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1. Digital Inclusion

The Information Policy & Access Center has released their findings from a 2013 Survey about Digital Inclusion.

You can read the full report online.

Digital Inclusion is more than Digital Literacy, focusing on not just access but supporting users to engage in digital communities. The report explored the roles of public libraries in four main areas:

  • Quality access to digital technology
  • Access to a range of digital content
  • Services and programs that promote digital literacy
  • Programs that address key community needs, such as health and wellness and education, and that promote workforce development and civic engagement.

Overwhelmingly what we discovered is that libraries have increased access to computer workstations and faster internet and technology infrastructure like outlets and wireless printing.

  • All libraries offer access to online databases.
  • Almost all libraries offer homework assistance.
  • Most libraries offer access to e-books,
  • While over a quarter of libraries provide patrons with e-readers to check out.

The survey has also documented the innovations that are happening in libraries like Mobile Technology and 3D Printers which have been adopted in 1.5% of libraries.

What the survey highlighted is that while we are providing access to technology and content we are creating a different type of digital divide.

City Libraries are able to

  • make more upgrades to technology infrastructure like workstations and outlets,
  • offer an Average Internet Download Speed that is 5X faster than Rural Libraries.

Only 32.5 percent of rural libraries can support formal technology classes,

  • while 77.6 of city libraries offer formal computer skills training
  • 100% of city libraries surveyed reported that they offer either formal or informal technology training.

We know that rural communities have less access to resources, but as we work to support STEM in schools these gaps can put communities even further behind.

In addition to being an information center, many libraries serve as a central location where members can gather to foster community.

Over half of Suburban and City Libraries host community engagement events

while less than half of town libraries and less than one-third of rural libraries are able to engage and support the community in this way.

As more and more people connect online, the library can be one of the few places where the public can engage with members of the community, be exposed to diversity, and gain a better appreciation for and connect to their neighbors in a comfortable and relaxed environment. While hosting a book club, candidate forum, or gaming seems small, these can be one of the few places in the community outside of school where everyone has a chance to interact and participate.

Lastly Health and Wellness is an area we can all improve. With the move to National Health Care, and the confusion of much of the public I expected to see many libraries offering programs and support, but a mere 37% of surveyed libraries offered programs that assisted patrons in finding and accessing health insurance information.

 

The one area of Health and Wellness that libraries are addressing is promotion of a healthy lifestyle, but only 55% of libraries offer these types of programs and it drops to 44% for Rural Libraries.

We have made many strides since the last study was conducted in 1994, but we still have a long way to go. With so many free online courses available libraries have even more access to resources than they did before. We can partner with organizations like  Workforce Career and Job Training, CoderDojo, Code.org, Healthcare.gov, local health providers, and other community organizations to help serve patrons and create a more informed citizenry.

This is the first survey to provide detailed data about how libraries are serving the public. As we apply for grants to support the needs of our communities, I hope this survey helps frame the needs of our library users.

Ipac has framed the survey results in the context of the communities libraries serve. You can access a mapping tool online at http://digitalinclusion.umd.edu to explore the services available in your community.

All images from http://digitalinclusion.umd.edu/infographics

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2. Why research when you can do?

machine gun

I’m on a board for people whose write about murder and theft, poisons and fires. In addition to writers, there are a lot of professionals on the board - people who are or have been cops, paramedics, FBI agents, firefighters, PIs, and more.

A writer recently posted a question about what kind of gun her character should get.  She said she knew nothing about guns, and she wanted to know what her equally ignorant character would experience if she went to a gun shop and asked for help.


At which point I (and several other writers) chimed in. Why not just go into a gun store and explain what she was working on and ask their advice?  This was one real-life situation (unlike questions about, say, the best undetectable poison) where it would be easy to experience it.

And experience will give a writer so MUCH more than reading about it ever would.  She’ll be able to describe the shop without trying to google images of “gun shop.”  She’ll know the heft of a gun, and the feeling of the grip, learn it’s surprisingly heavy even though parts of it appear to be made out of plastic.  There may be smells and even tastes she would not expect.  Since her character and the writer herself are both coming from the same place (not knowing much about guns) she’ll be able to ask the questions her character would and hear the answers her character would as well.

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 3.50.05 PMI have found that almost everyone likes to talk about themselves and what they do to an interested person.  I have interviewed teens, death investigators, DNA experts, and curators.  In some cases, I have gone in cold (as I would in the gun situation above).  In others, I have done the professional the courtesy of learning as much as I could before I went to them.  With Dr. Dan Crane, the DNA expert, for example, it would be a waste of his precious time to sit down and say, “What’s DNA?”  Instead I learned a lot on my own and asked about Y-STR and familial DNA testing.

When I was working on the end to The Body in the Woods, I knew it took place in Forest Park.  And I knew my bad character would be armed, and my good characters wouldn’t be.  They needed something they could use as a weapon.  But what?  I took the same walk they would have to get into the park, past nice homes, and I photographed everything I thought they might consider for use as a weapon. Real life thought of many more alternatives that I did.



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3. Summertime, and the Reading Is Random

Wait—what day is it? I’m supposed to post today, right? I’m happy to say that we're having a busy, active summer so far with more adventures planned. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

  • Road maps. I have practically no sense of direction, but given enough time, I can figure out which way to go with a decent map, especially if it comes with step-by-step instructions. We just returned from a two-week trip to Colorado, and I took advantage of Map Quest and other smart phone apps for the first time.

  • Monarch butterfly information. Home from our trip, we found our backyard milkweed plants loaded with monarch eggs and caterpillars. I joined the Monarch Butterfly discussion list, where people post fascinating updates about current research as well as their own observations. In the past four days, I’ve gathered about 75 eggs and 15 caterpillars. Two chrysalises also hang in our backyard mosquito net tent. (A neighbor kept an eye on them while we were gone.)


  • Research on multiple topics for future books of my own and a couple freelance fact-checking projects.

  • An adult book (gasp!) I borrowed from my husband because I didn’t make it to the library before we left town. I’m finding it a bit too long and convoluted, but I’ve grown attached to the characters, so I’ll probably finish the book just to find out what happens to them.

Happy reading!
JoAnn Early Macken

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4. Research to get it right (and have fun while doing it)

It bothers me when I read something in a book that I know is wrong. Wrong and Google-able. (I started writing before the Internet, or at least before a widely available Internet, when it was not quite so easy to check things out. Twenty years ago, I felt more comfortable just guessing or making stuff up. No longer.)

safety error

(Guess what doesn't have a safety? That was the end of this book for me.)

With a little bit of time, you can figure out nearly anything without having to step away from your computer.  Like:

  • Do red-tailed hawks eat road kill? (If fresh, yes).

  • Does Oregon pay for braces for kids in foster care? (No.)

  • What time are trial advocacy classes at the University of Washington. (Late afternoon.)

  • What testimony did the original grand jury hear in the Phoebe Prince case? (Actually, I couldn’t find that, which makes sense. Grand jury testimony is sealed. Still I would like to know more.)

One of the absolute best parts about my job as a mystery and thriller writer is doing research. In the past couple of years, I've:
Biting Plastic BagTaken a class in fighting in close quarters. At the end, someone sat behind you in your car and attacked you with a training gun, a training knife, a plastic bag, and a rope.

Under sinkPulled out everything from underneath my kitchen sink, crawled into the space, and taken a picture to prove to one of my editors that yes, a body would fit under there.

Asked my kajukenbo instructor to drag me across the room, his hands underneath my arms, so that together we could figure out how a character could fight and get away.


Fingerprint TonySpent a day with a criminalist at Forensics Division of the Portland Police.

Threat D hostageFaced down armed muggers, home invaders, crazy people, and robbers - all while armed with a modified Glock that uses lasers instead of real bullets. I did this at a firearms training simulator facility (the only one like it in the world that is open to civilians) which, lucky me, is just 20 minutes from my home. You interact with life-sized scenarios filmed in HD. The scenarios change depending on what you say (for example, “Hands in the air!”) and where your shots hit (a shot that disables versus one that injures). Meanwhile, the bad guys are shooting back. If you choose - and I do - you can wear a belt that gives you a 5000-volt shock if you’re shot. The facility even offers a simulation that is nearly 360 degrees, so you feel like you are standing in the middle of, say, the convenience store or the parking lot. This teaches you to look behind you for that second or third bad guy.

Every year, I go the Writers Police Academy, which is in North Carolina at a real police and fire academy. I also graduated from the FBI’s Citizen Academy, which is taught by real FBI agents and included a stint at a real gun range where I shot a submachine gun. I’m a member of Sisters in Crime, and my local chapter has experts speak every month (the blood spatter expert was particularly interesting). And I’m an online member of Crime Scene Writers, which has lots of retired or even active law enforcement personnel who answer questions.

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5. Till We Meet Again

In April I reminisced about six + years of blogging with this wondrous group of authors. I've so appreciated the opportunity to come up with something every month at least vaguely related to this quirky profession we’ve chosen.

For my last go-round, I’ve decided give a glimpse of one writer's life day-to-day. It’s not all creating deathless prose. So here's as much as I can remember of my to-do and have-done lists in the last two weeks.  

Revise my next book. It’s a middle grade group biography due out in 2016.  I’ve been working on this book since 2009 and so last week I decided to google one of my subjects once again. I found a 2011 book I hadn’t seen before, with a chapter on my subject. I couldn’t find the book in the Los Angeles system, so I consulted WorldCat: The World’s Largest Library Catalog and found that six miles away, Mt. St. Mary’s College had an ebook copy.

• So up up up into the Santa Monica Mountains I drove, to a beautiful Spanish-style library. Well, I drove to the parking garage and then hiked up some more steep hills to the library. I had the complete attention of three librarians, it being summer break. They all worked to figure out how to print a few pages from the e-book, but in the end, job done. This research yielded details and quotes I hadn’t found elsewhere.


• Reviewing my original research, I found a tidbit I’d not included in the manuscript.  My subject inspired a minor character in an 1828 adventure-romance novel.  Being a lover of tidbits, I ordered an interlibrary loan of the book on microfilm through my public library. This last week I spent part of two afternoons skimming through this forgettable tale of a beautiful and virtuous heroine whose romance with a worthy suitor is thwarted by a dastardly villain. My ‘subject’ helped to save said heroine from said villain, as well as perform some brave deeds in American Revolution. The hours spent skimming added three sentences to my manuscript.

• Chapter completed, I emailed it to my critique group who will meet this week and tell me how to make it better.

• I’ll critique their work as well.



• I’m meeting my editor at ALA in Las Vegas this weekend. She wants to read my revised chapters on the plane flying west, so I emailed her to ask about the last moment I can send her those chapters.

• Speaking of ALA, where I’ll be signing at two booths on Saturday (see below,) I must remember to call my trusty auto mechanic (named Toolsie!) to fix my failing a/c. Will need all I can get for the drive to LV.

• Made arrangements to meet with Starwalk Kids Media at ALA about signing up an out-of-print book for their e-book list.

• Confirm ALA meeting for coffee with INK Author Jan Greenberg.

• I’ve been a member of the Authors Guild for decades. They offer so many benefits to their members, one of which is a free legal critique of contracts. I finally got around to integrating their suggested changes to my contract for the above book and sending it back to the publisher. The Authors Guild also hosts my website for pennies, but perhaps their most important mission is their lobbying on our behalf to Goliaths like Google and Amazon.  Support yourself – and them – and join!

• I’ve nudged an editor who has had a ms. of mine for months and promised to give me an answer last week. Still waiting. I need to nudge a couple more editors who are sitting on my middle grade novel.

  Last month I reported on the excellent BIO conference (Biographers International Organization) in Boston.  There I met Dorothy Dahm, creator of Kids Biographer's Blog, a first-rate collection of reviews and interviews.  She reviewed Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence, and asked for an interview.  I wrote that last week and it’s here

• I’m returning to London again in the autumn for another three-month home exchange. I’ve got some fans in Yorkshire, so I emailed four schools about return author visits. Have confirmation for two already.

• I wrote this INK blog.

The World Cup: I’m trying to limit myself to one game a day, or two halfs of different games.  It’s hard though. Drama is building every day!


Traveling to libraries, reading, marketing, contracts, nudging, emailing, critiquing, blogging, and, yes, writing.  On and on it goes.


Finally, to quote my favorite English major: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

My ALA Signings: Saturday June 28 
• 10-11am: Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek
• 2-3 pm: Lerner/Carolrhoda

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6. The one where I get to talk about comic books…

tumblr_mzam93QGoB1smcbm7o1_250So you have an idea. A persistent something that has gnawed at your brain doggedly enough for you to start jotting it down. You’re getting to know your characters, and laying down the brickwork on the bumpy path that will become your plot. What next? Well – unless you’re writing a real-time testimonial of your own life (mine might be called Girl Who Stares at Computer and Drinks Many Teas) – you’ll probably need to do some research.

Astonishingly, most fiction authors are not in fact experts in every worldly field. Whether your book is set in a suburb that isn’t your own, or on a space station orbiting Pluto – whether your character is a forensic genius or plays the flute or is champion chess boxer (yes that is a thing) – chances are, your story will demand knowledge of some things that are unfamiliar to you. Writers always walk a line between creating their own worlds, which they set the rules for, and ensuring those rules make at least some real-world sense. Bringing into existence another person who has skills that are not yours can be pretty daunting. There’s always the fear of getting something wrong, or simply of being ill-equipped to execute the story you want to tell…

[For the month of June, I will be writer-in-resident at the fab Inside a Dog - you can read the rest of this post here]


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7. Eve’s Leg Hair

“I can only find three leg hairs” observed my youngest from the back seat. The chemotherapy killing her tumors also attacks any fast-moving cells – thus the hair loss, fingernail lines, and white blood cell reduction. She is twelve and had kind of fuzzy, blond legs a couple of months ago. Her smooth legs weren’t troubling to her, just something she noticed.

“Well, that would come in handy if you cared about that stuff yet,” I said, glad she didn’t.

“Why do girls shave their legs anyway?” she wondered. “I mean, who started that whole thing?”

A very interesting question. Who did start that? I assume Eve had leg hair when Adam popped the question. Do you think when they ate from the tree, not only did they figure out they were naked, but Adam also noticed her furry legs for the first time? Did he made a snide remark about Eve being only a slight step up from his former companion, the chimpanzee? Every guy knows the remorse of SCS – Stupid Comment Syndrome. The moment you say something to your wife and immediately wish you could turn back time to retract it. Adam’s comment sent Eve into a tizzy trying to scrape the hair off with a stick while stitching together the fig leaf bikini we see in all the pictures. If God created enmity between woman and serpent, imagine the enmity Adam created with his wisecrack.

image

 

Ah, here is where I began a quest for knowledge. I had no interest in important knowledge, anyone can get that. The learning I sought is practically irrelevant outside of bar bets, board games, and trivia competitions. When did women first start shaving their legs?

Any thoughts?

Where do I turn? My best friends and cohorts in the immaterial: Google and Wikipedia, of course. Google brought me facts that I have to believe. It seems that women were so covered before the turn of the 20th century that it wasn’t necessary for them to shave – their body hair was kind of a honeymoon surprise. But as hemlines raised in the early 1900’s, razor sales increased. I can buy that.

The more compelling facts I found were about why women began shaving their underarm hair. They involve motion pictures, flappers, and old western women of ill repute. I would explain, but everyone likes a cliffhanger. My true audience is only twelve and wanted to know about leg hair anyway.

Besides, while on my search, I found a website called Mental Floss. It is like a Mythbusters of the inane. My evening was shot. I learned why bacon smells so good, 15 reasons we love Mr. Rogers, and why baby names have become increasingly female-sounding. Forget Wikipedia, some of that might actually be true. I have a new homepage!

After about three hours of copious research into absolutely nothing worthwhile, my daughter asked me why women started shaving their legs and I had to admit that I could tell her all why cows moo with accents, but had crammed so much useless knowledge into my finite brain, I had forgotten why women shaved their legs.

She left disappointed. Back to Wikipedia to start over…

But wait – an article titled, Do Racehorses Really Pee All That Much simply has to be read!


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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8. Searching for The Answer: Online “Clippings”

I enjoyed reading Esther’sLaura’s, and Jill’s posts about their clipping habits. Although I listen to Public Radio in the car and follow the news online and on TV, I rarely read newspapers or magazines. Instead of clipping paper, I keep too many tabs open in my browser. I periodically devote an hour or two to skimming, bookmarking, and adding links to don't-forget-to-read-later lists until I reduce the number to something more manageable.

This actually appeared on my computer screen once:



It’s a bit much, isn’t it? I know. I don’t want to miss anything.

Today’s post is a look at some of the many tabs currently open in my browser. Here are the latest I couldn’t resist but haven’t yet made time to explore fully:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Releases 400,000 Images Online for Non-Commercial Use by Christopher Jobson on May 20, 2014:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has released a vast archive of 400,000 (mostly) hi-resolution digital images online that you can download and use for non-commercial purposes.

Make Way for Monarchs: a June 6 research symposium at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I’m registered! Several varieties of milkweed grow in our backyard, I've raised monarchs there for the past four summers, and I plan to do it again this year. Last fall, my husband and I collected milkweed seeds and scattered them in hospitable locations all over the city. I've already started seeds in pots to give away, and I'm revising a monarch manuscript. I can’t wait to soak up everything I can at this meeting--I'm hoping for an on-the-brink-of-disaster recovery.

Never, Ever Give Up: Long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad's TED Talk about motivation, sent by my sister Eileen, who knows I need it!

Nonfiction in Picture Books: A Panel Discussion by Matia Burnett, May 08, 2014

Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup

These topics might seem random, but they are all parts of a big picture that includes everything from research for current projects to random things I’m curious about. I can never know all there is to know, but I’m always searching. I start by collecting everything I can, trying my darnedest to gather every last snippet of information.


Then I narrow it down to what’s usable, eliminate redundancies, and focus, hoping to locate that one magic nugget.


Framed above my computer is a birthday card from my sister Judy with a Gertrude Stein quote:
There ain’t no answer.
There ain’t going to be any answer.
There never has been an answer.
That’s the answer.
I may never have The Answer, but I won't stop looking.

JoAnn Early Macken


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9. Research Journeys--Hard Work, Yes, But Don't Forget the Luck!


Stubby's story appeals to all ages, from young...

One of the best parts about researching a book is that I don’t know what I’m going to find. Each project is like a mystery, and I have the fun of solving it. Researching my new twin titles about a World War I service dog named Stubby proved especially challenging because so much of his historical trail had gone cold. 

This stray dog turned soldier had gone from being one of the most celebrated participants in World War I to being forgotten by almost everyone. A few loyal fans have kept his story alive on the Internet--alive and evolving, I should add, which created one more layer of mystery--but most people who happen across Stubby's remains, which are mounted and on display at the Smithsonian, have no idea of his exploits. It became my job to sort fact from legend as I worked to revive the war hero's story.

...to young at heart (above, adult title).
My favorite surprise by far during my journey as history sleuth was the discovery that Stubby's best human friend, a fellow soldier named J. Robert Conroy, had descendants. When I began my research, I asked Smithsonian curators what they could tell me about Conroy. The answer, basically, was nothing. The museum had lost track of him after he’d donated Stubby and his belongings to the museum in 1956, and they’d barely learned anything about him even then. Other people had tried to trace him, I was told, but with no luck.

Research is not a particularly linear process. True, I may read a reference book from front to back, but the research threads I pick up in one source tend to fan out like rays to countless others. By the time I’m done, I haven’t so much connected the dots; I’ve more nearly created a web of facts. The stronger that web—the more connections and overlap that I uncover—the better I understand the history.

Those web-like rays inevitably lead me to unexpected places. One day a package of clippings arrived in my mailbox, as promised, from a librarian in New Britain, Connecticut. I’d tracked down the librarian by contacting the New Britain Public Library, and I’d contacted the library because New Britain was the city where J. Robert Conroy had grown up. I wasn’t the first person to inquire at the library about Stubby, and Patricia Watson kindly sent me her usual packet of clippings. One of those articles had been published in the 1990s and featured a quote from a man named Curtis Deane, who was cited as being the grandson of J. Robert Conroy.
Stubby on parade, 1921. LC-DIG-hec-31070

This was news. Up until that time, I’d found no references whatsoever to Conroy having any descendants. Now I’d found one, or at least found out about one. Fortunately, Curtis Deane hadn’t moved since he’d been quoted in that story almost two decades ago (a minor miracle, really, given how mobile people are these days). Before too long, I had been able to track him down by phone. “Can I call you back?” he asked, after confirming that, yes, he really was the grandson of J. Robert Conroy. He was digging out from three feet of snow, he explained, and he had been without power until that hour. “Sure,” I said, having learned that patience is an important part of the research and writing process.

True to his word, Curt Deane called me back the next day. We talked for 45 minutes and agreed to speak again soon. A number of conversations followed, and before long we’d made plans to meet in person. Other meetings followed as one thing led to another. The threads for that web stretched farther and grew thicker. Eventually Curt Deane introduced me to other family members, and I met more descendants of the soldier whose history I had set out to find. As we became better acquainted and I heard stories about the man these people had known as Grandfather Bob, Stubby’s best friend became as real to me as the dog that he had helped make famous. Their story became richer, and so did my ability to share it with readers. Best of all, I had made new friends—one more surprise, one more bonus, during the adventure of researching my books.

Posted by Ann Bausum during the release week for Stubby's new books. Follow his return to the limelight on my Facebook page.

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10. End of Year Research


We've completed our march through the regions of the US and will take a test on the 50 Nifty tomorrow (blank map, 2-letter abbreviations).

Now it's time to bring focus to our research. Make it meaningful.

I began by thinking about what kind of final product I want my students to create. They've worked lots in Keynote, so that wasn't an option. We don't have enough time to learn a new tool like Prezi or ThingLink.

BEGIN AT THE END.

I decided on the tri-fold brochure templates in Pages. Looking over the templates, I saw there would be room enough for information about People, Places, the Past, the Present, and a Spotlight on one unique thing about the state.

But I didn't want them to simply copy the information we'd already gathered into a new format.

That's when I realized, as I scanned the brochure templates, that brochures are created for so many different audiences.

AUDIENCE was the missing piece.

Today, each student chose a state AND chose the audience they would write for in their brochure. Some of the audiences are: tourism, history, come live here, and sports. Energy is high because not only did each student get to pick their state, but they have a real focus for their research. Several states have been chosen by more than one student, but it's not a problem because their audiences are different.

CHOICE -- always important.




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11. Revising a Picture Book: Length, Common Core, Details and Research


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Vagabonds by Darcy Pattison

Vagabonds

by Darcy Pattison

Giveaway ends May 09, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

I just did a quick revision of a picture book that’s in progress.

Shorter. One goal was to shorten the story whenever possible. I cut out an entire page, and an entire sentence. Doesn’t sound like much? At only 700 words, the story is as streamlined as I can make it. Well, no. I just cut out one page and a sentence. Honing the text to the tightest possible is important for picture book texts.

When I’m asked to read someone’s manuscript, here’s my main comment: Cut it in half.

And a friend adds this: After cutting it in half, cut another 100 words.

Classroom reading center: Will your picture book be useful in the classroom?

Classroom reading center: Will your picture book be useful in the classroom?



Common Core. The Common Core education standards are a couple years now and their requirements are definitely on my mind. I am constantly consulting the standards for each grade level and working to make sure the picture book is useful in the classroom. Because I write for early elementary, I consider this a crucial aspect of what I do.

Oliver511x400First, I focus on the story. Is the story itself compelling and interesting for the audience? If so, then can I add anything that will enhance it’s use in the classroom, without changing the essential story elements? For example, my picture book, THE JOURNEY OF OLIVER K. WOODMAN is now ten years old and still selling well. Part of the reason is that the story is told in letters and postcards. Of course, children’s learn about writing letters and postcards in early elementary, so this book is a natural for teachers to use as a mentor text. The story came first and demanded to be written in an epistolary (big word for letters) format. But after the story worked, then the layout and design decisions enhanced its usefulness in the classroom. Story first; but don’t ignore the book’s classroom usefulness.

Details. The Work-in-progress is about cats and I’m looking at about 20 cats that could be used in various places in the story. Which cat goes where? It’s a balancing act which requires me to know something about different cat breeds and match them to my story. I also have to carefully tabulate and re-tabulate which breeds I’ve used. I can’t use one breed twice, but each of the 20 breeds must be used. Check. No, move that one to this place. Re-check. It was a morning of detailed work!

Research.
I know–everyone loves cat videos. But have you ever seen a Devon Rex cat?

If you can’t see this video, click here.

In case you were wondering, according to the Cat Fancier’s Association, here’s the top 20 most popular cat breeds in 2013. (In other words, I am doing research to document and justify the breeds I am using in the story.)

RANK BREED
1 Persian
2 Exotic
3 Maine Coon Cat
4 Ragdoll
5 British Shorthair
6 Abyssinian
7 American Shorthair
8 Sphynx
9 Siamese
10 Devon Rex
11 Norwegian Forest Cat
12 Oriental
13 Scottish Fold
14 Cornish Rex
15 Birman
16 Burmese
17 Tonkinese
18 Siberian
19 Russian Blue
20 Egyptian Mau

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12. Navigating the Dangers of Research




Today's guest post is by Karen Blumenthal—author of YALSA Nonfiction Award finalists Bootleg and Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different—and a committed researcher. Or, maybe, a researcher who should be committed? Read her post and decide for yourself!


 
One evening during a research trip to Washington, D.C., I missed the hotel’s revolving-door entry and slammed into a glass wall schnoz first.

While I reeled in pain, the guests in the lobby eyed me as if I'd enjoyed the happy hour a little too much. Embarrassingly, I was suffering instead from a wicked case of microfilm myopia.  I had only been researching drinking, not actually doing it.

In writing nonfiction for young people, I know the quality of the research drives the story. But that all-important work, I've concluded, may be dangerous to your health.

Other afflictions from recent research were less painful, but almost as embarrassing:

Quarter hoarding: My obsession won’t make great reality TV, but I have stashed quarters everywhere, in pockets, wallets, and tote bags, and I won’t share them with you, even for a desperately needed soft drink. They’re crucial for parking meters, copiers and lockers for stashing your stuff while you research Al Capone at the Chicago History Museum. 

Research fog: An ailment closely related to microfilm myopia, this dense stupor sets in around the fifth hour of reading, especially if you skip lunch to squeeze in more work during a research library's limited hours. As you emerge from the fluorescent-lit haze, jabbering about what you have learned, it slowly becomes apparent that no one you know cares that Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and Penney founder James Cash Penney had similar backgrounds.

Library breath: What is it about libraries that makes your mouth feels like a herd of camels just ambled across your tongue? Spend too much of the day inside one of these important (and low-humidity) places of knowledge and you'll find that your newfound trivia isn't all that will knock people out.

Chronic nerditis: Finding some new gem online can lead to mysteriously intense, heart-pounding excitement that will surely bore your family to death. You mean you can read 1920s magazines online? Find newspapers stories back to the 1850s? Look at a database instead of those fat green Reader's Guides to Periodicals?

Score!

Waitwhat? You've never heard of the Reader's Guide to Periodicals?

“Just one more” syndrome: Now this is when things get really ugly. Researching is fun; writing, for me, is difficult. So why in the world should I want to stop searching for good stuff? What if there’s a better anecdote out there? What if I’ve missed a great example? If only the deadline wasn’t approaching!

Of course, the paper cuts and smudges on my clothes from newspapers and fresh photocopies are all worth the trouble when I finally sit down at the computer. Having great stories and specific detail is crucial to writing for young people because the story must crackle and pop, and every idea must be crystal clear for readers who have little experience or context to bring to a subject.

Just try not to get behind me when I take a break at the coffee shop. I may be paying with quarters.



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13. The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children

Importance of Diversity

Download a copy of the new white paper today! (image courtesy of ALSC)

The Association for Library Service to Children is thrilled to release a new white paper titled, The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children. This paper was written for ALSC by Jamie Campbell Naidoo, PhD, and adopted by the ALSC Board of Directors on April 5, 2014.

The white paper explores the critical role libraries play in helping children make cross-cultural connections and develop skills necessary to function in a culturally pluralistic society. It states:

By including diversity in its programs and collections, the library has the potential for helping children make cross-cultural connections and develop the skills necessary to function in a culturally pluralistic society.

As this paper calls for libraries to include diversity in programming and materials for children as an important piece in meeting the informational and recreational needs of their community, ALSC encourage you to take action in your own library and community. The paper is available online at: http://www.ala.org/alsc/importance-diversity. Hard copies can be requested by emailing Joanna Ison at jison@ala.org.

The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children, and its message, has the endorsement of ALSC, the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children.

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14. Eating Dessert First

The whole idea of traveling is to learn about new places and new people.  You can buy tours where the itinerary is planned by someone else.  But for me, the best trips are the ones where I start the process that will create a trip to research a new project.  Make no mistake; it takes time and attention to plan such a trip.  This winter I made two trips to research my next book How Could We Foil a Flood?I’m particularly interested in the engineering aspect of flood control because more than forty percent of loss of life and property from natural disasters comes from flooding, and because we’ve been engineering to prevent flooding for at least 1000 years.  Most other natural disasters have had little to no engineering applied to controlling the phenomenon—we’re struggling hard enough learning how to predict them.

So the first question I ask, after reading extensively is on the subject is, who knows about this?  It is always useful to start looking for contact information though tourism or government sources.  So I made contact with the Mississippi Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) who connected me to the ACE in New Orleans, where they’re putting the finishing touches on an enormous post-Katrina resiliency post-flooding  project.  (It is no longer politically correct to call it “flood control.”) 
Lexi poses next to the new West Closure Pumping Station
--the most powerful pump in the world.
It can fill an olympic-sized swimming pool in 5 seconds.
Next, I contact the tourism people and tell them where I plan to visit and ask if I can get media rates on accommodations, freebies, etc.  Since New Orleans, a tourism mecca,  was on the itinerary, I was booked into a great hotel in the French Quarter at an affordable price.  My nineteen-year-old granddaughter, Lexi, had approached me last fall, “Please, please, please Gran, I’ve never been anywhere or seen anything.  Take me with you.”  How could I resist that gift?  My response,  “Okay, but you’ll have to work.  I need you to listen to all the interviews, take photos and videos, and keep track of all my contacts.”  And so the deal was struck.  It took a good three months to make the arrangements.
Here I am in front of some major sluices that keep the North Sea from flooding
the lowlands.  It was cold and windy with wind turbines everywhere.

The second trip I made was to the place where they know more about keeping the sea at bay than any other nation—the Netherlands.  Here, a peculiar serendipity  (not unusual for these amazing trips) played a role.  Over Thanksgiving my son had new guests—his wife’s mother’s first cousin from Scotland and her Dutch husband, Wim—were visiting from Canada. I told Wim I was planning to visit his country, so he offered the help of his brother Giovanni and his wife, Mechtild, who lived in the Hague.  Giovanni was a recently retired diplomat with time on his hands.  They stepped up and offered me a place to stay and would drive me to all my venues. In effect, they would do the job Lexi had done.  (I had been planning to take Lexi along, but she’s in her first year of college/nursing school with a heavy schedule and prioritized well.  She couldn’t take the time to come.  I’m proud of her for that.) 
I always thank the people I interview with a signed book and
an acknowledgment when the new book is published
The arrangements and schedule of what I’d see and who I’d interview was done by Arjan Braamskamp of the Dutch Consulate in NYC.  It was an amazing, exhausting and rigorous schedule.  I was wished “bon voyage” in person by Rob de Vos, the Consul General who happens to be a friend of Giovanni (talk about a small world!)
My one day to relax was two weeks before the tulips so I settled for
tiptoeing through the crocuses in the Hague.
These trips are like eating dessert first. Now comes the hard part of sifting through all the material and crafting it into something new, which will ignite the desire to learn from my readers.

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15. Destruction, Disruption, and Defiance: Jewish Resistance in the Holocaust

In discussing the persecution of European Jews in the years before and during World War II, my students would often ask, "How could they let this happen?" Meaning, how could the rest of the world stand by and do nothing? For all the answers I can help students to find, I still can't answer this question myself.

The question asked nearly as often, however, is this: "Why didn't the Jews fight back?" But to that question I can readily answer, "They did. They did fight back. But realize that it wasn't just with guns; even children your age found ways to disrupt and defy the Nazis who tried to exterminate them."

In teaching the topic of Jewish resistance, I've found a great resource in an impressive series of six books from Enslow Publishing titled True Stories of Teens in the Holocaust. This series explores, through hundreds of primary documents and photographs, the diverse experiences of Jewish and non-Jewish youth caught up in the Holocaust.

Another terrific single-volume resource for any middle or high school classroom is Doreen Rapapport's Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust, published by Candlewick Press.

Check out the books below, and then read on for suggested sites for helping students learn history through analyzing primary sources.

Courageous Teen Resisters: Primary Sources from the Holocaust

The popular title Courageous Teen Resisters: Primary Sources from the Holocaust documents both violent and nonviolent defiance of Nazi terrorism, from the increasingly overt persecution of early 1930s Germany to resistance efforts in France to the twenty-seven days of the Warsaw uprising. Readers learn how subtle and secretive efforts by Jews and Gentile sympathizers disrupted and distracted occupying enemy troops in some circumstances, while outright armed resistance and acts of sabotage wreaked chaos and destruction in others.

From Courageous Teen Resisters:

Courageous Teen Resisters is recommended as a stand-alone volume for students seeking to learn more about Jewish Resistance, as well an informational text companion to Heroes of the Holocaust: True Stories of Rescues by Teens (available from Scholastic).

The remaining five titles in the Enslow series are described below with a short publisher's summary or excerpt as well as recommended companion titles. This series is especially useful in text pairings not only to meet demands of the Common Core emphasis on informational texts, but to provide students with the necessary historical and social contexts needed to truly appreciate biography and historical fiction rooted in the Holocaust. (If you're seeking Holocaust texts for lower-level readers, be sure to check out my Annotated List of Holocaust Picture Books).

Youth Destroyed - The Nazi Camps
"Alice Lok was deported to Auschwitz, a Nazi death camp, in 1944. Upon her arrival, she faced a "selection." Alice had to stand in line as a Nazi doctor examined the new camp inmates. If the doctor pointed one direction, it meant hard labor—but labor meant life. If the doctor pointed the other way, that meant immediate death. Alice was lucky. She survived Auschwitz and two other camps. However, millions of Jews were not so lucky."  ~ from the publisher
Youth Destroyed - The Nazi Camps is recommended as an informational text companion to The Devil's Arithmetic (gr. 6-8), Prisoner B-3087 (gr. 6-9; see my review here), Four Perfect Pebbles: A Holocaust Story (gr. 4-6), Hana's Suitcase (gr. 4-5), Elly: My True Story of the Holocaust (gr. 5-7), I am a Star: Child of the Holocaust (gr. 5-7), Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps (gr. 5-8), I Have Lived A Thousand Years: Growing Up In The Holocaust (gr. 8-12), and Night (grades 9-up).

Trapped - Youth in the Nazi Ghettos
"(M)any Jewish youth living in the ghettos in Europe... faced death, fear, hunger, hard labor, and disease everyday. Millions of Jews were forced into ghettos, where the Nazis kept them until they could be deported to the death camps."  ~ from the publisher

For this title I'd recommend Children in the Ghetto, an interactive site which describes itself as
"...A website about children, written for children. It portrays life during the Holocaust from the viewpoint of children who lived in the ghetto, while attempting to make the complex experience of life in the ghetto as accessible as possible to today’s children.

Along with the description of the hardships of ghetto life, it also presents the courage, steadfastness and creativity involved in the children’s lives. One of the most important messages to be learned is that despite the hardships, there were those who struggled to maintain humanitarian and philanthropic values, care for one another, and continue a cultural and spiritual life."
By examining writings, artifacts, and first hand interviews, students gain an understanding of the "anything-to-survive" mentality which the ghetto created, and demanded, of its inhabitants. Students can explore freely, taking advantage of the interactive elements, or respond to prompts in writing using the printable handouts (I downloaded the handouts, available in Word format, and adapted them according to my lesson objectives).

Once students have interacted with this site, they will have a mental bank of sites, sounds, stories, and symbols from which to draw upon, greatly increasing their understanding and appreciation of this nonfiction text as well as any novel with which they're working.

Trapped - Youth in the Nazi Ghettos is recommended as an informational text companion to The Island on Bird Street (gr. 4-6), Milkweed (gr. 6-8), Yellow Star (gr. 5-8), and Daniel's Story (gr. 4-8).

Escape - Teens on the Run
"Thousands of Jews lived on the run during the Holocaust. Some were able to escape Germany before the war started. Others had to move throughout Europe to flee the Nazis. And many more could not escape at all."  ~ from the publisher

From Escape - Teens on the Run

Escape: Teens on the Run is recommended as an informational text companion to Number the Stars (gr. 4-5), The Night Spies (gr. 3-5), When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (gr. 4-6), Escape: Children of the Holocaust (gr. 5-7), Run, Boy, Run (gr. 5-8), Once (gr. 6-10), and Survivors: True Stories of Children of the Holocaust (grades 5-8).

Hidden Teens, Hidden Lives
"(T)housands of Jews went into hiding during the Holocaust. Barns, trapdoors, bunkers, secret attics, forged identity papers, and fake names became tools for survival."  ~ from the publisher
The fate of Jews who were hidden is of special interest to students. Even in a classroom that chooses not to embark upon a full Holocaust unit, time can certainly be devoted to learning about Jews who went into hiding rather than face extermination by the Nazis.

The uncertainty of such a choice is reflected in this diary entry from Anne Frank which appears in the book:

Hidden Teens, Hidden Lives is recommended as an informational text companion to Number the Stars (gr. 4-5), Jacob's Rescue (gr. 3-5), The Upstairs Room (gr. 4-5), Hidden Like Anne Frank: 14 True Stories of Survival (gr. 4-6), Anne Frank (10 Days) (gr. 5-7), The Hidden Girl: A True Story of the Holocaust (gr. 4-6), Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (gr. 7-up), and The Book Thief (gr, 8-up).

Shattered Youth in Nazi Germany
"Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party's rise to power in the 1930s changed life dramatically for all people living in Germany. Hitler used propaganda, fear, and brutality as his main weapons. Jewish children faced strong antiSemitism in their schools and on the street, and saw their families ripped apart. Non-Jewish children deemed "undesirable" suffered a similar fate. "Aryan" children were forced to enter Hitler Youth groups or endure humiliation."  ~ from the publisher

This book is a real stand-out as it not only chronicles the experience of Jews in Nazi Germany, but also Gentiles who were reluctant to submit to Nazi ideologies.

Shattered Youth in Nazi Germany is recommended as an informational text companion to The Big Lie (gr. 3-5), The Boy Who Dared (gr. 6-8), The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible . . . on Schindler's List (gr. 5-9), Someone Named Eva (gr. 6-9), Parallel Journeys (gr. 6-8), The Book Thief (gr. 9-up), Hitler's Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow (gr. 6-12), and The Berlin Boxing Club (gr. 9-12).

Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust

If you're looking for a single-volume resource for any middle or high school classroom, I recommend Doreen Rappaport's multiple award winning Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust, published by Candlewick Press.

Like all of Candlewick's titles, this text is supported by a number of resources available from the publisher's site, including a full page spread, a teacher's guide, an interview with a survivor, and an audio excerpt. The book itself includes primary source excerpts, maps, a pronunciation guide, timeline, index, and sources.

In speaking of her accomplishment (which took five years to research and write), author Doreen Rappaport says,
"How Jews organized themselves in order to survive and defy their enemy is an important but still neglected piece of history. I present a sampling of actions, efforts, and heroism with the hope that I can play a role in helping to correct the damaging and persistent belief that Jews ‘went like sheep to the slaughter.’"
Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation

A key resource for teaching Jewish resistance, and for discovering a multitude of primary sources, is the web site of the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation, whose key mission is "to develop and distribute effective educational materials about the Jewish partisans and their life lessons, bringing the celebration of heroic resistance against tyranny into educational and cultural organizations."

Over 30,000 Jewish partisans, or “members of an organized body of fighters who attack or harass an enemy, especially within occupied territory.” joined the hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish resistance fighters who fought the Nazis. Interestingly, however, their assistance was not always welcome, as antisemitism was often common in non-Jewish resistance groups.

This comprehensive and well constructed site offers teachers and students myriad free resources including:
  • Professional Development modules which can be completed for continuing education credits (CEUs)  (I highly recommend that prior to using this site you complete at least the first module, to better understand how to best access the site's videos, articles, lesson plans, student hand-outs, and more);
  • An extensive film collection, containing 3 to 20 minute films trhough which students can "witness the Jewish partisans' stories of endurance, victory, and struggle;"
  • Interactive maps of Jewish partisan activity;
  • A Virtual Underground Bunker;
  • An Image Gallery (captioned and sourced); 
  • Downloads for the classroom and a Resource Search option; and
  • A very unique tool called Someone Like Me, where a students enter a combination of characteristics which describe themselves, and the site presents a partisan who matches those characteristics. Students can then explore the life and work of that partisan through any of the resource links above.
Primary Sources

Because the impact of Holocaust education relies heavily upon students learning the true events of this tragedy, primary sources should play a role in every Holocaust unit. The JPEF site described above provides a wonderful collection of sources from which to choose, but below I have compiled a number of additional resources which educators may find useful in planning their instruction. As always, please reach out and let me know what other sites, books, and documents you've found useful.

Why Should I Use Primary Sources?

Reading Primary Sources: An Introduction for Students
From Learn NC, a step-by-step guide for students examining primary sources, with specific questions divided into five layers of questioning.

Primary Document Webinar
This hour long recorded webinar present teachers with not only reasons for using primary sources, but also ten really easy-to-implement ideas for starting with primary sources in the classroom.

Making Sense of Evidence
This is a highly recommended collection of articles written by experts in the field on how to make sense of films, oral histories, numbers, maps, advertisements, and more. While written by the experts, students will find the language they use to be accessible. From the site:
“Making Sense of Documents” provide strategies for analyzing online primary materials, with interactive exercises and a guide to traditional and online sources. “Scholars in Action” segments show how scholars puzzle out the meaning of different kinds of primary sources, allowing you to try to make sense of a document yourself then providing audio clips in which leading scholars interpret the document and discuss strategies for overall analysis.
Because of the career connections, this site is a valuable tool for achieving College and Workplace Readiness goals.

Engaging Students with Primary Sourcesfrom Smithsonian’s History Explorer site
A 64 page pdf that serves as an excellent introduction to using primary sources.

Primary Sources Fitting into CCSS
Brief article showing how instruction with primary docs helps fulfill CCSS.

Teaching the Holocaust with Primary Sources
From Eastern Illionis University, a Holocaust Unit utilizing resources provided by the Library of Congress.

Library of Congress: Why Use Primary Sources?
Very brief pdf discusses reasons in bullets; good for making your point when discussing unit plans with others.

Primary Sources Cautionary Tales (pdf article)
Considerations and concerns surrounding primary sources.

Where Can I Find Lesson Plans with Primary Sources?

I Witness
From the USC Shoah Foundation, this site contains over 1300 video testimonies and other digital resources, as well as assistance for educators seeking to use these tools in Holocaust education.

Response to the Holocaust: Resistance and Rescue(Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center)
A pdf format document filled with original writings and suggested student activities; you can also download the entire curriculum from the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center.

Jewish Resistance: A Curriculum from The Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida
Lesson plans include original documents, along with suggested student questions to help analyze them.

The Power to Choose: Bystander or Rescuer?
Popular set of plans that has been online for some time; used by many educators as a good starting place for planning units.

Where Can I Find Additional Sites for Primary Sources?

PBS Learning Media - Interviews with Survivors and Rescuers
A good online source for interviews.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Offers an ever-changing variety of resources, as well as searchable pages for research. Educators can often request free teaching materials as well.

PBS Resources on the Holocaust 
The search page of PBS provides a vast number of resources, including excerpts from shows which have appeared on public television.

Oral History from Virginia Holocaust Museum
Oral History Project provides witness of survivors and rescuers.

Dr. Seuss Went to War
Theodore Geisel was a radical political cartoonist who urged America to join "Europe's war," in large part due to the oppressive policies of Hitler's Nazi. But are Geisel's cartoons themselves a type of propaganda? See an earlier post here on Propaganda and Persuasion.

What Strategies or Tools are Available to Assist Students in Analyzing Sources?

SOAPS Primary Document Strategy
This pdf provides information about the SOAPS acrostic, which students can easily recall for use in analyzing primary sources of information.

Primary Source Analysis Tools from the Library of Congress
Several different tools in pdf form for analyzing oral histories, manuscripts, maps, movies, and more.

Document Analysis Worksheets from National Archive
These pdfs allow for blank printing or for students to type directly on them and then print out or save; very handy for conducting analysis online.

Analyzing a Primary Source Rubric
A rubric for scoring student efforts in using primary sources.

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16. Research and Discovery After Book is Published

On my mini book tour last week, I visited the lovely town of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. While writing and researching about Anna Keichline for Women of Steel and Stone, Anna's grandniece, Nancy Perkins, asked if I'd be willing to allow the Bellefonte Art Museum to host an author reception when the book was published. I responded immediately, "But, of course."
Fast forward two years later and scheduled considering good driving conditions, I headed toward the center of Pennsylvania. My trip was filled with many fun surprises and observations.
Here are just a few of them:
Stayed in a Anna-designed house!
Anna's grandniece, Nancy, owns a home designed by Anna and asked me if I wanted to stay with her during my visit. What a treat! Almost surreal. What surprised me was the realization that one really doesn't get the true feel of a piece of architecture until you see the work first hand.
Anna Keichline Designed Home
Anna's houses were designed with many unique details.
The house reminded me of the California Bungalow I owned in Long Beach California - built in 1930 - but Anna's house had a basement, a second floor, and stairs to an attic. Some details that stood out to me were a cozy breakfast nook, beautiful fireplace, hardware for drapes on french doors, arched windows and matching doorknobs. 
Breakfast Nook 
Fireplace
 Hardware for Drapes
Kitchen Patent #1,612,730 1924
First Floor Bathroom
Doorknobs
Harvey Apartments 1935
Decker House 1931
Bible Home 1916
Harvey House 1939
Model House 











Beautiful architecture can be torn down.
Sadly, the beautiful Garman Opera House was recently torn down. Anna's Cadillac Building is disrepair but the community is hoping that it will escape the wrecking ball.
Cadillac Building











Beautiful architecture can be transformed into other uses. 
In 2001, the Plaza Theatre was shut down and turned into the Plaza Centre Antique Gallery. Turning a art deco theatre to a two-story store changed the entire structure and feel of the building, but the beautiful ceiling details and unique wall coverings still remain. If you go to the very back of the second floor, you can still peek into the "crying room"--- a room for mothers to take their fussy babies and toddlers, a feature not found in theaters in the 1920s. 

   
Plaza Theatre 1925

Plaza Theatre Ceiling Detail
Crying Room in Back of Theatre
Anna's Life

Anna's Childhood Home
Anna's Cabin in Fishermen's Paradise

Grave Marker
Office Where Anna Worked w/ her Father
Historical Marker


Anna Featured on Bellefonte Monopoly

Book Signing in Anna K Exhibit

Nancy and I next to Anna

To get another perspective of Anna's life and the town of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, here's an entertaining and informative YouTube video, that I just found.

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17. Nonfiction Research

One of the challenges is deciding how much of your research gets into the book and how much remains for research only.

http://rateyourstory.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-writer-as-archeologist.html

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18. YA Mythbusters

Okay, let's face it--a lot of books and movies don't accurately address teenage life. Like, I, for one, have never hit my head on a chandelier while drunk-dancing, which unfortunately means that I haven't been caught by a conveniently-placed Heath Ledger, either (womp). So let's examine a few of the misconceptions, shall we?


  • Bullying isn't as bad as it used to be.
    • *DISCLAIMER: My concept of "used to be" is drawn almost exclusively from nineties chick flicks.* Bullying is different, sure. It's needling. In a lot of cases, it's subtle. Lots of passive-aggressiveness, gossping behind backs, snide remarks followed by "Ehmahgawd, I'm just kidding! Lighten up!" Honestly? I've seen two primary kinds of bullying:
    • First: within cliques. You fall in with a group of people, and you let them step all over you and talk down to you. So that they'll like you. So that you'll have someone to sit by at lunch. You swallow their crap, you wake up the next morning and do it all over again, and eventually, you forget how to stand up for yourself. Or why you should.
    • Second: there are certain kids that a grade or an entire school will mark as "okay" to bully. Maybe they're not good in social situations. Maybe they don't shower as often as everyone else. Maybe the committed some stupid faux pas in middle school and people still won't let go of it. Whatever the reason, these kids get bullied. Their classmates bully them, and the worst part is, they don't recognize it as bullying it. Once, I confronted one of my friends about her stupid comments to a kid in band, and she replied, "Oh, come on. Look at him. He brings it all upon himself." Hell, even the teachers do it.
    • Example: there was this story a while ago about a group of kids that voted someone unpopular onto a dance court, and how the school/community wouldn't stand for it. It was a beautiful story, but why was that news? Because it's rare. At my school, they've voted someone unpopular onto basically every dance they've held since my freshman year, and our administration barely even addresses it. It's horrible and disgusting and people don't think twice about playing a prank like that, because your part is so small. One click on the computer next to someone's name. You laugh. They don't. You don't ever think of yourself as the antagonist in a story. We are not villains. We are not heroes. We are hormonal. Sometimes we make mistakes, and sometimes we don't. 
VERDICT: BUSTED

  • Cliques aren't as bad as they used to be.
    • I have a friend who puts it like this: "They tell us not to label, but we can't help it. We put people in categories--it's biological. We label and then everyone tells us that labeling is bad, so we lie and say that cliques don't exist." To be clear, it isn't like Mean Girls. It isn't like there are the cool Asians and the nerds and the jocks, and no one intermingles. But there are definitely friend groups, and since my school is a very athletic-oriented one, most of them were formed around the teams you were a part of. And there's definitely a social hierarchy.
    • But then again, I've heard from friends at bigger schools that say that the social structures aren't as rigid as they used to be. It definitely depends on who you ask.
 VERDICT: I DON'T EVEN KNOW

  • Teens are lazy.
    • Here is a typical day for me:
      • 4:30 a.m. Wake up, write (this has been more sporadic this year, because damn, my bed is comfortable. And you could argue that most teens don't get up to meet a deadline. But a lot of sports teams have morning practices, and some classes are held during zero period. There's not a lot of sleeping in).
      • 6:30 a.m. Start getting ready for school: last minute homework, morning routine, etc (this also varies. Like, at the beginning of this year, my morning routine was pretty standard: makeup, hair, and so on. I gave myself a break on No Makeup Mondays and Sweatpants Fridays. Now it's No Makeup Everyday and I'm lucky if I wear real pants twice a week).
      • 7:45 a.m. Get to school, go to the coffee shop, etc.
      • 7: 55 a.m. - 3:10 p.m. School. There might be a study hall in there if you're lucky.
      • 3: 10 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. After-schools. Sports practices (though during tennis season, I rarely get home before seven. On game days, you get home anywhere between 8:30 and 11:30 or later. Games can be on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays. Except varsity football and boys' basketball, which have games on Fridays). When your sport isn't in season, you might be in the weight room, editing the newspaper, attending open gym, or doing some other extracurricular.
        • ALTERNATE: 4:00 p.m. - 9 p.m. (ish): this seems to be a popular work slot for most teens.
      • Whenever you get home, you finish everything else that needs to get done. I play piano, and I try to get in an hour or two of practice a day, but that's not always possible. We have two-three hours of Calculus homework 2-3 times a week. Three reading assignments for reading per reading. Spanish vocab tests, economics packets, and a lot of online work for science classes--all in all, anywhere from fifteen minutes to six hours of homework per night. Keep in mind that the six hours of homework could fall on a night on which we don't get home until ten or eleven.
    • So you see why it's frustrating when the protagonists in YA literature have no homework to worry about and don't seem to care about anything but their love interests? Jesus. Obviously I'd rather be thinking about Benedict Cumberbatch's cheekbones than conic parametric equations, but I also don't want to fail Calc. So drop some stuff, you suggest. Don't take on more than you can chew. You don't need to be in so many extracurriculars. BS. You do whatever you think it'll take to get into college. You snatch as many leadership positions as you can. You take every AP course even though you don't need most of them for the career you have in mind. And you claw your way along while trying to keep your class rank, in order to get scholarships.
VERDICT: BUSTED

  • Teens procrastinate.
    • Okay, so the psychologist Roy Baumeister once did this experiment during which he had two groups of students, right? He put one group of students in front of an oven full of baking cookies and gave them a bowl of radishes, saying the could eat as many radishes as they wanted but weren’t allowed to touch the cookies, and left them alone. The second group was allowed to eat as many cookies as they wanted. After thirty minutes, he gave both groups the same math problem. The group that got to eat cookies solved the problem way faster because the first group had already used up their store of mental energy. Willpower is a real thing, guys. After four years with a schedule like the one outlined above, you don’t have a ton of it. You replenish it with a good night of sleep and a good meal, right? But have to skip dinner at least a few times a week and get maybe five hours of sleep. My sleep deck is the goddamn Titanic. And it isn’t just me, it isn’t just because of writing—most of my friends are stressed. Like. I’m sitting here trying to remember if there’s one of us who hasn’t burst into tears at some point during this last year.
    • Another thing: all of our teachers, coaches, advisors, etc. tell us to prioritize. So we do. But prioritizing means that something has to come first, right? And everything else has to come after that, and that makes people mad. So prioritize really means this: Put my subject first. My sport. My club. And we’re in a stage of our lives where we really need to be liked, and when a teacher/coach/advisor is unhappy, we take it a lot harder than I think most people realize.
VERDICT: PFFT. EVERYBODY PROCRASTINATES

  • Teens are shallow.
    • So, I have a love affair with Buzzfeed. But this article pissed me off. At lunch on Friday, my friends and I talked about the gender gap, internalized misogyny, The Handmaid's Tale, and the tendency to fulfill expectations whether we want to or not. After school, we went out for coffee and talked about statutory rape, abortion, tried to figure out our political opinions, and acted out scenes from Frozen.
VERDICT: YOU DECIDE


  • And a personal peeve: High school dances are no longer a thing.
    • A lot of schools have done away with them due to low attendance, but the low attendance is caused primarily by rules about physical contact. For example, a few of our local schools saw a sharp decline in dance attendance after forbidding grinding. People don't buy tickets because the high school dance becomes more of a middle school formal, wherein you stand in your stupid little gender-segregated circles and jump around in time to the music. Less attendance = fewer tickets sold = less money to hire a DJ and buy decorations = crappy music and crappy decorations = an even small attendance for the next dance. So if schools do away with dances, that's usually why, not because we're too busy snapchatting/Facebooking/Tweeting/etc. But on the other hand, schools that do allow grinding tend to have pretty high attendance numbers. So are high school dances dying out? Should they? Meh.
    • Also: Jeez, CNN. Lighten up on the nostalgia. If you want, you can come to my school and relive your prom in our cafeteria, where on dance nights you walk in and smack into an almost-literal wall of heat slide around on the very literally sweat-soaked floors.
VERDICT: BUSTED


What do you guys think? Did I miss anything important? Leave below in the comments, and I'll do another post. Also, what do you guys think of having a Twitter chat about this? YA authors, do you have questions or want to do a fact-check on your contemp manuscripts?

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19. Sunday Morning Reads

This post would have been up hours ago if I hadn’t been having Internet issues. Service just shouldn’t be so intermittent in one’s own home. I’m just sayin’

This may have been my last visit to the garden. I was surprised with a head of cabbage that I missed in previous visits and green peppers that just began to grow. I run through the photos on my phone and I’m just amazed at the growth that has taken place. This time, I didn’t even think to take any pictures. Growth happens whether we’re watching or not.

In recent years, there have been amazing blog posts that contain research relating to various facets of diversity in YA lit. Do publishers look at them? Are their decisions impacted at all by the data that is collected and analyzed? I work in a world that frowns on blogs and the information they relate as if it is all bogus forms of cheap entertainment. Knowing that, part of me wishes some of these research posts were submitted to journals, but I am so glad the information is made accessible to readers, authors, editors and publishers. Information is power. I think more impactful than where these reports are posted will be the replicated efforts that better document trends and hopefully change in the industry.

diversity_tinakugler

 

Can we try to collect these reports? Please leave a link to others in the comments.

I know there’s more! I’m sure Debbie Reese has collected figures, but I haven’t found anything…yet. Are there numbers on Latinos? Asians?

This 2008 article references a Brigham Young Study I’ll trying get a hold of this week.

The Brigham Young study analyzed the race, gender and family background of human characters in 82 Newbery-winning books through 2007. The analysis compared three periods, starting with 1922 through 1950, followed by the era in which the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum, 1951 through 1979, and concluding with the 1980 through 2007 period.

Black and Hispanic protagonists became scarcer during the past 27 years. American Indian and Asian main characters increased in number — to two each.

Latino protagonists disappeared from 1980 through 2007 and black ones fell to two from a high of five between 1951 and 1979, the study found. White main characters rose to 19 from 18 in the same period.

The last book with a Hispanic protagonist to win a Newbery Medal was “Shadow of a Bull,” by Maia Wojciechowska, in 1965. The book dealt with a young Spanish boy’s struggle to follow in the footsteps of his slain bullfighter father.

Books by authors of color and with characters of color aren’t written just for people of color. (Corollary: Books by white people aren’t written just for white people.) So, POC books and authors fight the good fight and show up anywhere and everywhere that readers can be found such as at book signings, local library events and conferences. Readers of color have to show up to.

Think about it.

If publishers and editors don’t see us at conferences and signings, their notions that we don’t read or buy books will only be re-enforced. Show up to these events, inquire about your favorite author of color. I say this out loud to remind myself why I’m going to ALAN this year and why I’m especially thankful that author Lyn Miller-Lachmann proposed a panel with her, myself, Kekla Magoon and Rene Saldana Jr. I think I saw names of three other authors of color in the program. So disappointing! I really hope to see more people of color than that in the audience.

If you’re a librarian looking for ways to get involved in ALA and make a difference, this information is for you.

Committees with openings:

and the Committee Volunteer Form (which requires you to sign in):

https://www.ala.org/CFApps/Committee/volunteerform/volunteerform2.cfm?group1=YALSA

YALSA has dozens of ways for its members and supporters to get involved, including many options for virtual participation.  Whether you choose to volunteer to gain additional leadership opportunities, build your resume, increase exposure in the association or library community, or give back to the profession, YALSA relies on you to help support the association and make a positive difference in serving teens through libraries.

Whichever way you choose to get involved, we are committed to providing you with a meaningful experience.  If you have any questions, or would like additional information, we’re happy to help!  Email us at yalsa@ala.org or call us at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4390.

And yes, dammit! There are malls in Kenya! And paved roads, car dealerships, universities, banks and yes, even book publishers! I remember when The Cold War between the US, Russia and China played out in Africa and now it’s this ‘war’ between… who is this between? Who are the players? These extremists in the East and in the West? It’s playing out all over Africa, from Mali to Kenya and to Somalia. Great people to follow from various locations across the continent to keep you aware of mostly literary and a few political occurences.

Storymoja Hay Fest@SMHayFest

Kinna@kinnareads

Writers Project Gh@writersPG

African Library Proj ‏ @AfricanLibraryP

Jalada Africa ‏ @JaladaAfrica

I’m thinking about mooncakes and Moon Festival while my friends in Taiwan are just getting over a massive typhoon.

Bless the people of Kenya who are mourning and grieving. Bless the people of Taiwan who should be celebrating the autumn moon festival but are suffering from a massive typhoon. Even from these tragedies, there will eventually be growth; god willing!

Bless us!

 

 

 

 

 


Filed under: Sunday Reads Tagged: garden, research, statistics, yalsa

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20. Research Across Levels

Last week I was literally sitting on the dock of the bay when along came a kayaker. Hello I shout and she shouts back hello and pulls up to the dock where we proceeded to have a 30 minute conversation. It really is a small world. The kayaker is an English professor at an East coast university and we commiserated about the lack of true research expected of her students and/or the lack of knowledge about how to begin the whole research process. Typically she teaches upper level classes but lately the administration at her university has decided all teachers should have the opportunity to work with English 101 students. I was pleased to hear her say she and some of the other university professors know who can help steer the students at their university…the librarians.

My district and a neighboring district team up every year about this time to have a professional development day for all of the librarians in our area. One of the sessions we will have is called Preparing Secondary Students for Research at the College Level. We have invited four university level librarians and two professors to be a part of a panel discussion covering expectations, academic research, citation tools and ways to develop and boost students’ information literacy IQ’s. When we are in the company of post-secondary librarians we are reminded that our students really are your students.

 


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21. NonFiction Picture Books: Research Required


QUIZ: ARE YOU READY TO WRITE A CHILDREN'S PICTURE BOOK?
  1. How many pages are in a typical children’s picture book?
  2. Who is the audience of a children’s picture book? Hint: It's not just kids.
  3. Are there restrictions on the vocabulary you use in a picture book?
  4. Do I have to write in rhyme? Do manuscripts written in rhyme sell better?
  5. Do EPUB books have to the same length as printed books?
Don't start writing that picture book until you know these crucial concepts. GET THE ANSWERS HERE.

How much research do you need to do for a children’s nonfiction picture book? Tons!

Nonfiction means that you have the facts straight, ma’am.

3 sources agree. Traditionally, writers look fora at least three sources to back up each piece of information. This means the content isn’t just a personal opinion or a poorly researched fact. Facts should be replicated in multiple studies and corroborated by multiple experts.

Primary sources. Just as in any nonfiction writing,it’s important to go to the primary source of information. Talk to scientists, look up research reports and email the authors of the study, go out and try something for yourself.

Dig deeper. Nonfiction picture books should dig deeper for information, for the meaning and interpretation of the facts, and for context. A biography of Shirley Temple, for example, would likely consider the Depression Era and the effects it had on the burgeoning film industry. For some, Temple’s films were seen as a cheap escape from the harsh realities. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said about her, “When the spirit of the people is lower than at any other time during this Depression, it is a splendid thing that for just 15 cents, an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.” And of course, if I was writing a book with that quote, I would have to tell you where I found it. (It’s quoted here in the UK Guardian.)

Tools for Research

My favorite tools for researching for a nonfiction children’s book include:
Google, GoogleScholar, and more. Here are tips and more tips for searching on Google. Did you know you can restrict the search to a certain website or ask Google to only tell you about information posted in the last year? GoogleScholar searches research journals. See the full list of Google products here.

Wikipedia. I know, people feel that Wikipedia is unreliable. But Clay Shirky argues in his book, Here Comes Everybody, that over the long run, it’s more reliable because so many people are able to edit it. Crowd-writing-and-editing is both the strength and weakness of Wikipedia. And yet, I find it great for an initial look at a topic; and the references are often the primary sources that I need. Don’t discount this one.

Library Databases. I recently taught essay writing to a group of home-schoolers and we took a field trip to a public library to look at their databases. These are databases that either aren’t available on the web, or cost too much for an individual to subcribe to. Most public libraries subscribe to an incredibly rich set of databases that offer a world of information; often these are available online through your library’s website. It’s one of the first places I look for info.

Follow up leads. Often these resources will send me off in multiple directions scrambling for more information, emailing scientists, reading dense research reports and so on. It’s not where you start, but where you end up that matters. Follow the trails, question everything and search for answers.

Two Nature Books as Examples of Research

My two recent nature books took different tracks for their research.

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and other Natural Disasters for over 60 Years required me to interview the biologist on Midway Island about the conditions there during the tsunami and its aftermath. I also looked at video of the tsunami that hit Japan, debris fields in the Pacific, and photos of the desolation on Midway Island. Researching the life and times of the 60 year old bird–the oldest known wild bird in the world–meant going back in time to find out what storms had hit Midway in the last 60 years. Other issues arose: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, longline fishing and more. Each subtopic meant delving into the research to find details to include in the story. Though it is only 850 words long, it entailed a lot of primary research.


AbayomiCover-250x250-150Research for my latest nature picture book took a different tack. Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: The True Story of an Orphaned Cub The illustrator, Kitty Harvill lives in Brazil half the year and is involved in the environmental art community there. She heard about an orphaned puma cub and suggested the story. Because she knew the scientists involved, it meant lots of interviews, including Skyping with the scientists.

The reports about where the cub was orphaned included coordinates for the chicken farm where the mother was killed. I looked on GoogleEarth and found images of the exact locale, which helped me describe the events in more detail. Harvill actually visited the site and took photographs for reference for the art.

For this story, the context meant even more research. Why are pumas important in the Brazilian ecosystem? It turns out that there has been an increase in Brazilian Spotted Fever (similar to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in the U.S.). The largest rodent in the world, the capybara is the primary host for the ticks that carry the fever; and the biggest predator of capybaras are pumas. I researched ticks and tick-borne diseases, checking the World Health Organization to confirm that the fever has increased in Brazil. I looked at capybaras and their habitats. Puma diet consists of many other small mammals, including rodents. Were capybaras a large portion of what they ate? The questions went on and on.

Through it all, though, there was this main question: where is the story?
For me, it’s not enough just to recite facts. I want the emotional impact of those facts, the story. I found it in the original report of the cub who was orphaned. The owner of the chicken farm where the mother was killed said that he had no idea pumas might be involved in stealing his chickens. He said, “I’ve lived here for over 40 years and I’ve never seen a puma.”

That thought sat around for a long time, before it became the basis of the story: pumas were invisible.

Nonfiction picture books require meticulous research and each project takes on a life of its own.


Check out other 2nd Grade Picture Books for examples of nonfiction titles to study.




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22. Conducting Effective Internet Research

Many students struggle with the research portion of research-based writing. Here are some tips to help students to conduct Internet searches safely and effectively.

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23. Google’s New and Innovative Technologies

IT Forum Gold Coast (ITFGC) is the best place to network with industry peers, potential clients and employers.  The Federal, State and local Governments give well-deserved recognition to ITFGC for being an active voice of the IT industry on the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Being a member gives you an unprecedented opportunity to stay informed […]

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24. Research in the digital age

OSO-Banner2-568x123px

Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) launched in 2003 with 700 titles. Now, on its tenth birthday, it’s the online home of over 9,000 titles from Oxford University Press’s distinguished academic list, and part of University Press Scholarship Online. To celebrate OSO turning ten, we’ve invited a host of people to reflect on the past ten years of online academic publishing, and what the next ten might bring.

By Adrastos Omissi


As someone who has lived out his entire academic career in a research environment augmented by digital resources, it can be easy to allow familiarity to breed contempt where the Internet is concerned. When I began my undergraduate degree in the autumn of 2005, Oxford’s Bodleian Library, as well as every faculty and college library, had already digitized their search functions, Wikipedia was approaching one million English articles, and all major journals were routinely publishing online (as well as busily uploading their back catalogues). Free and instantaneous access to a vast quantity of research material is, for those of my generation, simply assumed.

The Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. By Kamyar Adl CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. By Kamyar Adl CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Internet’s greatest gift is text, in every permutation and definition of that word imaginable. For research students, one of the greatest obstacles is to acquire the necessary information that they need to make their own work a solid, and above all, living piece of scholarship, in communication with the wider academic world. Text is, ultimately, the sine qua non of this struggle.

Each specialism has its own particular loves, its debts owed to the Internet. Find any doctoral candidate in Britain today and they’ll each have their own version of ‘I couldn’t have completed me doctorate without online product X.’ For me, a classicist, it was the digitization and free availability of an increasing proportion of the written records of the ancient world. Online libraries of Greek and Latin texts, libraries like Perseus, Lacus Curtius, and the Latin Library, or searchable databases like Patrologia Latina brought the classical world to life (and to my laptop).

Of course, it’s not just ancient books that are now open to easy access from anywhere that the Internet can reach. When I was an undergraduate I looked into how much it would cost me to buy the entire Cambridge Ancient History series, which I felt would make an invaluable addition to my bookshelves. The answer – somewhere in the region of £1,600 – was enough for me to go weak at the knee. Now, I have all fourteen volumes in PDF. Google Books and the increasing digitization of the archives of publishers and academic libraries means that paradigm shifting debate can now beam into student rooms and even into private homes.

Just as the automated production line turned the automobile, once a bastion of elitism, into an affordable commodity for the average household, so the Internet is now putting books that would have once been hidden in ivory towers into the hands of any person with the desire to find them. And as hardware improves, these options become more and more exciting. Tablet computing means that this enormous corpus of academic texts and original sources is now available on devices that fit into a coat pocket. Gone – or going – are the curved spines and broken bag straps that were formerly the lot of any student forced to move between libraries.

Of course, not everyone is beaming as barriers of cost and inconvenience are stripped away from academic texts. Publishers still have businesses to run and it will be interesting to see in years to come how sharply the lines of battle come to be drawn. Nor is the marginalization of the book, a thing of beauty in its own right, much of a cause for celebration. But for those wishing to access academic texts, the trend is up, and texts that would once have been found only after a long search through some dusty archive or at the outlay of several hundred pounds are now nothing more than a Google search away.

Adrastos Omissi grew up in Jersey, in the Channel Islands. He recently completed a doctorate in Roman History at St John’s College, Oxford, and now works as a researcher for the social enterprise consultancy, Oxford Ventures.

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25. Feet On The Ground Research - Lucy Coats

Last month I horrified historians by Messing About with Ancient History.  This month, I hope I shall redeem myself slightly by talking about the importance of 'feet on the ground' research.

When you're chasing a historical character, trying to pin them down in a particular place, there's nothing quite like visiting sites they would have known and recognised. With most of history, that's not so easy, because a good deal of it will have disappeared in the interim. However, in Rome, history is so close to the surface that you trip over it. In my case, literally.


I was in the Forum last week, and (with my usual weather luck) it was raining. The Roman cobbles are very large, very uneven, and I caught my toe and fell over. I don't suppose I'm the only idiot ever to have done it, and now I have the makings of a ready-made scene for the new book. This sort of authentic detail is invaluable, once the bruises have faded, and would have been impossible to garner in any other way than by empirical experience. The colour of the sky, the way the river Tiber winds, the height of the seven hills, the pinoli trees - all these things are in my mind's eye now, along with the exact colour of a particular column, the way a belt hangs round a sacrificial swine's belly... and much more.

Yes, I could have looked these things up in a book, or read someone else's account of their travels, but I think the next installment of my Cleo's adventures will be all the richer for my visit - and I don't at all begrudge her my sore feet and banged knees. I even managed to find an exact copy of an Alexandrian Priestess of Isis in the Borghese Palace - just what I needed to see what robes she would have worn.

Now, if only Egypt wasn't so damned dangerous at the moment...

Lucy's new picture book, Captain Beastlie's Pirate Party is now out from Nosy Crow!
"A rollicking story and a quite gloriously disgusting book that children (especially boys) will adore!" Parents In Touch magazine
"A splendidly riotous romp…Miss the Captain’s party at your peril." Jill Bennett
"An early candidate for piratey book of the year!" ReadItDaddy blog
"A star of a book." Child-Led Chaos blog

Lucy's Website
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Lucy is represented by Sophie Hicks at Ed Victor Ltd

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