in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Research, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 321
By: Julia Callaway,
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Classics & Archaeology
, Adrastos Omissi
, digital research
, doctorate degree
, Oxford Scholarship Online
, by adrastos
, Add a tag
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 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.
Subscribe to the OUPblog via email or RSS.
Subscribe to only education articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS.
The post Research in the digital age appeared first on OUPblog.
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 […]
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.
QUIZ: ARE YOU READY TO WRITE A CHILDREN'S PICTURE BOOK?
- How many pages are in a typical children’s picture book?
- Who is the audience of a children’s picture book? Hint: It's not just kids.
- Are there restrictions on the vocabulary you use in a picture book?
- Do I have to write in rhyme? Do manuscripts written in rhyme sell better?
- 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.
Research 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.
By: Monday's Balcony,
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.
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.
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):
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 firstname.lastname@example.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
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!
Filed under: Sunday Reads
Marco Veyna-Reyes, 2013 ALSC Spectrum Scholar (photo courtesy of Marco Veyna-Reyes)
Marco Veyna-Reyes was recently announced the 2013 ALSC Spectrum Scholar. He is an MLIS candidate at the University of North Texas (UNT). I caught up with Marco to ask him a few questions about his path to children’s librarianship.
So you’re working full-time in a library right now?
Yes, my official title is the YPL/Children’s Services Assistant for the Mesquite (NV) Public Library. The YPL stands for Young People’s Librarian. I’m also taking classes at the University of North Texas towards my MLIS.
How did you choose to get into children’s librarianship?
My interest in librarianship started in high school when I participated in the Latin Chamber of Commerce’s Career Day. I shadowed the Assistant Human Resources Director for the District and one of the things we did was go to the different library branches around the city. I got to meet some of the librarians. From that experience, I began to volunteer in the library. Eventually, I realized that this was the type of career I would enjoy.
I grew up in an English as a Second Language (ESL) household. There was no English spoken at our home. My dad really wanted us to find professional careers. He encouraged us to excel in school and even bought us an encyclopedia set in Spanish because he wanted us to be fully bilingual.
When I started volunteering at the library I was living in Las Vegas. I was volunteering at branch with a lot of ESL parents and I realized that this where I could help out. I really enjoyed that aspect of it, working with kids from under-represented communities. Librarianship was a perfect fit.
What are you most proud in your time at library school?
I’ve really been proud of the ability to attend. It’s also been helpful to be a full-time librarian assistant because I get to see a lot of the theory applied on a daily basis. There was a management class that I enjoyed as well because I’d really like to be a good Children’s Services Department Head in the future.
I’ve also enjoyed learning about the history of librarianship in the United States. My family is from Mexico and there isn’t a strong public library system there. So to learn about the place that the library has in the community is really interesting to me.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities at the library?
I’m the only full-time children’s employee at my rural branch, so I have to do a lot of multi-tasking! I cover the Customer Service Desk and Adult Services Desk, process most of the new children’s materials, put on story times, do weekly community outreach and schedule off-desk time. We also put on a Saturday movie matinee and put on two large family programs a month.
How did summer reading go this year?
We had a very successful summer! I’m the go-to person for summer reading at our library and I love it. My favorite part is having the kids recognize me from school visits and talking with the parents. I especially like working with the ESL parents, getting them to recognize the role of the library in their children’s development and reducing the summer slide.
Do you have a favorite children’s book?
I really like the Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I think it describes my relationship with my community and how I hope to give back to the people of Southern Nevada.
Thanks and good luck!
A weekly short list of tweets that librarians and the teens that they serve may find interesting.
Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between September 6 and September 12 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.
Whether they write fiction or nonfiction, most writers I know do research. Almost as many believe that if they find a fact three times they can trust that it’s true. Unfortunately, that’s nothing but myth. You can find a piece of misinformation just as many times as you can find an accurate fact. The reasons for this vary. Once something is published and in circulation, other people can cite it. That’s fine if it is accurate, but if it isn’t, you now have the same inaccurate information published in multiple places. It can also happen if the information is being published to push a certain agenda. The end result is sometimes more important than the accuracy of the information. The reality is that finding something multiple times doesn’t make it true. It just means that it is well-circulated. Here are three tips to help you separate accurate fact from well-published nonsense:
- Group the facts. After you’ve done some reading on your topic, you are going to see certain bits of information repeated again and again. You will also begin to notice schools of thought – Group X has gathered facts that prove global warming while Group Y has just as many facts that debunk it. As you read material from each school of thought, consider how their biases will shape which “facts” they choose to present and which they ignore completely.
- Go to the top. Some schools of thought are easy to dismiss. Now that we’ve seen the Earth from space, we can dismiss Flat Earth supporters. But what about your topic? It may not be as obvious. Look for an expert who isn’t a strong supporter of either school of thought or at the very least questions both. Reading what this person has written may be enough to help you separate fact from fiction. If not, ask for an interview.
- Read and research even more. Have you reached the point in your research that everything you read duplicates something you’ve already read? If the answer is no, keep reading. Once you’ve read to this point, you’ll be surprised how obvious these bits of misinformation are and you’ll wonder why you didn’t spot them sooner.
No matter what you write, you need to know how to separate fact and fiction as you research.
Instead of always turning to the Internet for answers, try reaching out to your network of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.
Bring your story alive by using all five senses to do your research.
I’ve been working with Keith Bollman and his fifth grade class on a research project. The end result is a tour of the solar system, completely planned, designed, researched, and created by the… Read More
By: Carmela Martino and 5 other authors
Blog: Teaching Authors
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Hans Fischer
, Memorable Books
, April Halprin Wayland
, Poetry Friday
, picture books
, Add a tag
And Happy Children's Book Week
Jeanne Marie introduced our current topic
: In honor of Children’s Book Week, share the title of
the book we wish we still had or are sorry we loaned (and never got back) or
one we (god forbid) threw away.
Heavens to Betsy! The search for my cherished book turned into a detective story.
The first thing I did was to ask God...errr...Google for the title of the book about a surprise birthday party for an old woman named Lisette. Bello, her dog, directs the other animals while Lizette is at the market--he tells the goats to get apples, the ducks to get candles, etc. He and Lisette's two cats (Molly and...Ruly?) bake a bundt cake that burns on top, so they put powdered sugar on it at the last minute to hide the burned part.
But who was the marvelous author/illustrator and what was the name of the book????
In the course of my search, I found a site called Old Children's Books which has a page called "Looking for a Book?"
I searched and searched and searched...with binoculars, with a flashlight, with a light on my miner's helmet...
(me...but my search was not as grim as pictured)
Finally, I remembered that at the end of the book was a little kitten. And I remembered that the author/illustrator wrote another book about him. In fact, the cat's name was the title of the other book. So if I could just remember the name of the cat...it was...Pitchie!
But I couldn't find a book called Pitchie. Or Pitchy. Stumbling down the corridors of the internet, bumping into walls, I finally found the other book! It was called PITSCHI (published in 1948). I now knew the name of the author/illustrator: Hans Fischer. Which meant I was close to finding the book I was actually looking for!
But first, let's take a detour. Click here to enjoy Hans Fischer's fantastic lithographs in Pitschi "the kitten who always wanted to be something else. A sad story, but one which ends well."
All the same characters are in the book I have been looking for...and now I can plug in Hans' name and come up with THE BOOK--right?
Yes! On Worldcat.org I found it--The Birthday: a Merry Tale with Many Pictures (1954)! Worldcat summarizes the story:
"In a clearing in the forest lived old Lisette with her animals. On
her seventy-sixth birthday, Lisette went off to the village, and while
she was gone the animals prepared a wonderful birthday surprise for her."
This is the book from my childhood that still makes my heart sing.
With all the searching, I learned a few things about my good friend Hans
from Children's Books and Their Creators
, edited by Anita Silvey
. He was Swiss, he lived from 1909-1958 (only 49 years?). And he studied under the artist Paul Klee
who taught him how to use color. No wonder I fell in love with Fischer's style--I love Klee!
Klee said, "It is not my task to reproduce appearances...for that there is the photographic plate. I want to reach the heart."
And isn't that what we want from books we read...and those we create? (Actually, I wouldn't mind if large corporations took that as their company motto...)
Legendary editor Margaret McElderry discovered his work, bought the US rights to Pitschi, and went on to publish his other books, including The Birthday.
So here's my song to Hans Fischer and The Birthday.
poem & drawing © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved
What's the book you wish you still owned? Why not write a poem about it?
SEARCHING FOR A BOOK
by April Halprin Wayland
What's the title?
And the plot?
It was so tender…
Why is this your favorite book?
It lit a spark, it fanned an ember…
The book was in her skin, her cells,
she turned each page and oh! the smell…
At every page
I looked and listened,
the little kitten on a mission,
delicately, in pastel.
He was drawn and he was written
to cast a purring lifetime spell.
What's the title?
And the plot?
It was so tender…
Why is this your favorite book?
It lit a spark, it fanned an ember…
Remember that our blogiversary contest runs through May 19th--there's still time to be a winner!
See Carmela's post
for all the details.
by April Halprin Wayland, who is grateful that you've read to the end ~
Even if you're writing contemporary realistic fiction, you still need to research aspects of your story.
The recent findings from the Pew Research Center funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates on libraries have been fascinating reading. And now, my youth services friends, it is our turn to have the research spotlight turned on our efforts.As reported May 1
, " the vast majority of parents of minor children — children younger than 18 — feel libraries are very important for their children. That attachment carries over into parents’ own higher-than-average use of a wide range of library services."
In this brief synopsis of findings from the full report parents view libraries as vital to their children's reading and information needs. And - no surprise to us frontliners -these same parents are far more likely to use other library services and to express interest in expanding services and adding tech-related services.
I have had conversations over the years with colleagues in which we express frustration over the lack of support for youth services from our administrations, boards and even our co-workers in other areas of the library. This is the strongest piece of research we've seen in a while that underscores what we know - parents who use the library are vitally interested in its services not just for kids but for themselves.
When we see and serve families we are also drawing in these parents for all other adult services as well. These twenty and thirty somethings are a sweet spot demographic that some libraries embrace and some puzzle over. But they are ready for us.
I'll be highlighting this study at my library and in my workshops and presentations and sharing with my colleagues where I work. I hope you will too.
Thanks to Digital Shift
for the heads up.
By: Peggy T,
The best way to capture the past is to step back into it -- visiting the places you are writing about. Last week Fran and I toured Monticello, the mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson. There is no better way to get into a person's head than to walk the red Piedmont soil and marvel at the blue rolling hills off in the distance. Now I know why he called it his "sea view."
But stepping back in time also takes a healthy dose of imagination, too. Mulberry row, where slaves lived and worked, is empty now. I have to imagine the lane busy with boys making nails, and the air thick with smoke from the forge and the cook house. Instead of the two white women driving a four-wheeler from tree to tree in the orchard, I have to envision perhaps two black men carrying a ladder and saws to trim the branches.
The past is not black and white, either. Old photos make everyone look somber and give the impression that history was fuzzy and dull. But people wore shades of red and blue, laughed and danced. One of the more startling things I noticed at Monticello was the neon yellow dining room. Not what I would have expected had I not known how much he appreciated light and air.
Hustled through the house with other tourists it was hard to really see everything, but then again, it gave me a more accurate portrayal of a house filled with children, servants, and family. And when I return, I can dig deeper, look closer, and reveal even more.
When I was little, I could play "let's pretend" all day. I mean, like, all day. I could start the morning as a secret agent, switch to being a marine biologist by lunchtime, live on the 1840's American prairie by dinner, and go to bed as a Moomintroll. You could say I lived to play.As an adult, I'm pretty much into being my own character of me: writer, artist, friend, not to mention Head of the Laundry Department, Chief of Grocery Shopping, and Executive House Cleaner. But recently during a trip to Trader Joe's and wondering why I always buy the same old things, it occurred to me how much fun it would be to play at being someone else for the day--somebody who bought champagne and Gorgonzola instead of milk and vegetarian chili. And the best person I could think of being was my latest character in my new screenplay, especially as she is NOTHING like me. For starters, she's 18, LOL, and she's a former child prodigy (I may have been imaginative, but I was a long way from being top of the class). As I stood there in the store, I began to wonder what she would buy, and that's when it struck me: pretending to be your character, at least for a little while, would be a great way to know that character on a level way beyond filling out the usual character bio. Talk about research! For instance, you could:
Tip of the Day: The next time you take an Artist's Date, try taking one for your character. Where would he or she want to go? Why? When you arrive at the chosen place, experience as much as you can through your character's viewpoint. Write up your findings either on site or as soon as you return home.
- Shop for your character in a grocery store--even Trader Joe's! Buy items he or she would choose (or at least make a list of those items if you find them inedible or too expensive).
- Using these or other ingredients you have at home, prepare your character's favorite meal. Then eat it and describe your feelings after dining.
- Go to the kind of department or clothing store your character frequents. Pick out several new outfits, complete with accessories. Take notes (because you may not really want to buy a new tiara or desert kaftan) and use as the basis of your character's fictional wardrobe.
- Buy your character a present. What is it? Can you use it in the plot somewhere? (Note: if the item is beyond a reasonable budget or something you can't actually use yourself, you can always resort to "let's pretend." Just go to the shop where the item would be sold, and imagine you are buying it, similar to the way you "bought" their new clothes. A fun and inexpensive extra would be to purchase a card, wrapping paper, and ribbons to place in your WIP binder or journal as a visual reminder.)
- Re-create your character's last vacation. Again, if you can't really travel to the destination, at least get some travel brochures, maps, and pack a real or imaginary suitcase. A day spent pretending you are in Paris or Toledo could have a charm all its own, too! The imagination is a powerful tool.
- Dream for your character--it's not as difficult as it might sound. Before you go to sleep, think of your character's main story goal or problem. Ask your subconscious to solve it. The answer could surprise you.
- Go to your character's least favorite or most feared place. Absorb the reasons why he or she dislikes it so much.
- Next time you find yourself waiting in a long line, become your character. Why is he or she so anxious for the line to move? Where does she have to be before it's too late?
- Visit a nursery or garden center. Pick out 5-10 plants your character loves or hates. What has generated these strong feelings? If possible, purchase and plant the flowers or bushes in your own garden. Use the plants' characteristics and growth cycles as metaphors.
- Go to the library. Choose your character's 12 favorite books. Now choose one they have never read. Read it through new eyes.
- Watch your character's favorite movie. Write about a scene that has the most emotional impact for your character, and why.
- Using magazine cut-outs or other print material, assemble an album of "family photos" for your character. How does your character feel about each of these people--and why? Be sure to include some bad'uns!
Has this ever happened to you?
You pick up a book, one of those books that every
one’s buzzing about, and ten pages in, your jaw drops. Not because it’s such an awesomely written book (although it may well be) but because you've had an eerily similar idea.
Or maybe you pick up a magazine and scan the articles, nodding. Until you stop in mid-scan, your eyes riveted to a title that’s exactly
like the article you were thinking of pitching.
Writers hit on similar concepts all the time, and I’m sure we all have a similar response when we see our great idea published. The pulling-the-hair-out, screeching, “You have got
to be kidding me,” and throwing the offending book (or magazine) across the room reaction.
Or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, after my little hissy fit, I heave a huge sigh and thank my lucky stars.
Yep, I’m grateful. Grateful that I found that novel or article before I invested my time and effort into all that writing. Maybe I’d only scribbled a few notes about plot and characters, or just a “What if?” question for a pitch. But after reading what’s been published, I know that my idea is not different enough to pursue any further. Time to move on to the next idea.
Researching ideas before
you write about them is an important part of the writing process. I know it’s hard when you think you have the best idea ever. You want to pound out that manuscript while you’re super excited. You want to put together that piece for a major market that’s going to make you famous in the freelance world.Except
. Except that your time is valuable. You simply can’t afford not to do your homework. Besides, editors and agents won’t waste their time on something they've already seen.
So before you pound out that first chapter or even that first paragraph, do a little investigating. If you have an idea for a novel, check comparable titles. Consider the broad concept as well as the specific concept. Take, for example, a story about purple people eaters. It may be hard to believe that some other writer has penned a novel about purple people eaters (And P.S. They have.
). But there are a ton of zombie books
. And if you take away the purple part, you've basically got a people eater, right? Is your story different enough from not only the purple people eater books out there, but also the zombie books on the shelves?
As for articles, an Internet search will let you know very quickly if your idea has a unique angle or the same old, same old stuff that editors get every day.
But take heart. Publishing success can happen for you—if your great idea has an original
spin. So do your research before you write the first word. (And cross your fingers that your
idea will get out there first!)
~Cathy C. Hall
By: Keith Schoch
Blog: Teach with Picture Books
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Valentine's Day
, animal reports
, persuasive writing
, creative writing
, Add a tag
Looking for a fun writing activity that integrates well with Valentine's Day? Then look no further than Vulture Verses: Love Poems for the Unloved.This book is a funny and fact-filled collection of "friendship notes" written to some of the most unlovable creatures one could imagine. Through her poems and accompanying facts, author Diane Lang helps us see that even bats, turkey vultures, spiders, skunks, and mosquitoes (to name but a few of the animal dignitaries) deserve some love. The friendship note to the fly, for example, reads:
Oh fly, though no one seeks to ask,
Recycling is your secret task.
You eat the things that die or spoil
And make them part of growing soil.
So, though I shoo you from my plate,
You're someone I appreciate!
Below that we read:
Flies are specialists at eating things that are dead and decaying, getting them ready to become part of new, healthy soil.
Lovely paintings by Lauren Gallegos illustrate each animal at its most industrious, making even the most scream-worthy of the lot seem noble, or, at the very least, tolerable.
- The book closes with a request: "So many cards to write! So many animal friends! I may need some help. Do you know someone who is misunderstood? Will you help me write friendship notes, too?" Such a fantastic suggestion! Working in pairs or teams, students can research basic facts about other unloved animals that "scuttle, slither, buzz, and sting." Why are these creature seen as so horrible? What makes them worthy of our admiration? See if your students can write similar poems to change the loathsome to the lovable. Picture books such as Melissa Stewart's marvelous Animal Grossapedia will provide ample information and inspiration for even the most reluctant writers.
- As an additional challenge, ask students to write the above poems in the first person, as if they are the animal. They must defend themselves to humans, and justify the "bad rap" which they've been given. Students could be further challenged to write these poems without naming themselves (the animal could be identified at poem's end or in the title alone). Students can then read the poems aloud, and classmates can guess the identity of the nefarious narrator.
- What role do these animals play in other stories, whether fables, myths, or folktales? With what traits have they been branded? Have students create original fables using one of the creatures from Vulture Verses: Love Poems for the Unloved, or from their research project above. See my earlier post Animal Attractions for more ideas and suggested titles for fables.
- Diane Lang uses fantastic vocabulary in both her poems and follow-up facts. Discuss some of these words and challenge students to define them, using context clues alone. Why did the author choose these and not their simpler synonyms? If students completed any of the above activities, ask them to revisit their writing to substitute words that are more exacting and creative for those which are overused or ordinary.
Do you have a favorite reading or writing activity to celebrate Valentine's Day? If so, please leave a comment below!
It's my pleasure to share this space with Karen Blumenthal. Her guest post adds to recent discussions about the documentation that accompanies a published work of nonfiction.
Shortly before my first book was published, I attended a presentation by two very distinguished nonfiction writers.
“Here’s how you must do source notes,” I remember one of them saying. “You list the beginning of every quote and then the source where it came from.”
Her words sent my stomach churning and my hands shaking. My pre-publication copy of Six Days in October
was tucked carefully in my bag--and it was all wrong. I had listed my primary sources chapter by chapter as they appeared. But I had not specifically detailed the source of each quotation, or even included specific page numbers. How could I have made such a horrible mistake?
Sourcing nonfiction for a general audience, young or old, is a difficult and tricky business. While I don’t want to footnote every burp and grunt and dot pages with microscopic numbers, like the academics do, I do want readers to know the source, since there can be so many differing views on some subjects. But compiling them is tedious and unpleasant, and sometimes it’s tough to pin down exactly where a conclusion came from.
Some publishers leave the decision to the writer and some dictate a style, like the quotation method cited by the distinguished writer above. Forced to use that quotation-only style once, I found it completely misrepresented where the information came from. In some cases, one sentence may draw on four different sources; other times, a paragraph reflects dozens of pages of reading. Quotations typically are a small part of a narrative.
Sometimes, ego gets involved.
In my most recent book, Steve Jobs,
I wanted to share my research to avoid any perception that I had merely rewritten the best-selling adult biography.
Sometimes the process is messy, with notes getting jumbled up as sections are rewritten or cut and pages are designed. Sorting and correcting them can take days.
And sometimes publishers push back. Lots of detail takes lots of pages, which costs money. More than once, I’ve been asked to trim the bibliography or notes.
For my second book, LetMe Play,
a history of Title IX, I studied the notes of the masters—Russell Freedman, Jim Murphy, Susan Campbell Bartoletti and Candace Fleming, among others. From reviewing their work, I came to appreciate a short bibliographic essay giving an overview of the process for someone who might be new to formal research.
Besides, where else could you share the little gem that before C-SPAN televised Congress, legislators regularly rewrote their remarks for the Congressional Record?
That book involved an unusual number of interviews and primary sources, and the notes are detailed. It felt, at times, that I might be showing off.
But then came the calls. Every year, I hear from a college student writing a senior paper or girls from junior high through high school working on a History Day projects. Over Skype and on the phone, they quiz me. Occasionally, I have to go back to the notes to jog my memory.
The most ambitious of them surprise me. They have studied the sources and from them, found new trails for their own explorations. Their excitement and curiosity is invigorating—and enough to make
those notes feel completely worth the effort.
Karen Blumenthal is the author of five nonfiction books for young people, most recently Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different (Feiwel and Friends, 2012), which was a finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults award.
Why do books get published on Tuesdays? I have a book coming out in June, The Boy Who Loved Math, and yes, it's June 25th, a Tuesday. I looked back to when my novel Intentions pubbed--August 14th, a Tuesday. I didn't always know this; in fact I just found it out this past year. I wish I could remember who told me. But the other day I was talking to Ziki, the man who sticks needles in me to make my back and leg pain go away. We made an appointment for the next week (tomorrow) and I told him that afterwards I would be going to a book party for my friend Marguerite's new book:
"But it's not a Tuesday," he said. I told him a book party doesn't have to be on the release date--but wait, how did he know that? He wasn't sure, he just did. He said that albums always had a day to release (he thought Fridays, and maybe it used to be so, but now it seems CDs and DVDs of movies release on Tuesdays, too).
I asked a few people, and no one seemed to know. I posted my question on twitter
and got these answers:Tradition based on coverage in Sunday papers and getting books on shelves is my understanding.
I asked: Are they reviewed the Sunday before or after.
Before. So that booksellers get to spend Monday explaining why people can't buy the books they just heard about.
Hah. Other people chimed in with links:
And other answers:
I've heard shipment was a factor--UPS boxes come Monday, scan & put out CDs, etc., Tue.
Probably a less busy day for most stores too. But no one seems to know for sure.I'm 99.9% sure books are Tues b/c of Music release on Tues. So ? would be why music on Tues.
This might answer that question:
I read all of those (you don't have to) and it still seems to me that no one knows for sure... I asked some friends who are publishers and editors: nope. They didn't know.
And so I started thinking two things:
1. In the old days, I would have called a reference librarian. My old friend from the Doylestown library (where I used to live) would have found out for me, I know that for sure. So I decided to call the New York Public Library. Oops. I waited too long. It's Presidents' Day. Library closed. But it took me almost a week to remember that I used to talk to reference librarians for this sort of thing. Yes, kids, before the Internet. I used to go to the library, go up to the desk and say, "Jan, how do I find out the answer to this question?" And sometimes Jan would just find out for me, and sometimes she would teach me how to fish. I did this for a long time, even after there was The Internet, until it became more or less part of my right hand.
2.Will this change? Whatever is the cause, will Tuesdays as pub dates change if there are more ebooks and fewer bricks and mortar bookstores? Then will people release books willy nilly? Do people who self-publish books follow the Tuesday rule?
I'm really hoping that someone will post here and tell me... Why do books publish on Tuesday? I've just spent so much time on this... as so often happens when one (me) gets stuck on a research treadmill. I just want to know the answer!
Uh oh. Wait a minute. I just looked up Marguerite's book and it officially published YESTERDAY. Which was Monday. According to Amazon
. And B & N. Her publisher
just says February. Okay, now I'm really confused.
I can’t seem to stay away from England. After spending three months here last spring, I returned in mid-January, to stay until late March. My secret: home exchanging. With laptop, email, and skype, many people don’t even know I’m away – or they didn’t until now.
I’ve generated a fan base here, bigger than I have at home! One school visit in Yorkshire last spring, led to four invitations this time round. The small town/village/rural environment meant that teachers spread the word quickly. I’ve got return invitations for my next visit.
At all four schools I was thrilled to see a strong emphasis on writing. I discussed all my books in all-school assemblies, but since I’ve only got one book published in England, Katje the Windmill Cat, I focused on that in the younger classes. It’s historical fiction that focuses on a true incident. I talked about writing true stories and stories from our imagination, and mixing up the two. The children came up with great ideas for stories – true and fictional -- and one class ended a session by making up a song and dance about Katje. This was a favorite moment, along with hearing my story acted out in Yorkshire accents: “Katje, you’re too doosty!”
At Nafferton Primary School I was given the Royal Role of cutting the ribbon the open the new school library!
This was followed by lovely tea and cakes.
And I enjoyed my first English hot school dinner: vegetarian toad-in-the-hole.
The curiosity that spurs me to write about a subject doesn’t go away when the book is finally published, e.g. The Wind at Work. So when I found that my London flat was a quick bus ride away from Wimbledon Common, off I went to see the Wimbledon Windmill and Museum, tagging along with a school group for a wonderful presentation by Norman and Ray Plastow.
Norman spearheaded the restoration of the windmill and the creation of the museum within. It’s a wonderful place, chock full of great artifacts and exhibits. And the Windmill Café next door serves delicious hot soup, most welcome on a cold January day.
Another treat was meeting Paul Sellwood, a windmill-wright who travels the UK and abroad restoring old windmills. It’s so much fun to meet people to natter on with, about one’s own arcane interests!
View Next 25 Posts
Hey teachers! Kids too! Are you writing any nonfiction stories in class these days? Lots of schools are trying out this approach to writing in general, and they’re studying the different ways good nonfiction books are written in particular, especially in light of the CCSS. So what different kinds of writing might work nonfiction-wise? There are plenty.
Try doing live interviews or writing a journal, for example—they both count as nonfiction. A few ideas:
Maybe your class can interview various folks who were on the scene during a great or terrible historic event, such as the Summer Olympics or even 911. Or try interviewing somebody who has an unusual job; maybe the old Santa Claus at the mall or a fireman (naturally) or your mayor or a local musician or a TV personality or your own bus driver.
And maybe you can pen some truly amazing journals during a field trip to a museum or a festival or an historic site. (Of course if you aren’t going on any field trips, you can always write some pretty entertaining journal entries about the food in your cafeteria.)
Or take a stab at uncovering the true story of how your own family came to America. Whether they got here last Wednesday or 300 years ago, doing the research is a hoot…and be sure to ask your parents or grandparents. You'd be surprised what they know and what you don't.
Or you can write research papers about things you’re learning in class—some examples might include compiling all sorts of comments about the frogs (living or dead) in your science lab, or researching and writing about a disterous Civil War battle for your history class, or making like a professional critic who’s writing book reviews for your English class, or examining the statistical issues behind today’s economic crisis in your math classes without putting anyone to sleep. Now there's a challenge for you.
IT IS OK TO HAVE FUN WHILE YOU DO THIS…YOU DON’T NECESSARILY HAVE TO GET ALL SERIOUS (UNLESS YOU WANT TO.)
Yup, your writing has to shine; that’s a given. But here’s an outstanding tool that lets you spice up everything you write, gets people interested in your stories and papers, helps you learn faster, makes sure readers remember your most complex material in a flash, and entertains your own self at the same time:
JUST STIR IN ALL KINDS OF PICTURES AS YOU GO ALONG.
Really? Most definitely! After all, just think about it. Whenever you go online or watch movies or TV or play video games or look inside certain books, they’re all about the pictures. Lots of you are probably taking pictures yourself today by using a cell phone, or you’re adding pictures to online sites like Facebook. So while you’re busy writing papers and journals and stories at school, why not think the way you do in the real world…whenever you write, stir plenty of artwork and photos and other visuals of your own into the mix.
Here are a few tiny examples of the gazillion ways to add pictures to your writing:
TAKE THE JOURNALS, FOR EXAMPLE:
When you bring your journal along on a school field trip – or even on a regular day – be sure to bring some colored markers or colored pencils or just regular lead pencils. Then draw the coolest things you see. Try to show the real world and still use your artistic imagination at the same time. Put pictures next to the words you just wrote or use pictures to make a rebus or spread pictures into the margins or make them into cartoons or make them extremely realistic. Let some of the pictures fill a whole page or two or three of their own. They can most certainly be funny. They can most certainly be serious or scientific. Doodling is just fine. Cartoons are just fine. Beautiful pictures are, well, beautiful and wonderful. And of course you can draw all kinds of fancy lettering in your topic headings along the way.
Trust me, people will want to see what you wrote if it’s illustrated. When explores like Lewis and Clark or scientists like Charles Darwin wrote journals, they did these exact kinds of things. Their writing was incredibly fun to read and was informative to the max at the same time. Yours should be too.
Another idea is to take photos during the day, print them out, and tape them in later. Or collect small stuff you find and glue that in too—for example, add brochures or cut them up and tape some of the picture into your journal. Or add small parts of the plants you see on a farm visit. Or leaves you pick up on a hike during the fall.
AND HOW ABOUT ART FOR YOUR INTERVIEWS?
One idea is to draw the person you are interviewing yourself! Or take your own photos of them doing something verrry cool and then paste or tape them into your written work. Or if they have any pictures taken when they were kids, make photocopies and add them to the mix. Even if you write your interview (or any other stuff) online, you can scan in your pictures and imbed them.
GEOGRAPHY CAN BE MEMORABLE IN SPADES:
Think of cool and colorful pictures you can add to your charts and graphs:
If they look great, they can offer readers a fast and entertaining way to learn a lot of boring stats in a single glance.
Try putting the quotes inside of talk balloons that point at a picture of the person who's being quoted. Maybe this person is a new cartoon character of your own creation (kind of like the one Jeff Kinney made up for his Wimpy Kid), or maybe you can research what the people you quoted really looked like and what they really wore, and then draw them accurately.FAMOUS LAST WORDS:
YIKES! Art is in danger of disappearing from our schools, and that would be a DISASTER. Help bring it back by adding artwork to your written work in school.
Paint pictures on wood!
Write words on all kinds of unusual paper.
Try playing around with paint, scraps of cloth, cut paper, or scratch board, and then add them to your written work.
Experiment with your photographs.
Make collages using buttons, flowers, seeds, or leaves picked up off the ground....if your essay or journal is lumpy, so what? Your writing will end up being a keeper, and you will learn to think, be creative, do research, and remember what you wrote about for a very long time.