Ginger Strand: Writer in the Archives
By Hannah Brigida Infantado
November 23, 2015
Non-fiction writer Ginger Strand visited the University at Albany for a special seminar coordinated by the New York State Writers Institute.
On Thursday, Nov. 19, Strand was the keynote speaker for an annual conference held every November celebrating “New York State History Day,” hosted by the History Department at Albany which included receptions for the two day event.
The conference displayed 20 panels and speakers with the intention to bring together academic historians, archivists, students, documentarians, and others to explore, share, and deepen their understanding of New York’s history.
“We hold the researching conference every year and normally they try to bring in one keynote speaker who is researching New York [such as] last year, they had Richard Norton Smith,” said Greg Wiedeman, a UAlbany alumni and the university’s archivist.
Back in the archive room, Strand spoke about her research for her brand new book, “The Brothers Vonnegut.” The book was published just two days before, on Nov. 17. “The Brothers Vonnegut” is a dual biography of two brothers: scientist Bernard Vonnegut and science fiction writer Kurt Vonnegut who were associated with General Electric in the late 1940s to the early ‘50s.
She told uplifting stories of her research to the audience, such as how she spent many hours in the archives, along with triumphs and frustrations. She described how she almost got kicked out of the library for laughing when she found funny things during her research. Although she claimed she was not a historian, she gave many informative histories of New York. The seminar ended with a Q&A session with the audience.
“This is really unique for us because she did research here in our archive, which is just absolutely wonderful. She is helping promote the really wonderful resources that we have here,” Wiedeman said.
“The most important piece of advice that I would give to an aspiring writer is generally learn how to take criticism and learn not to take on bridge, but feel like the person criticizing your work is giving you something of value and helping you get better,” Strand said. “The person who I was talking to was writing for a blog and he said, ‘Is that still true in this world of online trolls and flames and all this stuff?’ And I had to think about it. Well, it’s still very true that I take criticism very seriously, it’s just that you do have to consider the context and who is giving [advice] to you. It’s essential to learn that or you’ll never get better.”