After spending a little over an hour at the Slave Mart Museum here in Charleston, I was ready to come home. It wasn’t so much a case of information overload as it was a readiness to write…what did I say about timing? It’s everything, so having PMS and listening to the voices of formerly enslaved people can lead to more than a few tears and some rather dramatic ideas for the novel. I highly recommend the Slave Mart Museum; the young women working there are extremely helpful—within minutes of asking for help I was given a list of African American tour guides and walking directions to the Avery Research Center, where I spent the afternoon. As soon as I walked in, I met two interpreters from the Middleton Plantation, which I’ll be touring tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, the shuttle service taking me out there is called “Gone With the Wind, More Than Just a Memory”…but I’m hoping that the black interpreters will balance whatever romanticized (a)historical nonsense I may have to endure. Charleston reminds me of Louisiana—same architecture, same aesthetic, same strange segregation. I walked around this afternoon and felt like I was in the Garden District of New Orleans…kept wondering when I was going to see some black folks. The Avery Research Center shed light on the determination of African Americans to uplift the race through education. On the top floor there was an impressive exhibit of sculpture, quilts, and textile art by Bernice Mitchell Tate. The second floor displayed sweetgrass baskets woven in the Gullah community, and there was a recreation of a 19th-century classroom that tugged at my school marm heartstrings. The Avery Normal Institute was founded in 1865 by the American Missionary Association, and I recalled writing a play back in 2006 about a free black woman from New England who moved to the Sea Islands before the Civil War ended to teach in an AMA school for emancipated slaves. Don’t think I ever finished that play, but I’ve already got the AMA in Judah’s Tale. In a way, I could easily write about South Carolina without being here—after touring the Slave Mart I had to come home because my bag was bulging with all the books I’d purchased. I could just hide away in this hotel room, with the windows that face an opposing brick wall, and slip into the past by plowing through those books. But being here gives me the chance to add certain details that might not appear in a book. Just standing in that slave market conjured scenes and introduced me to characters I’d never have “met” in Brooklyn. Tomorrow morning I tour the rice plantation and then in the afternoon I’m doing the Sea Island/African American history tour. I hope my head doesn’t explode before I get a chance to write some of this into the book. Part of me wanted to pull out my laptop and set myself up in the recreated classroom at Avery…sometimes I think I was born in the wrong century!