Marilyn Ostermiller Presents: Recipes That Stood the Test of Time Part 2.

When my Great Grandma Caroline learned to bake as a child in Denmark during the 1860s, her specialty was Danish Cookies. She’d grab a couple handfuls of sugar, add heaping scoops of lard, an egg and cream it all together with a wooden spoon, before she tossed in a several handfuls of flour, pinches of baking powder, cream of tartar, salt and a few drops of vanilla.

I never met Great Grandma Caroline — she passed away before I was born — but every December, I roll her sweet, rich dough into balls the size of shooter marbles for a Christmas Eve treat.

I love following in her culinary footsteps, something I couldn’t do without my aunt’s foresight.
Aunt Helen sat down with Great Grandma and a set of measuring cups and spoons, pen and paper. When Caroline grabbed just enough lard, Helen asked her put it in a measuring cup. She repeated that with each ingredient to capture the recipe for posterity.

***
Danish Cookies
1 cup granulated sugar    2 cups flour                1 cup butter            1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg                1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla            1/2 tsp. salt    

Cream sugar and butter. Add egg and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients. Chill the dough for about 30 minutes. Roll out the dough into small balls, flatten with a fork and sprinkle with nonpareils. Bake at 350 degrees 10-15 minutes.

recipe-box
Handing down favored family recipes is a time-honored tradition around the world. Some families gather every Sunday night to feast on Nonna’s tomato sauce and meatballs. For other families, a bowl of Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup is guaranteed to chase away a cold or sore throat. And, in another time-honored tradition, some cooks add a different ingredient or leave out one when someone asks for their recipe. I substitute butter for lard, when I make Great Grandma’s cookies.

Another factor that brought more recipes into our homes over the years was the popularity of packaged foods imprinted with a recipe on the back of the box.

cookbook

“The Back of the Box Gourmet,” written by Michael McLaughlin, is a compendium of dozens of recipes from packaged foods, ranging from “Lipton California Onion Dip” to the “Classic Green Bean Bake,” starring Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup. It’s a recipe I’m quite familiar with because my husband gets nostalgic for it every year around Thanksgiving. I bought that cookbook years ago because it has page after page of favorite foods from my childhood. My all-time favorite is the recipe on the back of Marshmallow Fluff jars for “Never-Fail Fudge.” https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1933069.Back_of_the_Box_Gourmet. How sweet it is!

What “Back of the Box” recipes are your favorite?

Marilyn Ostermiller
Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who delights in cooking, baking and sharing recipes.

Advertisements

Researching Historical Characters: They Tell You Who They Are: by Dianne K Salerni

Today it is my pleasure to bring readers another installment in my posts on historical research. In this 6th article, YA and MG novelist and fellow Kid Lit Author’s Club member, Dianne K Salerni, will talk about researching historical characters. Here’s Dianne:

The very best thing about writing a book with real, historical characters is that you get to skip the process of building their personality from scratch: their strengths and weaknesses and emotional wounds. Historical characters tell you who they are through their letters and other writings. When I wrote about the romance of spirit medium Maggie Fox and Arctic explorer Elisha Kent Kane in We Hear the Dead, I had years of their love letters to draw upon.

Researching my upcoming novel, The Roosevelt Ghosts, I had not only letters to guide me, but also the autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (who was born a Roosevelt long before she married her fifth cousin, Franklin). Eleanor’s first cousin Alice, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, was so much a fixture of Washington D.C. for her 96 years that she was known as “the other Washington Monument” and left untold writings and interviews behind.

Eleanor’s primary emotional wound isn’t hard to identify. She spells it out pretty plainly in her autobiography: My mother was always a little troubled about my lack of beauty, and I knew it, as a child senses those things. I can remember standing in the door, often with a finger in my mouth, and I can see the look in her eyes and hear the tone of her voice as she said, “Come in, Granny.” If a visitor was there, she might turn and say, “She is such a funny child, so old-fashioned that we always call her Granny.” I wanted to sink through the floor in shame.

It is reported in multiple sources that Eleanor’s mother, Anna Hall Roosevelt, spoke quite harshly to her young daughter. You have no looks, so see to it that you have manners.

Eleanor

Eleanor was orphaned at the age of eight, losing her mother and one of her brothers to diphtheria and her father to the effects of alcoholism. Thereafter, she lived with her oppressive maternal grandmother, who ran an austere household and dressed Eleanor in made-over garments that left her sadly out of place among her peers. Her cousin, Corinne Robinson, commented (in regards to a dance when they were both young teens): No one, young or old, wore very short skirts in those days, even for sports, but her grandmother bought her a dress that could have been for a five-year-old. A friend of Corinne’s remarked, more bluntly, that Eleanor was a living freak.

Teens are cruel, but so, apparently are adults. Edith Roosevelt, Theodore’s second wife and Alice’s step-mother was as snide as they come. Eleanor has been here too – poor little soul; she is very plain. Her mouth and teeth seem to have no future. She was also a master of the side-slander. I got Alice a beautiful dress at Stern’s, dark large plaid with navy blue velour, but how much do you think it cost? Forty-two dollars. Alice is a child who needs good clothes and would look quite forlorn as Eleanor in makeshifts.

Only Alice defended Eleanor’s physical appearance: She was always making herself out to be an ugly duckling, but she was really rather attractive. Tall, rather coltish-looking, with masses of pale, gold hair rippling to below her waist, and really lovely blue eyes. It’s true that her chin went in a bit, which wouldn’t have been noticeable if only her hateful grandmother had fixed her teeth.

Alice, meanwhile, had her own emotional wounds. Her mother died shortly after her birth, and her father abandoned her to the care of an aunt while he ran off to the Dakotas to assuage his grief. Theodore refused to call his daughter by the name she shared with her mother, and when he married Edith, his childhood sweetheart, Alice felt that she became even more of a burden. My father obviously didn’t want the symbol of his infidelity around. His two infidelities, in fact: infidelity to my stepmother by marrying my mother first, and to my mother by going back to my stepmother after she died.

Alice

It was no wonder that Alice acted out in response to this domestic drama. As she got older and attempted, more and more dramatically, to capture her father’s attention, she alienated everyone in her immediate family.

Edith referred to her as a guttersnipe. One of Edith’s friends described her like a young wild animal that had been put into good clothes. Alice’s own half-sister, Ethel, said she was a hellion, …capable of doing almost anything to anyone at any time. When Alice was sent away, at age fourteen, to live with her aunt in New York because her family in Washington couldn’t stand her, Edith made sure Alice knew where she stood, remarking that Alice’s first letter home was so sweet, the family thought it must have been done by (your cousin) Helen.

Ultimately, I had little character-building to do at all. It was only left to me to construct the ghost that would bring these two cousins, similarly-rejected but with opposite personalities, together.

Salerni Head Shot

DIANNE K. SALERNI is the author of the The Eighth Day fantasy series and historical novels, The Caged Graves, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and We Hear the Dead. Her next book, The Roosevelt Ghosts, featuring young cousins Eleanor and Alice Roosevelt and a vengeful ghost, will be released in the fall of 2020 by Holiday House.

Dianne K. Salerni
Author of Middle Grade and YA Fiction

  • The Roosevelt Ghosts (Holiday House) ~ coming Fall 2020
  • The Eighth Day (HarperCollins) ~Minnesota Young Readers Award Nominee 2017-2018, Young Hoosiers Book Award Nominee 2017-2018, Virginia Readers Choice Nominee 2016-2017, Tome Society It List 2016-2017
  • The Caged Graves (Clarion/HMH) ~Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Nominee 2016-2017
  • The Inquisitor’s Mark (HarperCollins)
  • The Morrigan’s Curse (HarperCollins)
  • We Hear the Dead (Sourcebooks)

 

MG Author Malayna Evans Presents her Debut Novel:Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh + Win A Free Copy.

My inspiration for Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh: by Malayna Evans

COVER

When my oldest son was nine years old (he’s now sixteen and 6’2”!), he asked me over lunch at my favorite coffee shop what ancient Egyptians looked like. I’m a pretty legit person to ask about that: I spent too many years (and way too many dollars) earning my Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history. When I told my beautiful, biracial son he’d fit in well, he told me someone should write a book about a kid who looked like him lost in ancient Egypt. I added the sassy little sister, also much like his, and, voila, I had an idea and two South Side Chicago protagonists. He and I wrote chapter one that very afternoon. (Okay, that chapter one is long gone … but the inspiration is still there.)

Three things to know about Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh (Month9Books):

ankh-cover

  1. The magic and oversized crocs and scorpions are fake, but the history is real. Well, much of it anyway. The setting, the main ancient Egyptian characters, even the artifacts and sections of magic spells are attested, as is the weird period of time—that Amarna Period—when the pharaoh tried to replace the old gods and goddesses with his favorite deity, the sun disk (Aten).

 

  1. Two real bits of history helped me shape the plot. One was a tomb from this period that features the second Amarna princess, Meketaten, who died young. (I needed a mummy, after all). And the second thing was a spell, which is usually written as three hieroglyphs right after a pharaoh’s name: ankh, wedja, seneb, which means (may you have) life, prosperity, and health. I figured exploring the meaning of life in book one was a pretty good theme. (I couldn’t save that princess–she really did die around this time–but saving her afterlife seemed like an emic spin on the age-old boy-saves-princess classic.)

 

  1. Absentee parents are hard. That doesn’t stop many kids from having to live with the situation. I wanted to explore that common problem as well. Jagger’s (barely existent) relationship with his father isn’t central to the plot, but it is key to Jagger’s personal growth, and perhaps also informs his big brother over protectiveness.

Thanks for reading. I hope kids will enjoy the adventure and hardly notice all the history they’ll be soaking up on the way. You can grab Jagger’s story here: https://www.amazon.com/Jagger-Jones-Mummys-Malayna-Evans/dp/194867162X/

Here’s Darlene’s review of the book:

Although 13 year old Jagger Jones loves ancient history, he’d rather learn about it from the comfort of his own bedroom than the constant globe-trotting to which his mother subjects him and his younger sister Aria. The trio are on their way to Jagger’s favorite place – Egypt. When they check into their hotel Jagger is awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of someone calling his name, telling him to “Come”.

            Unable to stifle his curiosity, Jagger and Aria go outside into the Egyptian night to investigate. They discover an underground tomb and begin the adventure of a lifetime. Inside the tomb Jagger discovers the source of the voice – an Egyptian ankh – the symbol of life. When Aria touches the amulet, they are swept 3000 years back in time to Ancient Egypt.

            If Jagger doesn’t find some mysterious gemstones with magical properties, Mek, the sister of an Egyptian princess, will lose her soul and her chance at the afterlife. Jagger, Aria, and their entire family will also die and be wiped away from history as if they never existed. How can Jagger save the ancient princess and his own family? Why can’t he and Aria just go home?

            Readers will enjoy the action and details of ancient Egyptian history as they are swept up in the intrigue and magic of the Pharoahs and Egyptain Gods. They will also marvel at how the author mixes ancient magic with modern technology to affect the story’s outcome in clever and surprising ways. A quick, enjoyable read for any adventure loving kid.

 

Malayna is giving away a SIGNED COPY of her book JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY’S ANKH. Just leave a comment at the end of this post to be part of the random drawing. Winners will be announced on this blog on May 16, 2019.

 

Unknown[1]

Malayna Evans was raised in the mountains of Utah and spent her childhood climbing, skiing, reading Sci-Fi, and finding trouble. Many years later, she earned her Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history from the University of Chicago. She’s used her education to craft a time-travel series set in ancient Egypt. Book one, Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, is out in May of 2019. http://www.Month9Books.com

Malayna lives in Oak Park, IL, with her two kids, a rescue dog, and a hamster.  She’s considering adding chickens to the family.

 

 

Sandwiches That Stood the Test of Time, by Marilyn Ostermiller.

Here’s another post in my ongoing series about the various aspects and methods of conducting historical research when we write. This one, from my friend and frequent contributor to this blog, MARILYN OSTERMILLER, has a wonderfully unique twist: it’s about sandwiches of yesteryear.

“The greatest thing since sliced bread” is a saying that doesn’t make much sense these days, when sliced bread is in every supermarket. But, in the 1920s it marked a turning point in the average kitchen when a machine was invented that could slice and wrap bread. It meant children could safely make their own sandwiches. There was no longer any concern they would cut themselves trying to slice a whole loaf of bread with a sharp knife for the newly popular peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

file000626385317

Another classic sandwich introduced in1920s is The Hot Brown, a toasted, open-face turkey sandwich with bacon, tomato and a delicate cheesy cream sauce. In the 1920s, the Brown Hotel  in Louisville, Ky. often drew crowds of more than 1,000 people, who kicked up their heels dancing until dawn, then wandered into the restaurant for something to eat. The chef set out to create something new to tickle their taste buds.

header internal image

Here’s the recipe https://www.brownhotel.com/dining/hot-brown

It remains popular: The Food Network’s show, Throwdown featured the Hot Brown as a food challenge for Bobby Flay. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJben7ZTHh8

The Philadelphia Cheese Steak, made its debut in the 1930s. The way the story goes, an Italian hot dog vendor in South Philly got tired of grilling hot dogs every day, so he cooked up some chopped meat, put it on  an Italian roll, dressed it with onions. In the 1940s, melted cheese was added to change it up.  https://www.patskingofsteaks.com/

file0001058261455

If you want to make it yourself, here’s how: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/philly-steak-sandwiches-recipe-1941027

Lobster Rolls also can be traced to that era. A Milford, Ct. restaurant named Perry’s served the first documented lobster roll in 1929. Despite this, Maine also claims bragging rights to the origin of the  lobster roll.

lobster roll sandwich

New England’s eateries still sell lots of lobster rolls, but their recipes are different. Order one in Maine, and you’re likely to get chunks of lobster meat soaked in melted butter served in a hot dog bun. However, in some parts of New England, lobster rolls are served cold, the chunks of lobster mixed with celery, lemon and mayonnaise. https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/massachusetts/articles/a-brief-history-of-the-lobster-roll/

These classic sandwiches are vastly different, but each has a loyal following passed down from generation to generation.

Next: This is the first of a two-part discussion on Classic Foods. The next installment will feature home made treats. Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who delights in cooking, baking and sharing recipes.

Darlene here: I don’t know about you, but a Lobster Roll sure would taste good right about now. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SANDWICH FROM CHILDHOOD?

PB Author Vivian Kirkfield Presents:Unsolved Mysteries: Three Questions About Sarah E. Goode.

Thank you so much, Darlene, for inviting me to chat again on your wonderful blog. I wanted to share some details of the process I went through as I researched my non-fiction picture book SWEET DREAMS, SARAH. (Creston 2019)

Sarah cover

When I decided to write a nonfiction picture book story about Sarah E. Goode, I had no idea how difficult it would be to find information about her. I mean, you’d think, a person who was one of the first African American women to receive a U.S. patent would have a lot written about her, right? Especially since she’d been a slave when she was a child. Just think about that…from owned to ownership. Those words actually spurred me on as I dug deeper, trying to unearth more information.

I turned to my local librarian and she reached out to some of the larger libraries in the country. We were sure that the Chicago Public Library would have loads of stuff – after all – Sarah lived and worked and died in Chicago. But, when the librarian at the Harsh Research Collection answered our plea, here is what she said:

Wow! Your author seems to have amassed much more information than we ever dreamed there would be. We have nothing in our files on Goode and her name only comes up every Black History Month when some unlucky child has her name assigned for a report. All we’ve ever been able to lead them to is a photo of the patent and a brief blurb in a “Black Inventors” book. Essentially nothing more than can be found on the internet.

When I read her reply, I knew that I had to pursue this story because Sarah had obviously not received the recognition in life or in death that she deserved. She was a trailblazing courageous young woman who could inspire the children of today to build their own dreams.

But even though I searched high and low, there were three things I was not able to track down and verify.

WHAT DID SARAH LOOK LIKE?

Searching around the internet, I found two or three sentences repeated on just about every website that had a bit of information (often untrue) about Sarah E. Goode. Several of the websites had her photo.

NOT!

There is no known photo of Sarah E. Goode. The photo that appears on several websites? I don’t know who it is, but it is definitely not Sarah.

WHERE WAS SARAH BORN?

Some websites say Toledo, Ohio. Some websites say Toledo, Spain. What?

I can totally understand the confusion. On the 1870 Chicago census, Sarah was 15 years old and her parents listed her place of birth as Toledo, Ohio. However, in the 1880 Chicago census, when Sarah is a married woman of 25, she listed her place of birth as Toledo, Spain.

NOT!

From all the research I’ve done, I surmise that Sarah might have been born in Northern Virginia…a slave state in 1855, the year of her birth. The border of Northern Virginia runs along the southern border of Ohio…a free state in 1855. It might have made sense for Sarah’s father, a freeman, to claim that his daughter was born in Ohio where she would be considered free. And, as for Sarah claiming she was born in Toledo, Spain, again, we can only guess. Perhaps she thought if she said Spain, that would grant a bit of the exotic to her existence. I doubt we will ever know the true story.

WHAT HAPPENED TO SARAH’S BUSINESS?

By 1883, a time when most women didn’t own anything, Sarah owned a furniture store in downtown Chicago. She built the innovative cabinet bed and applied for a patent. A year later, her application was returned – DENIED. Other similar inventions had already been patented. Sarah could have given up. But she didn’t.

Carefully she changed a word here and a sentence there, explaining more about her unique mechanism, the idea that had come to her so long ago. Slipping the paperwork and a bit of her heart into the envelope, Sarah sealed her fate and sent it off.

A year later, on July 14, 1885, Sarah’s patent was granted. In 1886, her business appears in Chicago’s city listing. But sadly, by May of 1887, an advertisement in the Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean newspaper shows another vendor selling cabinet beds that look just like Sarah’s. “Manufacturer of these beds went bust and we are now the exclusive distributors.” We may never know why Sarah lost her business – illness, bad luck, or jealousy and possibly violence from business competitors—I did discover that her mother and one of her children had died the year before. She had lost two of the people she had loved the most. But there is one thing Sarah will never lose: her place in history. Sarah E. Goode will always be one of the first African American women in U.S. history to be recorded as earning a patent for her invention.

And now, the next time young students are given the name of Sarah E. Goode as a Black History Month or Women’s History Month project, there will be a book they can take out from the library, Sweet Dreams, Sarah. The author’s note, timeline of Sarah’s life and list of African American women patent holders in the back matter add rich STEM content to the book.

picture-130-bw viv sitting

BIO: Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found

 

 

 

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.

Cover

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

newspaper pic

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

 

 

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.

P1010049

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!

fullsizeoutput_a83

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.

 

Y8PHuzW1

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/.