THERE are a number of stages in the process of first thinking about, then writing, rewriting, and finishing a manuscript. While going through it, I tend to believe each individual stage will be the most difficult. The fact is, they all present challenges and none could be completed without significant assistance. I have had both professional and personal support at each stage. In some ways, it is difficult to separate the two categories.
Soon after I first knew I wanted to write something book length about African American women’s magazines, Nell Irvin Painter sent me an unexpected e-mail asking what I was working on. I replied to say I had the beginnings of an idea. She replied asking if I would like a postdoctoral fellowship. Since that time almost six years ago, Nell has remained a constant source of support. From reading drafts of chapters for this book and offering advice ranging from “This is important” to “Let this idea go,” from addressing my rants about perceived slights with a surevoiced “Forget about them”(though her language was a bit more colorful) to commiserating about the state of the world, she has never failed to listen, respond, be present. Professionally, her help has been invaluable. Personally, her presence is a balm.
In 1997 I met Claudia Tate. A few years later she was diagnosed with cancer and passed in the summer of 2002. During that time, she responded to my professional frustrations, bouts of writer’s block, and doubts about this project in the same way. She would sigh, say something about how she knew whatever it was must be very difficult, then conclude, “Just do your work.” During the last year of her life, she asked if I would give her pages of this book to read and critique. During the last few months, she