Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, assuming you’re tired of hearing about the new book (Death of an Intelligence Gatherer, just in case you’ve forgotten). Don’t worry, I’ll plug that one and others again. In the meantime, I thought I’d bring you up to date on what else I’ve been up to.

First you have to understand that I’m a compulsive saver with a deeply ingrained distrust of the permanence of electronic copies. That said, it won’t surprise you that I tend to print copies of just about everything—e-mails, drafts of works-in-progress, photocopies of pages from books borrowed on Inter-Library loan, copies of online articles on topics I needed to research, manuscripts to proofread or read for a blurb. You get the picture.

For those who worry about saving the trees—not as big a problem in Maine as elsewhere—I mitigate the negative aspects of making so many printouts by printing as much as possible on the backs of printed pages I no longer need to keep. Only when both sides have been used does anything go in the recycled paper bin at the dump.

file cabinet now filled ONLY with files on individual writing projects

Every time I’ve weeded my research files, I’ve ended up with a stack of one-side-blank paper. I still had more to weed when I made arrangements to donate numerous items in my “author estate” to the Maine Women Writers Collection at the University of New England. (See the blog I wrote a few months ago on that subject by clicking here: https://mainecrimewriters.com/2023/05/15/your-heirs-will-thank-you/ ). This advance planning meant I needed to go through everything relevant to inventory what the donation will include and where various items are located (so my heirs can find them!). “Everything” included a mass of paperwork. Now that I’m not writing any new books in my two series or any more historical novels, I no longer need all those folders full of notes on random subjects as varied as Celtic weddings, pythons, and travel times in the 16th century. I hadn’t even glanced at most of them for years. They were just taking up space.

Among the 8½”x11″ pages still available to be relegated to the “recycle at the dump” or “recycle to use the back” piles were research, copies of old e-mails, cover letters to editors from the days when I copy edits were exchanged by snail mail, and multiple printouts of manuscripts at various stages in their creation. There’s no point in keeping all the versions of every book, not even under the guise of an author estate. A couple of examples of how a book evolves should suffice.

At the end of the inventory process, I had a new stack of pages with blank sides sitting next to my printer. It was well over a foot high. The photo shows only part of the pile, about a third of what accumulated. The rest has been moved into one of the file drawers. Thanks to all my weeding, I actually ended up with a bit of empty storage space.

Question for folks reading this: am I the only one who still prints out everything I might need to refer back to? For the record, I make multiple electronic back-ups, too, although I will never be able to bring myself to completely trust “the cloud.”


Kathy Lynn Emerson’s newest book is Death of an Intelligence Gatherer. As Kathy, and as Kaitlyn Dunnett, she has had sixty-four books traditionally published and has self published others. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. In 2023 she won the Lea Wait Award for “excellence and achievement” from the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. She is currently working on creating new omnibus e-book editions of her backlist titles. Her website is www.KathyLynnEmerson.com.


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7 Responses to Weeding

  1. John Clark says:

    I’m a print miser but have an abundance of external and thumb drives where I store things. If I have a new work in progress, or recently completed, I email it to myself since gmail gives me a ton of storage.

    • kaitlynkathy says:

      Yeah, I have multiple back ups too, both flash drives and hard drive, but I can’t quite bring myself to trust that they really have everything safely stored. I can SEE what’s on paper copies. Guess I’m just an old-fashioned girl.

  2. Kay Garrett says:

    I understand completely. It’s kind of like them continually asking me if I want electronic bills. My answer is always no. Why should I be out the ink and trouble to print it? I’m old school and want the printed copy to go along with the receipts I have that correspond to the statement. You know those receipts they always ask you if you want. Why wouldn’t I want a receipt to keep up with how much money I’ve spent? However, it seems most folks don’t. That’s ok, I’ll just stay old school and ask for my receipt and print out what I need for both business and personal reasons.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  3. Julianne Spreng says:

    If it’s not printed on paper I can rarely find it electronically. I always print and use both sides although this current copier can be finicky about which paper it will accept for second side reuse. Programs change Search engines change. Paper is accessible.

  4. kaitcarson says:

    Printer person here! I have a printer left from when I worked from home for the law firm that prints on both sides. I don’t print many emails, most of those do not need to be kept, but I do print all of my blogs, drafts, etc. I use the printed pages to make edits when my computer reads to me, and I’m not really sure a book or story is finished unless I hold it in my hand and put it in a file folder! I also print most of my research and outlines, and, of course, all of this information is online, on dropbox, and on my external drive. Whew!

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