SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Monthly Meeting – October 2021: Author Alda P. Dobbs

At the October monthly meeting, Alda P. Dobbs, author of BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA (Sourcebooks Young Reader, 2021) shared resources and research tools for historical fiction/nonfiction writers.

For Dobbs, a story passed down by family led to her learning how to research the historical context and facts surrounding her family’s experiences. As an engineer turned self-taught researcher, she then wove history into her debut novel, which was recently selected for the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List. Dobbs has a follow-up book deal set for 2022.

Resources “To Find Gold for Your Novel:”
– Inspiration/Passion (e.g., a family story)
– Basic Facts: who, what, when, where, why, and how
– Historical Data: characters’ histories; religious/cultural/political views; local/regional/world events; technology; education; work; diet; clothing/fashions; medicine/healthcare; entertainment; dwellings/buildings …

Research Tools:
-Libraries and Librarians: local/state/national (public and private)
•Special Collections and Genealogy Departments
-Online Books and Catalogs:
•Worldcat.org
•Books.OpenEdition.org
•GutenBerg.org
•Babel.Hathitrust.org
-Overdrive and Google Books
-On-Site Visits/Travel: experience settings/environments; visit museums; observe
-Maps: Sanborn maps; Google Earth maps; museum maps
-Photographs/Art
-Newspapers/Periodicals
-Journals; Memoirs; Translations
-Farmer’s Almanac; Sears Catalog

Weave Historical Facts into Your Book:
-The “95% rule” (most historical research is not going to make it into the book so it does not dominate the story, however, it informs your writing)
-Cross-reference sources
-Fact check
-Incorporate language and voice
-Share knowledge and wisdom
-Celebrate ancestors and keep their spirit alive
-Find a connection to today (history repeats—learn from the past)