Logging Lives with Lydia: The Revision Process- Preserving the Integrity of the Interviewees’ Voice

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Dear JFR Readers,

Thank you for joining me for another blog dedicated to my oral history writing project: The Second Baptist Church Project. As I continue creating these 400-word narratives, and the deadline for the book swiftly approaches, I have started to seriously hone in on my revision process. In particular, I will focus on the process of creating narratives, using a combination of my words and the interview transcription, while preserving the integrity of the interviewees’ voice,  purpose, and word-choice, since I pull the exact language directly from the interviews. I also owe my recent inspiration for the drafting process to Maya Marshall and Marty McConnell, the founders of Underbelly, who visited Lewis University as guest readers for the Creative Writing Series.

I first have to acknowledge that my revision process for this project is unlike any of my other editing processes. By that I mean, when I revise one of my poems for my Creative Writing class or edit a draft of a research paper for my other classes, I’m able to change the lines or the meaning with a lot of freedom as long as they’re originally my own. This is different for oral history writing. Particularly, it is my responsibility as the writer to pull from the primary source, and to not overpower the interviewees’ prose with my own.

I have learned of the importance of being a detail-oriented person as the process of pulling language, or extracting quotes, must be done with extreme care. Whenever I choose a quote to include in the narrative, I always double-check to make sure the transcript coincides with the audio recording. As the inheritor of the transcripts and recordings, I am not the one who originally transcribed the interviews, so a part of the narrative writing process requires me to make sure the quotes I’m including are accurate to the interviewees’ exact language. Therefore, I always cross-check the sources.

Each interview consists of a unique story and tone. As I have navigated through the process of creating narratives for each individual interviewee, I have found a consistent framework that has made its way into each piece; the narrative begins with a quote and ends with one as well. In this frame, the interviewees’ voice captures their own story within the paragraph, feeling conversational even though it’s from the third-person point of view. Reflecting more on Marshall’s and McConnell’s classroom workshop, I learned about my peers’ editing processes and how they differ from my own. Given this perspective, I became more appreciative of the overall process–in some cases, the in-depth dissection of why I keep certain words, phrases, and quotes, and why others are eliminated.

Let me further expand on the 400-word maximum narratives and why they are so concise. The text, in a white font, will be inserted into black silhouettes designed by the Art and Design students. In addition, since there will be a number of the narratives included in the book, in order to create a readable, consistent, and effective design, the narratives have to be shorter. It is the church members’ hope to continue using the interviews, expanding them into short stories as well. While I graduate in May this year, I hope this community partnership between Lewis and Second Baptist Church and the interdisciplinary collaboration that it sparked will continue throughout the years.

— Lydia Kozlowski, Blogger.


Lydia Kozlowski’s Bio:

Lydia K

Lydia is a senior at Lewis University majoring in English with a concentration in Language and Literature, and minoring in Professional Writing. She enjoys reading short stories, dabbling with design, and writing consistently in her personal journals. Lydia also enjoys reading memoirs and watching documentaries. Along with being an editor for Jet Fuel Review, she is a Publicity Coordinator for Sigma Tau Delta Rho Lambda Chapter and a tutor and ESL/ELL Specialist at Lewis University’s Writing Center. Outside of her educational endeavors and commitments, Lydia stays active by running on nature trails and rollerblading around campus.


 

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