Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Nonfictionary

Susan Latta

Sorry — I Mean Structure—Seems To Be the Hardest Word

There’s an old Elton John song titled, Sor­ry Seems to be the Hard­est Word. Well, I won­der if he’d mind if I changed the title to, Struc­ture Seems to be the Hard­est Word. Struc­ture is a lot like voice; it needs to be present, yet it must be invis­i­ble and unforced. With­out it, the writ­ing may fall down just like a kindergartner’s block tow­er.… more

Karen Blumenthal

Re-claiming Women’s History — Still

At a meet­ing at the Dal­las Pub­lic Library one day, a retired chief exec­u­tive explained to me his vision for a per­ma­nent dis­play on a soon-to-be-ren­o­­vat­ed floor hon­or­ing the men who built up the city’s down­town after World War II. I looked at him skep­ti­cal­ly. “What about the women?” There aren’t any,” he snapped back.… more

Melissa Stewart

How Infographics Can Help Students Avoid Plagiarism

My book Pinoc­chio Rex and Oth­er Tyran­nosaurs, is chock­ful of text fea­tures, includ­ing this fun info­graph­ic: The process of design­ing it began with a VERY rough sketch by me. Let’s face the facts. My draw­ing skills leave a lot of be desired, but this sketch was enough to give the tal­ent­ed folks in the Harper­Collins art depart­ment an idea of what I had in mind — a group­ing of visu­al ele­ments that work togeth­er to show that the tyran­nosaur fam­i­ly lived on Earth for 100 mil­lion years, and while it’s final mem­bers were gigan­tic, fear­some preda­tors, they’re ear­li­est ances­tors were about the same size as us.… more

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In Her Own Words:
The Impact of Personal Accounts on Biography

I admit it. I am a his­to­ry nerd. Like all biog­ra­phers, I am fas­ci­nat­ed by the past. I love learn­ing about the world of long ago: what peo­ple wore, what they ate, the jobs they had, the wars they fought.  And noth­ing thrills me more when I am research­ing than to dis­cov­er a first­hand account, a per­son­al writ­ing … a pri­ma­ry source.… more

Jen Bryant

Working with an Editor

What’s it like to work with an editor?”is a ques­tion I often get from teach­ers, stu­dents, and aspir­ing authors and it’s one that takes some time to ful­ly answer. In the best sit­u­a­tions, an editor’s rela­tion­ship to her author is like a coach’s rela­tion­ship to an ath­lete: know­ing her author’s per­son­al­i­ty, tal­ent, and poten­tial, she encour­ages her strengths, while tact­ful­ly push­ing her toward improv­ing on her weak­ness­es.… more

Karen Blumenthal

The Good Thing about Bad Words

It’s mid-Jan­u­ary, I have this Non­fic­tionary dead­line, and all I can think about is Pres­i­dent Trump’s lat­est vul­gar­i­ty. His recent word choice about cer­tain coun­tries jumped from my phone like an elec­tri­cal charge, lit­er­al­ly and phys­i­cal­ly jolt­ing me back­wards. For the rest of the day and beyond, my soul hurt and my spir­it sagged. But it was just a word.more

Susan Latta

A Science Rookie: Learning to Craft a Science Narrative When
You Know Next to Nothing about Science

Enter the fresh­man chem­istry tutor dressed in torn jeans and a flan­nel shirt. His job? To get me through entry lev­el chem­istry at Iowa State Uni­ver­si­ty. My first col­lege plan was to major in Hotel and Restau­rant Man­age­ment because my father owned a com­pa­ny that did busi­ness with these types of insti­tu­tions. So, what the heck, I didn’t know what else to study so I declared that my major way back in the fall of 1977.… more

Karen Blumenthal

A Picture and a Thousand Words

As a reporter and edi­tor for decades, I often heard peo­ple accuse my col­leagues and me of “bias,” of hav­ing a par­tic­u­lar slant on a sto­ry — usu­al­ly a point of view that the accuser dis­put­ed. It was a com­mon charge, espe­cial­ly if the issue was con­tro­ver­sial. But in truth, reporters are no dif­fer­ent than any­one else.… more

Melissa Stewart

Why Young Writers Need an Authentic Audience

For me, writ­ing non­fic­tion is a fun adven­ture. A game to play. A puz­zle to solve. A chal­lenge to over­come. But many stu­dents don’t feel the same way. Accord­ing to them, research is bor­ing. Mak­ing a writ­ing plan is a waste of time. And revi­sion is more than frus­trat­ing. It’s down­right painful. Why do young writ­ers have a point of view that’s so com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent from mine?… more

Pamela S. Turner

Getting Inside the Head of the Long Dead

Don’t be alarmed by the ghoul­ish­ness of my title. Try­ing to res­ur­rect the life of some­one who turned to dust cen­turies ago is a chal­lenge, espe­cial­ly if the per­son left behind no per­son­al writ­ings such as let­ters or diaries. But it can be done. In prepa­ra­tion for writ­ing Samu­rai Ris­ing: The Epic Life of Minamo­to Yoshit­sune, I read all the aca­d­e­m­ic and pri­ma­ry sources I could find about late-twelfth-cen­­tu­ry Japan.… more

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Qualifying Credibility

I long for the good ol’ days when every­one agreed that facts were true and fic­tion was make-believe and made-up facts were lies. Sev­er­al years ago, the dis­sem­i­nat­ing of cur­rent events entered the truthi­ness zone — only to emerge in today’s sur­re­al “alter­nate facts” par­al­lel uni­verse. It is under­stand­ably dif­fi­cult for many peo­ple — and espe­cial­ly young peo­ple — to know how to dis­cern fac­tu­al infor­ma­tion from that which is mere­ly pur­port­ing to be true.… more

Susan Latta

Unearthing the Good Stuff

Five Steps to a Suc­cess­ful Non­fic­tion Inter­view I love flow­ers but no one would ever call my thumb green. Each spring how­ev­er, I drag the pots to the front step, fill them with soil, plant red gera­ni­ums sur­round­ed by marigolds, and water when nature for­gets. And when the school bus­es rum­ble down the street, I am delight­ed to emp­ty the pots for anoth­er sea­son.… more

Melissa Stewart

Three Tips for Writing Teachers

Teach­ers often feel frus­trat­ed when the revi­sions stu­dents make to their writ­ing aren’t improve­ments. And so they ask me how to help the chil­dren make their man­u­scripts bet­ter. I wish I had an easy answer for these teach­ers and for their stu­dents, but here’s the truth: Revi­sion is messy. It’s fraught with detours. Even expe­ri­enced writ­ers strug­gle with the process, and some­times our efforts are com­plete and utter fail­ures.… more

Melissa Stewart

What the Heck is Creative Nonfiction?

The term cre­ative non­fic­tion was first used by Lee Gutkind in the 1980s as a syn­onym for nar­ra­tive non­fic­tion. Gutkind wished to con­vey the idea that non­fic­tion wasn’t always dry and util­i­tar­i­an. By employ­ing such ele­ments as char­ac­ter, dia­logue, scene build­ing, strong voice, inno­v­a­tive struc­ture, point of view, and lit­er­ary devices, writ­ers could craft non­fic­tion that sings.  … more

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