Janet Smart Presents her Middle Grade Historical Novel DUCK AND COVER.

Today I am pleased to present the fourth installment in my historical research series with this entry by middle grade author Janet Smart who discusses the research she did for her debut novel DUCK AND COVER. Here’s Janet:

Historical fiction books take readers back in time. They take you back hundreds and thousands of years or as little as fifty. My MG book, Duck and Cover, transports readers back to the fall of 1962. Many baby boomers remember where they were during the Cuban Missile Crisis and remember the early years of our space race to the moon with the Russians. But many young people today don’t not know much about that time period. I searched and not many books are written about that frightful time in 1962.

For many years I had this vague memory from when I was very young. We were visiting my aunt’s house and people were crying and saying the world was coming to an end. I finally realized what the memory was about – the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I decided to write a book about it.

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Aside from the memories told to me by relatives, I did a lot of research. I mention in my book about the pamphlet the main character, Teddy, found in their cellar titled, in time of EMERGENCY a citizen’s handbook on NUCLEAR ATTACK and NATURAL DISASTERS. I have that booklet. I looked up the timeline of October in 1962 during which most of my book takes place. I looked up 1962 calendars to make sure I got all the days right and researched the speeches President Kennedy gave.

In addition to the historical facts, I also researched food, songs, clothing, and other cultural trends of that time period. The book isn’t all serious; the characters are like all kids and enjoyed Halloween after the threat was over and listened to the song Monster Mash on their transistor radios. They ate tuna casserole with crushed potato chips on top, which was popular in the 60s, and they eavesdropped in on people’s conversations on the telephone party line, something that kids today know nothing about.

The main character’s best friend, Melvin, had polio when he was a toddler. It left him with a limp. During the early 1950s, when he was born, polio was widespread in the country.

Historical fiction books need to get the facts right and at the same time make the story interesting, and not boring, for the reader. If you can do that, you have succeeded.

History books tell you when and where the Cuban Missile Crisis happened. My historical fiction reveals how kids felt when they ducked under their desks during a duck and cover drill, how they felt when they went to bed after listening to President Kennedy’s speech, and their fear when they saw a shooting star and wondered if it was what a Russian missile would look like soaring through the sky.

You can check out the trailer for Duck and Cover on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bJTus-T5Vk&t=36s

https://www.amazon.com/Janet-F-Smart/e/B00LX7ERE4/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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Janet Smart lives just down the road from the small town of Ripley, WV. She is the mother of three grown boys and loves writing for children. She wrote a children’s column in the regional magazine, Two Lane Livin’ for 8 years and is the author of Fun Through the Seasons: Recipes, Crafts and Fun Facts for Kids, and the historical fiction Duck and Cover (Saguaro Books). She also has written a cookbook titled, Cooking with Family: Recipes and Remembrances. You can visit her website at Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch or connect with her on Facebook, @JanetFSmart on Twitter, or on Pinterest.

http://creativewritingintheblackberrypatch.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/wvsmarties

https://www.pinterest.com/wvjan54/

Buy Fun Through the Seasons on Amazon
Click here to buy Duck and Cover on Amazon

 

 

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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/.

 

 

Historical Fiction: The Devil Is In the Details by Marilyn Ostermiller

Earlier this month Marilyn Ostermiller gave us a wonderful post with some tips on how she conducts research when writing historical fiction.  Here she is with part two of that process:

THE GREAT ALONE, and WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, two of 2018’s most popular historical novels, take readers back in time to 1974 and the 1950s, respectively.

The characters in historical fiction can be imaginary, but the world they inhabit must be based on the reality of a particular time and place.“The devil is in the details” is an appropriate idiom to describe this writing process.

Writers who carry it off, research every aspect of when and where the story takes place, from dialect to popular foods and the endless minutia of daily living.

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Author Kristin Hannah was well-acquainted with Alaska’s wilderness, before she wrote THE GREAT ALONE, which received the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction of 2018. She tells the story of a Vietnam veteran, who returns home emotionally unstable, a violent threat to his wife and daughter. Hannah knew the area from her childhood. Her parents went to Alaska in the 1970s for adventure, fell in love with the state and started a business there. kristenhannah.com

 

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Likewise, Delia Owens set WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING where she grew up, the rural South during the 1950s. Her main character is an illiterate 10-year-old girl, who must fend for herself in the North Carolina marshes after her mother, and then her father, abandon her. Owens also drew on her experiences as a wildlife scientist, in Africa, and the U.S. deliaowens.com

 

Authors who write historical fiction don’t need to rely on personal experience, but are more likely to tell an engaging story if they set it in interesting times. That might explain all the action- packed, emotionally charged novels set during times of social upheaval, such as war. World-building for them begins with maps, history books, news accounts and such memorabilia as personal letters, scrapbooks, matchbooks, diaries and old photos.

A photo that guided me through the first chapter of a children’s book I’m writing helped me visualize what it would have been like, during the Great Depression, to be caught in a bank panic, desperate to worm your way through a jam-packed crowd to lay claim to your life savings. A black and white photo, that captured the intensity of the moment, showed dozens of people,  jostling together, all intent on surging past a guard into the bank.    bank_run_on_american_union_bankPhoto credit: National Archive

Memorabilia and souvenirs are ripe sources for historical fiction. I remain intrigued by a World War II-era menu my mother saved from a restaurant in Shreveport, La. She was visiting my father, an Army soldier poised to ship out to Italy. For her, the menu was a romantic memento. For me, as a writer, I see a young couple with an uncertain future, about to be separated by a war being fought an ocean away, and I wonder what they said and what they were thinking. That’s where historic fiction begins. b49bb3fb-45d9-4252-a2f0-23f464d866f0

What’s in your attic with the power to evoke a story from the distant past? So many  stories are just waiting to be uncovered. Please share your comments and some of your favorite historical fiction books.

Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who has expanded into children’s literature. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne

 

 

 

 

Time Travel With Historical Fiction: by Marilyn Ostermiller

Harper Lee’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was recently voted America’s best loved novel in a competition sponsored by the Public Broadcasting System.

            Published in 1960, “Mockingbird,” harkened back to a racially-motivated incident in a small Alabama town in 1936.

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Classic historical fiction tugs at our hearts and can motivate us long after we’ve turned the last page. Miss Lee immersed readers in a previous time and place to such an extent, that book has been credited with helping fuel the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

            Who doesn’t remember how a desperate Scarlet O’Hara tore down the green velvet drapes in the parlor at Civil War-ravished Tara, to sew them into a dress she hoped would entice a bank officer into giving her a loan? Or, when George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” stopped a run on the bank in the 1930s, by cajoling customers into withdrawing only as much money as they absolutely needed?

Getting the details right requires meticulous research of authors. I’m writing a historical novel about a 12-year-old girl, who vows to win the 1932 National Spelling Bee, to prove she’s the best speller in America. The idea came to me when I visited the official site of The National Spelling Bee, www.spellingbee.com. I discovered, that in the midst of The Great Depression, ordinary kids were competing to win a bag full of gold coins, worth the equivalent of about $60,000 today.

That, in turn, led me to wonder who these kids were and what words the finalists spelled. That directed me to archived newspaper articles reporting on the finals of the 1932 National Spelling Bee. I learned the national championship was held in the National Museum in Washington, D.C. The first thing visitors saw, in the lobby, were glass cases of life-size, stuffed animals, some of them reputed to have been shot by President Theodore Roosevelt while on safari in Africa.

With the help of the Smithsonian’s archives, I’ve been able to describe what it was like for those kids, who ranged in age between 8 and 13 years old, to approach the microphone on that stage, take a deep breath and spell their words in front of an audience of more than 100 people. The winning word that year was “invulnerable.” It was spelled by Dorothy Greenwald, who took the grand prize back home to Des Moines, Iowa.

            Historical fiction transports us back in time, but as with many things in life, the devil is in the details.

Next month: The second post in this series on researching historical fiction will delve into which details are most likely to resonate with readers.

Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time professional journalist, who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

 

 

Book Giveaway:A Blast from the Past Inspires a Tween Novel For Author Mary Zisk.

Following up on the blog post about my middle grade novel, The Art of  Being Remmy, [link: https://darlenebeckjacobson.wordpress.com/2018/11/08/author-illustrator-mary-zisk-presents-the-art-behind-the-art-of-being-remmy/] Darlene and I would like to offer a hardcover signed copy to one lucky reader. See giveaway instructions at the end of this post.

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 It often happens that a memorable event in an author’s life can inspire an entire novel. For me, that event happened in 1964, when I was a Beatlemanical thirteen year old. I entered a Draw-the-Beatles contest sponsored by WABC Radio in New York City and became one of the winners of tickets to see The Fab Four in concert! Not only did my artwork transport me to an electrifying concert of nonstop screaming, that thrill confirmed my destiny that I would always be an artist.

Decades later, I channeled my tween self and wrote a middle grade novel triggered by that concert. Ultimately, the concert became the climax event that pulled together a fictionalized plot about a girl who fights to overcome rules imposed on females in mid-1960s society. 12-year-old Remmy Rinaldi pursues her dream to be an artist in spite of her father’s strong objections, the taunts of a boy rival, and the threat of losing her best friend to a rat fink.

As the novel evolved, I decided to change the historical period from 1964 to 1965, which meant that the concert moved from the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium to the more famous concert at Shea Stadium. But I still used my impressions and emotions from my 1964 concert:

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Ed Sullivan steps onto the stage and we scream, knowing why he is here. He yells something about “The Queen” and “America” and then “Here are THE BEATLES!!!!”

I didn’t think it could be possible, but the screams get even louder as the Beatles—the ACTUAL BEATLES—run out to the second base stage and everyone jumps to their feet.

… The Beatles sing and rock and strum and dance so it looks like they’re making music. We bounce and clap to what we think is the music. But it’s impossible to hear anything over the nonstop screams…

But hey, it doesn’t matter. The Beatles are here and my friend and I are here. We are all sharing the same steamy August night, and breathing the same hot air, and seeing the same stars, and hearing the music and screaming collide. I’ll never forget this. Ever.

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The Beatles in concert at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in August 1964

And I never did forget that night.

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Do you have a childhood event that defined your life or set you on a lifetime path? Do you have a childhood memory that you will always treasure in your heart?

Tell us about it.  Leave that memory in the comments section, and you’ll be eligible to win a hardcover, signed copy of The Art of Being Remmy. Good luck! One lucky winner will be drawn at random and announced here on December 27.

 

Links:

http://www.maryzisk.com/the-art-of-being-remmy.html

https://www.facebook.com/artofremmy/

 

 

 

Author Kathleen Burkinshaw With a Discussion Guide for THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM.

One of the most timely and heart-wrenching middle-grade books I’ve recently read is THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM by Kathleen Burkinshaw.  It is my pleasure to feature the Discussion Guide for this book that should be in every classroom.

 

THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM       

Discussion Guide: By Kathleen Burkinshaw

1.Do you have relatives who were teens during WWII in the U.S.?  What were there worries or fears at that time? Were they similar to what the Japanese children felt? If different, how were they different?

2.Did you or someone you know have to deal with a new step family.  Was it difficult to meld the two households together? What made it easier? Did anything that made it easier surprise you?

  1. Yuriko, like many of us, hated change. How would you have handled the news about her family secrets, if it happened to you?
  2. Why do you think the author chose THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM for her title? What do you think it signifies?
  3. Cite specific examples from the book that show how protective Yuriko was of her Papa. Why do you think Sumiyo came to mean so much to Yuriko? How or when does this change occur?
  4. What aspects of Japanese culture were revealed in THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM?
  5. Which cultural details interested you the most? Which details surprised you the most of life in Japan during the war?
  6. How do you think the time period that THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM took place influenced Yuriko’s personality?

9.What did you know about Hiroshima Japan during WWII, before reading THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM?

10.Does reading THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM change your view on using nuclear weapons in the future? Why or Why not?

11.List the Statistics of Hiroshima and state which surprised you the most? Which surprised you the least? Why?

Kathleen Burkinshaw would love to hear from you. You can email her through her contact page on her website: http://kathleenburkinshaw.com/#contact

For more information on what nuclear weapons could do if used today visit:

www.ICAN.org

Also, for more information on Hiroshima bombing please visit the Kids Peace Station of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum:

http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/kids/KPSH_E/top_e.html

Instruction on how to make an origami crane, now a symbol of hope and peace:

http://www.origamiway.com/origami-crane.shtml

revised 9/2017

Teachers: Need MG Historical Fiction? I’ve Got The Book.

Welcome to the first in a series of BOOKS TEACHERS CAN USE IN THE CLASSROOM.  Over the next several weeks I hope to feature a variety of children’s authors whose books can be used to enhance the curriculum in the classroom.  By providing teacher resources such as curriculum guides, activity sheets and vocabulary lists, teachers will have an easy way to bring more books into the classroom for enhancing the curriculum or getting kids interested in independent reading.

The first book featured is an MG historical fiction selection that happens to be my own book,WHEELS OF CHANGE (WOC) – Creston Books 2014.   Many teachers in classes I’ve visited have said they are doing historical fiction units as part of their reading/writing curriculum. If that’s you , or a teacher you know, WOC MAY BE JUST WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR.  If you know a classroom teacher in 3rd through 6th grade, share this post with them.  The book is a good Read Aloud for 3rd and 4th grades, and can be used for silent reading and discussion with older students.

Here’s a brief description:

Racial intolerance, social change, sweeping progress. It is a turbulent time growing up in 1908. For twelve year old EMILY SOPER, life in Papa’s carriage barn is magic. Emily is more at home hearing the symphony of the blacksmith’s hammer, than trying to conform to the proper expectations of females. Many prominent people own Papa’s carriages. He receives an order to make one for President Theodore Roosevelt. Papa’s livelihood becomes threatened by racist neighbors, and horsepower of a different sort.  Emily is determined to save Papa’s business even if she has to go all the way to the President.

The book has a downloadable CURRICULUM GUIDE for the second wave of the Industrial Revolution, CORE CONTENT study questions, VOCABULARY LISTS, as well as other supplemental materials for use in the classroom.   The book also lends itself to discussion of segregation after the Civil War, Women’s Suffrage and the roles of males and females in early 1900’s:  http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com/teachers.htm

I am offering a FREE SKYPE  VISIT to teachers who use the book in their classrooms and post a review of it on Amazon to share with other teachers/librarians.  I will also give away one  signed copy.  To enter the drawing for this give-away, leave a comment regarding how you would use the book in your classroom.

WHEELS OF CHANGE is a National Council of Social Studies Notable Trade Book and won Honorable Mention from the Grateful American Book Prize in 2015.

Stay tuned to this blog for more teacher-friendly selections in the weeks to come.