Getting Lost in Research Land by Rosi Hollinbeck.

Welcome to part three of an ongoing series of posts about how authors conduct research for their books. Today it is my pleasure to have ROSI HOLLINBECK talk about her research for an MG she is writing.

If you write historical fiction, you know research will be a big part of what you do if you are going to do it well. Research is actually one of the things I like best about writing historical fiction. It is so much fun to learn about everyday life in a particular period I haven’t experienced and to find fun bits of history to drop into my story and make it come to life. But where to begin and how to go about doing the research is the dilemma. All writers need to develop methods that will work for them and help them dig for the historical gold.

One thing editors never want to see in a bibliography is the word Wikipedia. After all, just about anyone can get into a Wikipedia article and add to it or change what is there, so they can be a bit unreliable. That said, Wikipedia is where I always begin. Not because I think I will be able to take facts from the articles and use them, but because when you scroll all the way to the end of the article, you will find a pretty comprehensive bibliography. That is the place to begin. Look through the list and find good adult books by respected authors, the more recent the better. I once wrote an article on spec for a children’s magazine for which I used a book that had been printed in the 1970s. I later heard the editor who had turned the article down speak to a group, and she complained that she had no articles on that particular topic in her inventory and really wanted some. I spoke to her after and mentioned I had sent such an article. She remembered it and told me the sources I had used were too old. The main source I had used was an excellent adult book with the same focus as the article. I hopped on line and found the author of that book had revised and published a much later edition. I polished up the article and listed the later edition. This time the editor took the article to acquisitions!

This doesn’t mean you should never look at older sources. I am working on something right now where I am using books published in the 1920s, but one is the published diaries of my subject and the other is a book written by the subject’s sister about her famous brother. Diaries, letters, and biographical writings by family members are terrific sources no matter how long ago they were published. Also, even though I said to look for good adult books, don’t overlook good children’s nonfiction books as they might well have good bibliographies that will lead you to other sources. If you use a book you don’t own, copy the title page, the copyright page, and every page on which you found pertinent information and file those.

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Look for newspaper and magazine articles in the Wikipedia list. You can access most articles through on-line services where you can not only read the articles but print copies out for your records. It is a lot easier to go back to an article you have printed out and filed than to go back to the on-line service and look it up again. You want to keep records of every source you use. You will need to have that information when you try to sell your book or article. There are some good on-line services that are free. The Library of Congress: https://loc.gov/ is a good place to start. Some of the on-line services are quite expensive, but you will probably be able to access them through a library. My public library has some services I can use from home by putting in my card number. Some I have had to use at the library of a local university. Make friends with the librarians. They love to help people find things and will lead you to discover even more and better information.

Check the bibliographies of any source you use. These might lead you to better, more specific sources. If you run across a section in a book that is very specific to what you want, check the end notes to see where that author got their information.

If there are people still around from the time period about which you are writing, contact them and see if you can interview them. If your story is set in Medieval England, you are out of luck, but if your story is about surviving the Dustbowl in Oklahoma, you might just be able to talk to someone who did. Don’t be shy. Ask if you can chat about old times. Chances are you will find a real treasure. Make sure to ask if you can record your conversation. While you are talking to them, ask if they have any family diaries or letters that might help in your research. It never hurts to ask, and you never know what you will uncover.

Ask a college professor who specializes in the area of your subject or write to an author who has written about your subject. Most of these folks love to talk about their special subject and can fill you in with lots of information and lead you to other sources that will be helpful to you.

You can get some great sources cheaply. My historical novel is set in 1926. I was able to buy some helpful CDs on line. One is a 1925 Sears catalogue. Did you know Sears sold food? I was able to find out the prices clothing, food, hardware, tools, camping gear, etc. from that. My character is a boy scout and refers to his Boy Scout Manual many times. Since he is pretty poor, he doesn’t have a new one. I was able to get a 1914 scout manual on a CD for a few dollars. I bought a 1926 Farmer’s Almanac that even helped me get the phases of the moon correct in several scenes. And the 1925 Columbian Atlas I found on Amazon helped me get the routes of roads and trains right. If your character talks about the 1926 World Series, as mine does, you had better know who was in it, who won the games, and what the scores were. It’s all on line. Trust me. If you don’t get those details right, someone will complain!

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There are many books available on the craft of writing and some have good sections on research. My go-to book when it comes to research is Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children by Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas. It has two chapters on research that are chock full of great tips. It’s a very accessible book and will help you be a better writer whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction.

Don’t forget to get back to your writing! Sometimes I have so much fun doing the research that I get lost in Research Land and forget to work on my own writing for days and days.

 

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Rosi Hollinbeck writes mostly for children — fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Her work has been published in Highlights, Highlights High Five, and Humpty Dumpty magazines, The Noyo River Review, and some anthologies. She has a middle-grade historical novel, a contemporary YA novel, and some picture book manuscripts out on submission. She also writes book reviews specializing in children’s books for the San Francisco Book Review, the Manhattan Book Review, the Tulsa Book Review and for her own blog which you can find at https://rosihollinbeck.com/blog/.

 

 

Snow Birds by Shiela Fuller.

Although spring is around the corner, I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity to share a post from my wildlife expert and children’s book author friend Shiela Fuller. Here is her post on the wonderful winter bird the junco.

Nothing marks the onset of winter bird feeding for bird watchers in the northeastern US like the arrival of the dark eyed junco or “snow bird”.  In late October or early November, these tiny ground feeding birds flock to their northern homes. There are many variations of juncos found throughout the United States but in the eastern part of the U.S., dark eyed juncos are common.  The snow birds have a grey body and a white belly with tips of white on the edge of their tail feathers— visible during flight and sometimes as they’re feeding.

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If you took down your bird feeders last summer, it’s time to put them back up.  Dark eyed juncos are especially noticeable foraging on the ground under the feeders looking for fallen seeds.    After a freshly fallen snow, you may notice that there are more hungry juncos than usual.  Sweep some snow away from under the feeder, and perhaps toss a few extra seeds there, just for the ground feeders.

Watch the feeders all winter long and take note to when the juncos leave.  Mark it down on a calendar.   Do the same with their arrival in autumn.   You will be amazed at the precision in timing of arrivals and departures when comparing year to year.  Compiling and comparing data is the nurturing of a future birdwatcher, scientist, or bird biologist.

Cornell University’s program, Project Feeder Watch is a great way to learn the birds at your feeder. For a nominal fee they send you all the paperwork and instructions to begin your citizen scientist adventure.  https://feederwatch.org/    Winter fun for everyone.

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/dark-eyed-juncohttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark-eyed_junco

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/dark-eyed-junco

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Shiela Fuller is author of All Night Singing published by Schoolwide (2015).

 

Jeffry W. Johnston, YA Author Presents: FOLLOWING, his new release.

Today it is my pleasure to host a fellow KidLit  Author’s Club author Jeffry W. Johnston, who just released his latest mystery/thriller titled FOLLOWING (Sourcebooks Fire).

Following cover

“A twisty mystery” – Kirkus Reviews
“Moving and authentic” – Publisher’s Weekly
“Students that love a good mystery will enjoy this book” – School Library Connection
“A slow burn thriller that veers in surprising directions, with a final twist no one will see coming” – Booklist

Here is a link to the entire Publishers Weekly review   https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4926-6461-1

Daily Times photo

Other books by Jeffry W. Johnston:

THE TRUTH, from Sourcebooks Fire
2017 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
2017 In the Margins Book Award winner
“A tough, fast, twisty brawler of a book” – Booklist
“Recommended for readers who enjoy edgy thrillers” – School Library Journal
“This captivating thriller keeps the pacing fast, the tension high, and the emotions raw.” – Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

FRAGMENTS, from Simon Pulse,
2008 Edgar nominee for Best Young Adult Mystery
2008 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
“This novel will keep teens reading to the very last page.” – Booklist, Editor’s Choice, Great Read.

Jeffry W. Johnston is the author of the Edgar-nominated Fragments and the In The Margins Book award winner The Truth. Both were YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers selections. He also writes freelance articles on numerous subjects, including film and television. He writes music, plays guitar and sings in a band, and loves movies, reading, baseball (he has always been and always will be a Phillies fan), and bingeing entire TV series. He lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife and, when he’s home from college, their son.

http://www.jeffrywjohnston.com

Kindness: How Can You Make a Difference?

In a world where we are bombarded by mean words, negative news, and depressing events, it sometimes feels like kindness is hard to find.

Sunday, 2-17-19 is RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS DAY. This is a day set aside to reflect on how we might be kind to our fellow man. Buy the person standing in line behind you  a cup of coffee. Pay the toll of the person behind you. Give a piece of chocolate to the woman who greets you so warmly at the gym. Let the “other” person have the parking spot closer to the store. You get the idea.

There are so many ways we can show kindness to others. Many of us do kind things every day. But, why not make an effort to really ramp up the kind quotient on Sunday and see how good it makes you feel. When we pass on acts of kindness, it changes the giver as well as the receiver.

For those who want to take kindness to another level, read below.

If you had $1,000.00 to spend, how would you use it to benefit your neighborhood or community?  Entrepreneur Ari Nessel of THE POLLINATION PROJECT, will grant  awards of $1,000.00 each to individuals who want to make a difference. You can apply for one of these awards at: http://www.thepollinationproject.org.

Here is a perfect opportunity to do something lasting for your neighbors, friends or town.  Pass it on. May kindness follow you wherever you go.

Make Valentine Treat Bags For Your Favorite Valentine.

This is one of those easy craft projects I saw in a magazine and instantly did a forehead slap – why hadn’t I thought of this? If you and your kiddos want a clever way to say “I Love You” for Valentine’s Day, make some of these HEART ENVELOPES to put a sweet treat into.  All you need are construction paper or doilies, scissors and glue. Just follow the photo instructions and you’re all set!

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Glue the seams together like in the photo below.

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Don’t be limited using just one color or paper style. Try lining the envelopes with tissue paper or doilies for a fancier, Victorian effect:

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If you’re looking for some perfect picture books with a Velantine’s Day tie-in, here are two of my favorites:

LOVE IS KIND by Laura Sassi  Love Is Kind by [Sassi, Laura]

 

SEALED WITH A KISS by Beth Ferry  Sealed with a Kiss

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Winner of PB Critique From Vivian Kirkfield.

On January 28, I had the pleasure of hosting PB Author Vivian Kirkfield as she talked about the collaboration that took place between author/illustrator for her upcoming picture books. Vivian was gracious enough to give away ONE critique to a random person who left a comment. SEVENTY-ONE  comments later (it has been the most popular post on my blog to date), I am happy to announce the winner:

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Congratulations, JODIE PARACHINI. Please send Vivian your email address so she can be in touch with you.

Thank you Vivian, and all you wonderful writers out there who responded  with warmth and enthusiasm to Vivian’s success. She’s an inspiration to us all!

“Oink, Oink”…Celebrate the Year of the Pig.

Tomorrow is the Chinese New Year of the Pig. You and your family can join in the celebration by learning a few fun facts about this amazing animal.

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  • Pigs are intelligent animals. Don’t believe me? Watch some episodes of that sit-com from the 1960’s GREEN ACRES where Arnold the pig turns on and watches the TV.
  • Like humans, pigs are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and other animals.
  • A pig’s snout is an important tool for finding food in the ground and sensing the world around them.
  • Pigs have an excellent sense of smell.
  • There are around 2 billion pigs in the world.
  • Pigs can run at speeds of up to 11mph, the equivalent of a seven-minute mile.
  • Pigs communicate constantly with more than 20 different vocalizations.
  • Studies have found that, just like humans, PIGS DREAM!
  • Pigs can squeal louder than a super-sonic jet!

pig  “WHO, ME?”

To learn more about these delightful creatures, visit the following websites:

http://thepigsite.com/articles/10-surprising-facts-about-pigs

https://www.reference.com/pets-animals/fun-pigs-kids-910864b9a2dc152d

You can also make some PIG PUPPETS with paper bags and some scrap construction paper. Just follow the pattern below.

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So, why not “get your squeal on” and enjoy a DAY MADE FOR PIGS!