Author-Profile Sidebar:

PRELUDE (as in: What is this all about?)

DON WORSTER: How did you come to interview [Bill deBuys] and what do you other than put these [Q&As] on the website? Interviews like the one we’re gonna do today -- I mean, this isn’t particularly commercial, is it?

FRANK GREGORSKY: No. It’s my effort to build, for nonfiction researchers and practitioners, [something like] what the fiction writers and aspiring novelists have in abundance. Writer’s Digest will tell you how to create a character and lay out a plot --

WORSTER: Uh-huh.

GREGORSKY: -- but where do you go if you need strategies and tactics to do historical research, or if you’re trying to balance liberal versus conservative [perspectives in a major book]? Where are some case studies by people who have written “hard” -- and here I mean innovative and deeply researched -- books, like I feel yours are? What “practices” come out of that, beyond what you concluded in the content?

WORSTER: Um-hmm.

GREGORSKY: The building of a tough manuscript -- I’ve always been fascinated by that. And these [author profiles] begin to go into that. At some point, once I can knit ‘em together and organize ‘em properly, I would like to go to Journalism schools [and propose swapping links]. Show them a synopsis of all 25 or 30 authors, and “if you’re trying to show your students how to solve this problem, look at these five Q&As; for that problem, look at these seven people over here.” Once you get these very rich and deep things together, it’s a question of organizing them.

WORSTER: Um-hmm [firmly].

GREGORSKY: And until we get to maybe 22-25 authors, it’s hard to package ‘em in a way that will make sense to a broad audience. Right now, it’s enough to be getting inside the networks of the people I talk to. Most are happy to link back to my site.

WORSTER: Um-hmm.

GREGORSKY: As for the commercial value -- I’ve gotten one or two references out of [these short-term collaborations]. But this project is not fundamentally commercial.

WORSTER: Have you talked to other historians besides Bill? I mean, is that a specialty you’re doing?

GREGORSKY: If [by “specialty”] you mean environmental history, no. But [this series targets History as one of three sectors and so] I’ve interviewed Ferenc Szasz from the University of New Mexico, and Dr. Mel Steely, who taught at West Georgia University for over three decades. And of course our mutual friend Dick Etulain [pause].

You’re very tolerant to listen to all this; this is more background than most people want.

WORSTER: [Laughter] Well, I’m just trying to get situated. Because I have the feeling I’m not prepared for this, but -- I’m happy to talk to you. Just fire away, and later you can figure a way to make this sound coherent and intelligent. I’m counting on you for that [laughter].

GREGORSKY: When a site is called “Exacting Editor,” you should be able to expect as much! Think of this taped conversation as the “final draft” of a published text interview. The clean-ups we each make are a small part of the total text, but they get [the document] to what could be called quality. I want to show people how the Q&A can work.


This Prelude covers the rationale for building a series of “rich and deep” nonfiction author profiles. But it doesn’t explain why someone with a conservative Republican background would warm to Don Worster’s Dust Bowl back in 2000. I tell him that losing tens of thousands on tech stocks, based on the underlying notion of “microcosm” and super small chips that could do everything, “I went to the opposite extreme. I wanted to get my hands around large, slow-moving, comprehensive self-contained systems -- that are anything but digital -- I mean, the Grand Canyon is about as analog as you can get.” With an occasional chuckle, Worster absorbs this, or perhaps it’s just a lazy early-summer afternoon. Not too lazy, though, for we have much of his own philosophical and Great Plains ground to cover…

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