In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Election Fever Can Mean Collecting "History" and Testing Data

Vermont Edition radio host Jane Lindholm
From now until November, Americans will hear a lot about politics and government. It's tempting to support candidates who believe the same things we do, or who seem to face life the way we do.

But there's another way to see political speeches: In what they say and do, candidates to lead our country reveal what they believe America's history is, and what should be done about it, in order to shape the future for all Americans. That means, if we want a well-led country, we need to be history evaluators ourselves, in order to notice how good -- or not so good -- each candidate is in sorting out what really happened and what might happen in the years in front of us.

Shawna and Thea begin to sort out historical "facts" in this way in The Secret Room. Their eventual conclusions about the "real" Underground Railroad events in their village of North Upton are very different from where their opinions started. A fun way to evaluate their work might include listing their opinions from when they've first discovered the secret room, the kinds of research they do, and their opinions by the end of the book.

Looking for a real-life application of the same skills? Try listening to the speakers on this Vermont Public Radio broadcast from November 2011: host Jane Lindholm (an anthropologist as well as journalist), history professor Ray Zirblis, and me, your author of The Secret Room. Jot down what opinions are expressed by each speaker, and the evidence each one offers to back up those opinions. Then work slowly through the listener comments and questions posted on the radio station website, in response to the show. What opinions can you determine among the listeners? How are they responding to what they've heard?

Let me know what you find. And if you are trying this in a classroom or group, at any age, I'd love to know how it works out and where it leads you next.

[PS - If you're teaching with The Secret Room -- or any other YA historical fiction -- you might want to joint the teacher collaboration at http://www.facebook.com/groups/198457003547529. You're invited!]

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