Ann M. Martin Library at Smith College
When my first book, Bummer Summer, came out in 1983, I officially became a published author. I started a file for Bummer Summer, where I could keep drafts of the manuscript and anything interesting or important to the creation of the book. As future books were completed, I added bulging files to my cabinets. Thirty-one years later, I've written or co-written over forty novels, plus a number of series such as The Baby-sitters Club, Main Street, and The Family Tree saga. If you're wondering if this eventually added up to a lot of files, the answer is yes!
While I had carefully arranged the files in rows of cabinets in my office closets, I didn't have a long-term plan for the pounds and pounds of paper and research and memorabilia. Happily, a solution was presented to me when a representative from my alma mater, Smith College, paid me a visit last year. We started discussing the background material I had saved and the fact that I would love to find a place where it could be shared with other people. I was delighted when she told me that Smith College would be the perfect permanent home for my papers. I spent the next few months sorting through the folders, before packing them up for Smith College.
Starting last fall, a graduate student at Smith, Su Meck, took on the arduous project of organizing and identifying everything I had saved. (I know it was an arduous task, because my files were, let's just say, something of a mess!) An important part of archiving an author's collection is cataloguing the material so that a researcher can easily find things. Su spent most of the school year on the project, finally completing it this past April. I recently visited an exhibit at the college and had the chance to see some of what she accomplished. In particular, I was impressed with a beautifully designed display case showing an edited page from a draft of Belle Teal, along with family photographs and pictures of the real Belle Teal.
The kinds of materials I gave to Smith varied from book to book. For example, when I first started writing many years ago, I wrote everything in longhand before typing it up. (Yes, typing it on a manual typewriter!) So for the early books, I'd saved my initial handwritten outline and any notes I had taken before I started writing the draft, in addition to the original handwritten manuscript. For many books, I saved letters from my editors and notes from editorial meetings. In some cases, such as A Dog's Life, I kept cover concepts we didn't use, as well as proofs of the book jackets. When I eventually switched to drafting my books on the computer, I saved the printed manuscripts, which showed my handwritten notes in the margins and the handwritten notes from my editor as we passed the manuscript back and forth.
It's interesting for me to see the progression of my books from notes and an outline, to a manuscript, through multiple edits and drafts, and finally, to the published book. I think if I were a student today, I would enjoy having a chance to delve into the archives of a favorite writer and perhaps be able to get a sense of what her thought process was while she was working on one of her books.
I'm honored to think that my literary papers may someday serve as a resource for a future Smith student's research. I met many interesting people during my four years at Smith, and formed many lifetime friendships, all of which greatly influenced the person and writer I would become. It's gratifying to know that my body of work has found a permanent home at a place that means so much to me.