Gregory LeFever is a contributing editor to Early American Life magazine, where he has authored dozens of articles on colonial life, antiques, traditional crafts, and historical homes. A native of Michigan, he and his wife Christine – who creates reproduction 18th and 19th century dolls – also have lived in Vermont, Ohio, and Oregon. He has worked on several newspapers, was a communications manager in companies from start-ups to the Fortune 500, was president of a marketing-communications agency in Portland, Oregon, and has been a fulltime freelance writer since 2002.

More info at: Greg LeFever's Early American Writings

The Questions (and Answers)
Question 1: When did you first become interested in the early American era?
Answer: It was as a child in the Midwest in the 1950s. I’d learned to read early and was drawn immediately to history, courtesy of the critically acclaimed Landmark series of young people’s history books Bennett Cerf compiled for Random House, plus our small-town library. My main fascinations were the Civil War and the Revolution. Later, working as a journalist in Vermont, I finally visited many of the colonial sites I’d read about as a child.
Question 2: How long have you been writing for Early American Life?
Answer: I began writing for EAL in 2004. My wife and I had moved from Oregon to southern Ohio while I researched a historical novel. We’d subscribed to EAL for several years and needed to get our address updated. I called EAL’s offices, and in a stroke of good fortune, the publisher, Tess Rosch, answered the phone. We talked, I told her I was a writer, she needed a writer immediately for an assignment, and she gambled on me. That was seven years and nearly 50 articles ago.
Question 3: What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?
Answer: I’ve been a fulltime freelance writer since 2002. Much of my work these days is with Northwest technology companies in Portland and Seattle. Most months I spend close to half of my time researching and writing for Early American Life and the remainder on the technology business writing. Nearly all of my business writing is for the Internet, and EAL, obviously, is for print. Given all of that, my regular routine involves writing several hours nearly every day, just like a traditional job except that I walk downstairs to work and can wear what I want to.
Question 4: You're an acknowledged authority on the early American era. Did you purposefully take classes to learn about this subject, or did you just gradually acquire the knowledge over time?
Answer: Thank you for the compliment! I took two history classes in college, but always have had a thirst for research, whether it was as a newspaper reporter, technology editor or writer of history. So the short answer is “over time.” My articles for Early American Life have taken me into areas where I’ve relied on immediate, though extensive, research. God bless Google. My online searches regularly provide books and articles from historians both eminent and obscure, and have vastly expanded the number of sources for my articles. While I’m not a credentialed historian, I do have talent for researching, assimilating data, and writing articles that EAL’s readers seem to enjoy reading.
Question 5: Do you have a larger audience in print publication or Internet publication?
Answer: For the American history articles, definitely print. For the technology writing, definitely electronic. The two, however, are coming closer together, with the online style of writing greatly influencing the traditional print styles. Print newspapers and magazines are being forced to adapt, with more emphasis on brevity and concise language. That being said, I’m very glad to see Colonial Sense come online. If new generations are to remain informed about early America, the information must come from sites such as this, and you deserve to be congratulated.
Question 6: In college, what were some of the most helpful courses in preparing you to write for publication?
Answer: I took three college-level writing courses from experienced instructors, got good grades in them, and ultimately found the classes to be of little value for the type of writing I’ve done. Right after college, I worked a dozen years on daily newspapers in Michigan and Vermont, where some excellent editors pounded the basics of clear writing into me, day after day after day. Something must have clicked because I won a number of newswriting awards for investigative reporting as well as human-interest articles, and was nominated in the early 1970s for the Pulitzer Prize. Later I spent another dozen years in advertising – both on the client side and the agency side – which was the best lesson in learning to separate my ego from my writing. That lesson has helped me greatly in dealing with editors and clients when they change what I’ve written.
Question 7: What type of inspiration in writing of early Americana does your wife bring into your life with her creation of dolls from the 18th and 19th century?
Answer: Not a lot from the dolls, but a tremendous amount on the personal level. Christine’s been with me throughout my entire career and has been incredibly supportive. Most of my newspaper and technology writing bores her silly, so she tends to avoid it. But she’s had a lifelong interest in antiques and, wherever we’ve lived, has created homes that are historical wonderlands. The fact that we both make a certain percentage of our respective livelihoods from the early American era is just one of the common bonds we share.
Question 8: In researching for a particular topic of early Americana, what type of balance do you have between researching on the Internet and in print publications?
Answer: I use the Internet for a substantial amount of my historical research, and sites such as Colonial Sense will gain in influence as a result of the Internet’s growing value as a research tool. I have a personal library with the writings of some prominent historians, and have access to a large and excellent municipal library network where we live. But with a few keystrokes on Google, I can find two centuries’ worth of books and articles on specific topics. With traditional methods of research, it would take forever and a day to locate some of these volumes. As a result of the Internet, my articles today have many more sources and far more interesting anecdotes than in the pre-Internet days. However, researching on the Internet requires tremendous diligence because of the amount of wrong information in cyberspace. Frequently I’ll find an erroneous date repeated again and again in several articles on several web sites – articles on the web are copied repeatedly without permission and with no fact-checking. Just as if I were interviewing a public official, I take pains to get additional confirmation on facts concerning the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. If something is questionable and I can’t find additional confirmation, I either discard it altogether or will quote or cite the source – usually a historian or author – so that I’m not putting my own credibility on the line.
Question 9: When not writing, do you have any hobbies or other activities you enjoy?
Answer: Yes, but the day simply is not long enough. I enjoy studying fairy tales and folklore. I paint abstract landscapes. I play old-time tunes on clawhammer banjo and 1920s music on the chromatic harmonica. I’m fascinated with dowsing beyond searching for water. I want to get back into gardening, and right now am making my first batch of sauerkraut.
Question 10: How do you develop an idea -- and what are your research methods to gather enough information -- for an article into the completed project?
Answer: I keep a list of ideas as they occur to me, usually prompted by a book, discussion, movie or daydream. Sometimes I get wildly enthusiastic and call Early American Life immediately, and sometimes I submit a list of a half-dozen ideas. Most articles, however, are assigned to me from the magazine. They know my interests, aptitudes and turnaround time, so they give me assignments that fit. Once I have the article topic, I do a cursory search for information in my home library and on the Internet because I always want to have a certain level of information before contacting people who might be sources, such as curators and historians who specialize in the topic. I’ll spend two to three weeks amassing information and conducting interviews. I do several Word documents of notes and transcriptions of interviews. I then write a full-blown draft that establishes the sequence of information and how to handle the opening paragraphs. Almost without exception, the draft turns out to be two or three times the length of the eventual article. The final stage is writing the article itself – facing the challenge of condensing the draft while struggling with compelling prose. Whenever possible, when I consider the article finished, I like to let it sit at least one more day, and then make one more editing pass before hitting “send.”

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