Monday, August 27, 2012

Immersion

I haven't been able to write much this summer, but I've done a lot of thinking and enough outlining to ensure that I'm going to have a very productive end of the year.

I have a lot of research to do for my next several books, and I'm going to start today, assuming the migraine that just eased up doesn't flare up again.  Once the small one starts back to preschool in September, I hope to move forward without all the starts and stops I've had over the last several months.

My next several novels are set in Appalachia.  My plan is to immerse myself in Appalachian and Cherokee culture and literature so I don't misrepresent any facts. 

Yesterday, I purchased a copy of Up From These Hills: Memories of a Cherokee Boyhood by Leonard Carson Lambert, Jr.  It's a memoir of a Cherokee man who grew up in the reservation in North Carolina and also lived outside the reservation in the hills of Tennessee in the 1930's and 1940's, the location and time period where one of my novels is going to be set.  The purpose of the memoir seems to be to debunk the stereotypes about Cherokee Indians.  It's definitely an interesting read.

http://www.amazon.com/Up-These-Hills-Memories-Southeast/dp/0803235364


I thought the research I need to do would be relatively easy.  After all, we should be able to find any kind of public information on the internet, right?  The Tennessee State Library has information, but the web site only lists what they have on site, and some of the materials are restricted to Tennessee residents.  Kind of lame in my opinion.

The National Archives located in DC and Atlanta have original documents, like the census lists for Cherokees before and after the Trail of Tears.  But it's on microfilm.  Anyone can order the microfilm via an online form (it's really expensive), but then you need a reader to read it.  Do they not have interns to digitize the microfilm?? 

I definitely need to do a road trip or two.  I looked into flying to the county in Tennessee where my first novel is set so I can be sure to get descriptions of the landforms right (although this may be an area where strip mining and mountaintop removal have severely changed the landscape), but the nearest airport is over an hour away.  I may as well drive and take my time getting there.  I was also disappointed to find that there aren't any hotels that don't look terrifying (think Psycho or Motel Hell). 

I've had a great time with my kids this summer, but I'm definitely looking forward to getting back to work.

Have you had to do research for your work?  Any suggestions?  Anyone know where I can get a microfilm reader?

38 comments:

  1. Microfilm? How old school!
    I researched by talking to fighter pilots. You might be hard pressed to find someone old enough for your setting, but maybe someone else who has done a ton of research on the subject could help?

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    1. That's a good idea. About 17 years ago, I spent a lot of time in the microfilm room at work. Not fun.

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  2. I seem to write first, then do the research. I have this need to get the story out of me.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

    http://www.shellysnovicewritings.blogspot.com/

    http://secondhandshoesnovel.blogspot.com/

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    1. I'm writing the core part of the story without a lot of the setting, but I'm worried about having to do a lot of rewrites if I wait on the research.

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  3. Hi Tonja,
    Sorry, I can't help with your research question. Have you tried searching for images on the internet of the places you are writing about? Is there a historical society in the county or state? Good luck to you. Glad September is right around the corner
    Karen

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    1. Yes on the historical society. I'm hoping to visit it soon. They have some historical maps and some history on their website, but most of the sites in the area have omitted the thing where the Cherokee were forced out. I did find the original military order stating how they would force them out. Horrifying.

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  4. Good luck with the return to school for little one, and the return to writing for mom!

    I tend to over-rely on the internet when it comes to research, but your own local libraries (community, local college, etc) can be tremendously useful. Many times there are inter-library loan programs that they can take advantage of that you might not be aware of. A willing local librarian can become your best friend -- it's worth a shot.

    Good luck!

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  5. I love doing research. It's where I get all my best ideas for my story! What a drag you can't get the info on the microfiche. Road trips for research are expensive, but sometimes well worth it. And I know you'll make the most of your little one's time in school. :)

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    1. I think I might allow myself a nap on the first day or two. :) My alarm clock goes off at 6:00 a.m. to get my teen out of bed. I'm exhausted.

      I agree about research prompting story ideas.

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  6. I use the internet mostly for my research. I hope it goes well and it would be awesome to travel to the places that your write about. I know someone that just did that and it made a big difference in her writing. Hope your migraine gets better quickly!

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  7. I'm not a big fan of research, BUT, I have found that in researching certain facts for books, I have taken off in a whole new direction. A direction much better suited to my plot and story. Although still not a fan (I want to sit down and WRITE) it has vastly improved my work.

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    1. I agree. I think it's necessary for this story.

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  8. Sounds like some cool (but challenging) research. And I'm all for any research that requires a roadtrip!

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    1. We have enough miles for a free flight...if only there were an airport. I suppose I could use it to go to DC so I can hang out in the microfilm room at the National Archives. Not exactly the ideal road trip.

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  9. I have a post at Alex's blog today about research. I totally get this. :)

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    1. I read it. Your research may have been a little trickier than mine will be. I can probably make stuff up without too many people noticing. I'm not so sure about that for science.

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  10. Good luck with your research Tonja! Maybe you could plan a road trip during a holiday weekend. Julie

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    1. My kids don't have as many days off this year. Only Labor day and then Thanksgiving.

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  11. I can tell you are very interested in your topic and will have to reign in the research impulse. Or at least I would have to. A good thing might be to look into some Google Earth maps. You can travel via internet that way and look at a ground level view if they have satellite images.

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  12. Oh boy, microfilm? Yikes!
    It is definitely true that you can find a lot of stuff on the internet these days, and yet some surprisingly simple details are hard to pin down. Good luck with your research, online, in person, and via defunct technology!

    In the end, it'll be worth it!

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  13. Oh wow, there's still microfiche? Amazing. If it's history based, I go ask my brother for help. He loves history & research. If it's science, I ask my husband about technical things. Deeper science, I have my friends at the observatory. I guess that's cheating, but find people you can utilize. I do enjoy research though.

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    1. I think I'm definitely going to need an expert to review it after the first draft. Hopefully I'll find one along the way.

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  14. I love books set in Apallacia. Have fun getting it all started.

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    1. Thanks. The story is going to be a little dark, so I'm definitely going to try to have fun with the research part of it. :)

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  16. Microfilm - how cool. Research is always exciting, although I sometimes find it hard to start...

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    1. Me too. The amount of work I need to do is a little daunting. It's time to get started.

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  17. wow, I didn't think anyone used microfilm anymore.

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    1. Just the U.S. government. It seems that it counts under the Freedom of Information Act. :)

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  18. Good luck with the back-to-school-routine. The research sounds fascinating... and lots of fun at the same time.

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    1. I'm definitely looking forward to routine. My kids needed a go with the flow kind of summer - not ideal for me.

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  19. there are plenty of creepy hotels to choose from in va.---happy writing--sounds interesting :)

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  20. I've always wanted to do some real live research on the books that I write. I think that kind of investigation can only make a book better by fleshing out details.

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