Anita Aurit shares her NCWA Renewal conference experience.
Dressed in an ensemble that represented the late 1800s, Carole Estby Dagg had filled the front table of her workshop with old-fashioned shoes, a carpetbag, patterns for period clothing, photographs, advertisements, news clippings and postcards of the day. She explained that the driving force for her compulsion to set her novels in the past is that the research takes her to many places of inspiration and the interplay of fact and fiction creates fertile territory for storytelling.
She began by weaving a tale of the research journey for her book, The Year We Were Famous. Although Carole is a librarian, she encouraged us to look beyond the library for our own historical tidbits. She said, “Research is not just at the library, it’s wherever your curiosity leads you.” One of the more unusual sources she recommended was eBay.
Carole encouraged us to understand the age group of our audience. The historical facts we share may vary depending on whether we’re writing for children, young adults, women or men. Writing a book during Civil War times for a male audience might focus on weapons and armies, while a woman’s version would include detail on feminine fashions and the requirements of running a household. She also suggested we be open minded to alternative book styles such as picture books, academic and poetry.
Immersing ourselves in books from the time period is an excellent way to get into the mind of our historical characters and to understand the influences in their lives.
The Year We Were Famous is about Carole’s family and she discussed the difficulty an author faces when writing about real people. “There’s a big difference between facts and what really happened and understanding this is critical.,” she said. A small fact might lead the author’s imagination to tell a story that could have happened but did not necessarily happen. If that imaginary scene creates a more interesting story, she encouraged us to write it.
We were cautioned not to have too deep an attachment to our research, as it can lead to fact overload. The elimination of anything that doesn’t move the story forward will create a tighter, faster paced read. Cutting those wonderful tidbits is not completely tragic, as they will provide great blog entries, points for talks and other marketing opportunities.
Carole inspired us to embrace our desire to set our work in a historical context. Her passion was encouraging and provided a “me too” moment for this historical fiction author. The workshop brought to mind the words of historical novelist Geraldine Brooks, “The thing that most attracts me to historical fiction is taking the factual record as far as it is known, using that as scaffolding, and then letting imagination build the structure that fills in those things we can never find out for sure.”
Anita Aurit has published in a myriad of venues including devotionals (in magazine and book compilations), travel articles, short humor, blogs, websites, scripts and even an article in a sports publication (a woman’s guide to the fantasy football draft).
Her writing passion is fiction and she is currently working on a series of novels about women in the shadows of the pages of Scripture. A frequent speaker and teacher for women’s groups and events, Anita has also founded and managed a number of businesses including an internet pet radio station where she created, produced and hosted her own show called “The Scoop” (logo was a litter box and scooper). Anita is married to an internet software engineer and both are self-professed geeks.
When she’s not at her computer or a podium, Anita loves spending time with her family (two and four legged), reading, crafting, cross-country skiing and kayaking in her home in Northern Idaho. Click here to visit Anita’s website.