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/.

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

Authors and Illustrators and Editors…Oh My:When Creating a Book is a Collaborative Effort + Free PB manuscript critique by PB Author Vivian Kirkfield.

I’ve always been a fan of collaboration. As a kid, I loved getting together with friends to plan a fun project. As a kindergarten teacher, I treasured the contributions from parents who brought a wealth of diversity and talent to school functions. It seemed natural to me that there would be a team effort when a book was created—with input from author, illustrator, and editor. But unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

In theory, the author brings her vision to the story with words. The illustrator adds another layer of vision. But some editors may fear if too much communication is allowed between author and illustrator, the author may try to influence the illustrator to do things her way. Although I understand that point of view, I also believe that there is so much good that can come out of working as a team.

At this point in my writing journey, I have multiple book deals. That is certainly something to cheer about. But it’s also given me the opportunity to experience different publishing processes. The first contract I signed was for SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, May 1, 2019). Sweet Dreams, Sarah: From Slavery to Inventor

I never saw early sketches, there was no collaboration between author and illustrator, and when the color layouts were finally shared with me, there were many changes that needed to be made for historical accuracy. I’m grateful that those changes have been made and the finished product will be stellar, but that is why a book that was signed in November 2015 isn’t launching until May 2019. Happily, for the other two books that also launch next year, there has been a level of collaboration which exceeded even my expectations. 

PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, Feb 5, 2019) began as a Picture Book Idea Month thought back in 2013. cover on amazon

When one of my in-person critique buddies, author/illustrator Jill Weber, saw it at the end of 2017, she fell in love with it and brought it to her long-time editor in NYC who also fell in love with it and bought it on the spot. Jill signed on to illustrate and what followed was pure pleasure for me, although lots of hard work for Jill. She showed me early sketches—I loved each one. She shared early color illustrations—they were fantastic. And when the book dummy was complete, we shared a cup of hot chocolate at our favorite local meeting place while I got to flip through the pages to see Pippa Mouse and all the other characters come to life. Hurray for collaboration! 

When my agent sent FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK to the editor at PomegranateKids, she also sent some sketches from one of her illustrator clients. Essie had a feeling that Mirka Hokkanen’s style would be the perfect match for my lyrical text. And she was spot on right! The editor loved the partnership and signed Mirka to do the illustrations. four otters cover amazon

Mirka and I live 5000 miles apart and can’t meet for hot chocolate, but we were able to connect via Facebook messaging and email. And thank goodness for that, because Mirka, being a conscientious illustrator, did her research before she began drawing (sadly, not every illustrator does that). She uncovered a big problem. All ten of the endangered animals were supposed to inhabit the ecosystem of the Colorado Rockies. “No!” Mirka said. “Not the Golden Cheeked Warbler.” “Yes, it is,” I replied. “It’s found in Colorado Bend State Park!”

Now, wouldn’t you think that Colorado Bend State Park is in Colorado? I certainly did. But no. It’s actually in Texas.

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Thank goodness for Mirka’s attention to detail and for our ability to collaborate. We researched other birds and found the perfect substitute—the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. Of course, we immediately let the editor know why we were making the change and he was totally fine with that. But how much better it was that we made the change before the publisher fact-checked and discovered my incorrect information.

Later in the process, Mirka sent me a sketch of one of the spreads and she questioned why I had peregrine falcon babies in a burrow. “Don’t they live on a high cliff ledge?” she asked. They certainly do, but the ‘bobbing beaks retreating to the borrowed burrow’ referred to the five burrowing owls from the previous spread, not to the six peregrine falcons who were circling overhead. 5 burrowing owls

If Mirka and I were not collaborating, she would have spent a lot of time refining her sketch and perhaps even crafting the block from which she would make the woodcut illustration. Or worse, if I didn’t get to see the book until it was almost ready to ship, expensive changes would have to be made. Hurray for collaboration!

Just a few weeks ago, I got to see the dummy for FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). Illustrator Gilbert Ford had a huge task…nine nonfiction picture book bios in one compilation book. The editor kindly asked me to comment on the PDF, but there was very little for me to say except how much I loved it! And although I haven’t seen any sketches yet for MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020), I’m thrilled with the portfolio of Allenanna Harris, the illustrator who will be bringing that story to life. I know she will do a fabulous job and I look forward to the collaborative effort that will create a wonderful picture book for children.

Although this writing journey can be frustrating at times and disappointing at others, I always feel blessed to be on it. And lucky to have all of you as my traveling companions. I truly believe that we can turn our dreams into reality if we keep moving forward, help one another, and never give up. Our destination is within reach.

Vivian is giving away ONE PICTURE BOOK CRITIQUE to a random person who leaves a comment on this post. All commenters names will be placed in a hat and one winner will be drawn and announced on this blog on Thursday February 7, 2019. If you share this post on Twitter or FB, or reblog it, let me know and I will add your name twice to the hat.

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Vivian Kirkfield’s career path is paved with picture books. She shelved them at the library during her college years. She read them to her students when she taught kindergarten. And she writes them. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House, February 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). Vivian lives in the quaint New England village of Amherst, New Hampshire where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite Monopoly partner. You can visit her website at Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Linkedin.

NJSCBWI 2017: Another Rocking Weekend of Writing Inspiration.

I spent this past weekend attending the Annual Conference for the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (NJSCBWI) and came away inspired, enlightened and filled with a new desire to write stories for children.  So many wonderful workshops and a chance to see some amazing writers and illustrators.  Here are the workshops I attended:

  1. Biographies: Finding Subject and Focus: by Laurie Wallmark
  2. How to Market Non-Fiction Books: by Jennifer Swanson
  3. Using Subtext to Add Depth to Stories: by Laurie Calkhoven
  4. 7 Steps to Stronger MG and YA Novels: by Gabriela Pereira
  5. Breaking Down Barriers – How to Write and Critique Across Racial Lines: by Kelly Calabrese and Tami Charles

There was also first page and round table critiques,  and catching up with old friends while making new ones.

Natalie Zaman, Laurie Wallmark

 

Browsing the Book Fair and enjoying a fabulous Keynote address by author/illustrator Stephen Savage on Saturday morning:

 

 

Here are some photo highlights:

With PB author Annie Silvestro

 

 

 

Cocktails with Katie Howes, Jody Staton, Kathy Temean, Robin Newman and Colleen Kosinski

 

The LRA Tribe: Yvonne Ventresca, Robin Newman, Me, Agent Liza Fleissig, Laurie Wallmark, Leslie Santamara

 

With Carole Lindstrom

 

 

Leeza Hernandez, Linda, Char Bennardo

This Makes Sense by Beth Ferry

I recently flew home to NJ from Dallas, TX.

With a sore throat.  In a storm.

As a result, the hearing in my right ear was compromised.

Like I have a cotton ball tucked snugly and constantly in my ear.

Nothing permanent, but pretty darn annoying.

Most people, especially me, take their senses for granted.

Our senses are like five little superheroes to whom we don’t pay much attention, but who really rule our world.

Not being able to hear as I usually do made me think about how our senses affect our writing.

Do we use our senses as we write?

Interesting question.  Our senses surely inspire us.

I know the smell of the salt air at the beach makes me dream of whales and mermaids and deep sea stories.

The feel of the sand gives me ideas about sand castles and buried treasure.

The sight and sound of the crashing waves makes me write about pirates and seagulls and starfish wishes.

But do we use these senses during the writing process?   During the typing and reading and thinking and revising?

The answer is most definitely yes!

And even though you’ve probably heard this advice before, because of my current auditory predicament, I am going to focus on the sense of hearing.

Write your stories.

Read your stories.

Hear your stories.

Reading your stories aloud is critical to the writing and revising process.

When you read your stories aloud and float your words in the air, you are able to perceive them in a completely different way.

You can almost taste them!

Those spicy verbs.                          hjn010212lifespice           

The bland run-on sentences.

The juicy adjectives.

The past-their-expiration-date adverbs.

Something that looks fine on your computer screen and sounds fine in your head, doesn’t always work quite the same way when heard by your ears.

Your ears will pick up the rhythm of your sentence.

The power of your word choices.   The flow of the story.

The mistakes.  The successes.

It is the single most important thing you can do as a writer – read your stories aloud.

It’s how children will hear them.

It makes complete sense!            sbw-cover

 

A Small Blue Whale is releasing in October and is illustrated by Lisa Mundorff.

It is about a whale who sets out to find a friend, but along the way uses his senses to ponder the meaning of friendship.

Have you ever thought about what friendship looks like?

Tastes like?   What it sounds like?   Or feels like?

Probably not, but it is a pretty fun idea to explore.

I like to think that friendship tastes like a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone.

That it sounds like those waves crashing on the sand and smells like that salty air.

That it feels like soft, fluffy cotton balls.

An image that I love.

Only not in my ear!

bethFerry Headshot 500Beth Ferry lives and writes by the beach in New Jersey where she is influenced by the sea and the sand and the salt. She is the author of Stick and Stone, Land Shark, Pirate’s Perfect Pet and A Small Blue Whale which swims into print on October 24, 2017. You can learn more at www.bethferry.com.

 

 

Meet…Kid Lit TV!

KidLit TV: A Place That Brings Out the “Kid” in Kid Lit
By: Katya Szewczuk                 IMG_9170

Are you looking for great children’s literature authors or illustrators so your kids or students will jump into the reading world and go on all kinds of adventures? If so then KidLit TV is the place to be. Here you’ll find all kinds of fun and interesting kid lit books, interviews from well-known authors, tech savvy information about the latest technologies and some great advice that will have your kids reading in no time.

Julie Gribble,owner of New York Media Works, realized there was a need for creating and producing content to support the children’s literature community. So in November 2014 she founded KidLit TV, a resource for children’s book creators, industry insiders, booksellers, librarians, teachers, and parents. Julie’s vision was to open a communication channel between kid lit authors, illustrators and experts, with parents and educators. She also saw the importance of technology in the world today and wanted to ensure that these new literacy tools were made accessible to everyone. http://kidlit.tv/

KidLit TV is more than just a resource or a website.  It is a community of authors, illustrators, educators, and parents all working together to create great books for kids.
The KidLit TV Headquarters is always busy creating original videos and content. Every week, KidLit TV has a highly anticipated show called Storymakers. On this show the charismatic host of StoryMakers, Rocco Staino, interviews an author, illustrator or industry expert and gets the inside scoop of what goes on behind the scenes of that individuals’s life and career. Storymakers is a fan favorite, too, because the interviewee always brings signed books to give away! You can view past StoryMakers interviews on KidLit TV’s website or Youtube Channel. KidLit.TV also provides Red Carpet interviews at children’s literacy events around New York City which is a must see for everyone in the kid lit world.
In addition to the StoryMakers exclusive interviews, KidLit TV also shares original content. Every Tuesday is Kidlit Kibbles day; Readers will discover what hot topics or fantastic events are going on in the kid lit world, such as:
• book awards
• interviews with authors, illustrators or other experts in the industry
• book birthdays
• kid-friendly fun

Thursday is “Tech Thursday”, a day that the KidLit TV team shares tips and tricks for learning new technologies, video editing software, apps or simple, tech savvy advice to keep everyone up to date with the latest and greatest virtual tools. On this day readers will find a series of ‘how to video edit’ articles that will provide a basic rundown and understanding of video editing software. From simple, free programs to advanced software that Hollywood uses; the KidLit TV team knows how to lend a helping hand in the video-editing world. .

At KidLit TV you’ll see:
• Inspiring and diverse videos from authors, illustrators, editors, publishers, and more
• Informative videos to help you navigate the world of kid lit
• Video tutorials on using new technology for creating and promoting books
• Entertaining videos about contemporary and classic books

Having the latest news relating to everything in the children’s literacy world is important to Julie Gribble and her team. Every day new content is curated from all our favorite resources around the web and shared on the KidLit TV website. Authors, illustrators, parents, teachers or kid lit fans can use this content for reference, advice or take part in any of the activities promoted on the site. For all the latest happenings and information on kid lit related to publishing, writing, technology, community and more, be sure to check our website for daily news updates. We are a team who invites every new idea and supports our community with open arms.

Want to learn more about us? Visit us on:               kidlit-sitelogo-small
• YouTube––Subscribe to our channel for KidLit TV’s original videos, our curated video collection, and our special live streaming events!
• Facebook––Join our KidLit TV Facebook Group where authors and illustrators help each other create and fine-tune book trailers, how-to videos, welcome videos, and more.
• Twitter––Follow @nymediaworks to see what we’re up to, get behind-the-scenes sneak-peeks, and get the latest industry news!
• Pinterest––Follow our Pinterest boards for everything fun, education, and inspiring in the world of children’s literature.

Loner in the Garret: A Guest Post by Jennifer R. Hubbard

The upside to freelance writing is that it’s self-directed. You decide what to wear, where to sit, what music to play, when to start and when to stop, how much to do in a day. All those things that a day-job employer controls are in your own hands when you freelance. (Once you start signing contracts, you have deadlines to meet. But you still choose how you’re going to meet those deadlines, and how much to do each day.)

And the downside to freelance writing is that it’s self-directed. If the choices are yours, the responsibilities are yours also. You can get feedback, but it won’t be consistent: The ending that seems abrupt to one reader will strike another as dragging and drawn out. One reader will call your plot fresh and original, while another considers it predictable. And you will have to decide whom to listen to, what to change. You have the responsibility of sitting down and starting, of revising once more when you’d rather be done, of motivating yourself and coping with the rejections that come.

It can get lonely in the writer’s loft. Without a circle of writer friends to share the experience, I might not have the fortitude or the attitude to sit down and face the blank computer screen again and again. And so I decided to produce a “writer’s companion” in book form, addressing these very ups and downs.      LonerintheGarret_Ebook

Loner in the Garret is a series of short discussions on all aspects of writing and publishing. Ideally, it’s meant to be read a page or two at a time, perhaps before a writing session, focusing on whichever topic you most need to read at that moment. But of course, you can read as much or as little as you want, in any order. You’re the boss … which is your challenge and your reward.

Synopsis: Sometimes the most difficult part of writing is not coming up with a plot or the perfect turn of phrase. It’s getting motivated to sit down and start, or having the confidence to go forward, or finding the courage to move past the sting of rejection. Loner in the Garret: A Writer’s Companion provides inspiration and encouragement for that mental and emotional journey. Covering topics as varied as procrastination, the inner critic, fear, distractions, envy, rejection, joy, and playfulness, it charts the ups and downs of the writing life with honesty, gentle suggestions, and a dash of humor.

For more: http://jenniferrhubbard.blogspot.com/p/publications.html       biopic2

Bio: Jennifer R. Hubbard http://www.jenniferhubbard.com is the author of three novels for young adults, several short stories, and a nonfiction book about writing. She lives near Philadelphia with an understanding husband, a pile of books and chocolate, and a   melodramatic cat.