cease being cardboard cutouts. Their complexities become apparent, sometimes endearing, and sometimes eyebrow-raising. And still, it’s impossible to really know them.

That was never more true than when I researched Al Gore last year for my latest biography.

Gore has the unfortunate lot of being polarizing. Nobody’s neutral about Gore. For many, he represents liberalism at its finger-waggingest, along with wealth, an ivy league education and political advantage. His father was a U.S. Senator and by all accounts, his mother groomed him almost from infancy for political office. He wasn’t dubbed the Prince of Tennessee for nothing. For others, Gore is a modern-day Cassandra, with both the foresight and the lengthy trail of disbelievers. He also represents crushed hopes in the form of the 2000 election.

The polarization surrounding him appear par for the course. I discovered a man whose life was a study in contrasts. He attended rural Tennessee schools and worked the land with farmhands, but also lived in a Washington hotel and attended exclusive private schools. The toughest contrast to reconcile was his unflinching fight for an environment free of toxins, while still advocating for tobacco farmers, even after losing his beloved sister to lung cancer.

Despite understanding what’s behind people’s feelings about Gore, I’m still not sure why his advocacy for the planet is received with such ire. Gore’s interest was piqued when he was a child, observing farmers’ conservation efforts, and then pushed further when his mother read him Rachel Carson‘s SILENT SPRING. By the time he arrived at Harvard and met Professor Roger Revelle, becoming a “conservation hero” was just a matter of time.

Gore has devoted a huge amount of time, resources and energy to educating people about environmental dangers, pushing legislation, and investing his own money in forward-thinking technology. Even if you don’t care for him personally, what’s the objection to a cleaner environment, and economically beneficial tech?

Gore’s not a perfect guy, but he’s no foe either.


A Farewell to Al

These are going back to the library today!

Today I am returning my stack of Al Gore biographies to the library. Do you know what that means? It means I have finished writing and editing the book! Hooray for me! I started working on it in February and I’m already done. It’s the speediest book I’ve ever written. And after yesterday’s re-reading, I can also tell you that it’s quite good despite the short time-frame (if I do say so myself).

Gore is my fifth biography and the first one I’ve done about someone other than a children’s book writer. I have to tell you guys, I like this biography-writing thing. It can be really frustraing at times, but it’s great learning so many things about a person and being able to tell your own story about them. I’m always curious what people think about the biographies if they ever see them. (But I’m not that curious, so if you don’t like it, don’t email me.)

I wonder if I can make a career writing these for trade…

Love letters to Al

In case it’s a surprise to anyone, let me be clear: I voted for Al Gore in the 2000 election. I’m one of those liberals who spent the first 8 years of the new millenium grinding my teeth. I’m still a little pissed at Florida. I’m only recently cured after the ’08 political cage-match in which Barack “The Charmer” Obama took down John “Sound Economy” McCain.

This all comes into play because as I’m writing Al Gore’s biography, I find that I’m walking a tight line between strict fact, and the snarky side of me that keeps wanting to inject sarcastic remarks about those who continue to oppose him. (Why still? He’s not even a political candidate, for heaven’s sake!) The thing is, I’m not trying to write a book-length love letter to Al Gore. My job is to present facts, not opion, and if I do use opinion, I certainly can’t use my own.

All this to say that non-fiction writing has brought out all kinds of unexpected problems to solve. I certainly never thought non-fiction would inspire my emotions in this way, but here we are.


Today is January 15th. Which means in exactly one month, my Sharon Creech manuscript is due to my editor. And in exactly one and a half months, the sample and outline are due for the Al Gore biography.

The Creech bio is crawling along. I am still only on chapter three. My research is impeccable so there’s enough material, but I haven’t been able to gather any steam yet. It doesn’t help that I keep going back to edit things that I’ve already written. I hope I find my stride soon.

I am yet to do any research on the Gore biography. The prospect of this is scarier. By this time I usually have most of the research done. There is the advantage that Gore is a VERY public figure, so there is going to be masses of information about his life that I can find easily. Of course the downside to that is that I will have to mine through it in a month and a half, while writing another biography and figuring out how to lay out his.

I’m not saying I can’t do it. I’m just saying the next six weeks are going to be really interesting.

The freelancer’s Christmas party

It’s important to celebrate the accomplishments of this year before setting goals for the next. Here’s how and why I’m doing it in ’09.

The Non-Fiction Department is finally over the trauma of having to write the Stephenie Meyer bio… I mean, GETTING TO… they got to write the Meyer bio… and they are very pleased with their recent coup of securing  an Al Gore bio for next year, and that the Sharon Creech bio got the green light last week. Alright guys, the chest bumps and high fives are getting noisy.

The Fiction Department is still sulky over the demise of novel #2. We’re going to have to coax them out with peppermint sticks and eggnog. Although our agent is very pleased with the draft of novel #3, and writing an entirely new story during NaNoWriMo was a huge accomplishment, Fiction isn’t hearing it. They’re taking out most of their frustrations on the Marketing Department, which hasn’t come up with a decent title for novel #3 yet.

Marketing is completely ignoring Fiction as they rethink our online strategy  for 2010. A little nog might get them out of meetings. Think they’ll make up with Fiction over their shared love of the nog? Stay tuned.

Research and Development is looking forward to getting into some creepy creature research for novel #3 and hoping they can trump Marketing by coming up with a title themselves. They’re also gearing up for Gore next year.

The Technical Writing Department is still neck-deep in freelance work, and will be happy to see anything but the computer screen for a few minutes.

As for the Legal and Tech Departments (my husband) and Creative Mischief (the kids)… they’re not around (but I’ll save them some treats).

So we’re playing Christmas Carols, drinking nog, eating peppermint sticks and opening the Secret Santa gift. I picked it out myself and I’m sure all the departments will agree that it’s super awesome.