By Alice Faye Duncan
Conflict arises when writers find the nonfiction market glutted with books related to their special interests. Consider the Holocaust and the American Civil Rights Movement as two examples. Annual publishing catalogs are replete with books that provide pathways for young readers to explore these two historical events. Your book on either one of these topics might be unique and needed, but it is likely a publisher will say, “We have one of those--already.”
I propose that nonfiction writers enter the market by exploring important, but seldom told histories and biographies found in their city or town. It is my opinion that writing about the significant, but obscure, improves a writer’s chance in landing a book contract. I also suggest that you draw from local history because you were shaped by that community. This shaping equips you with a ready voice and perspective, suited to bear witness on the living page.
Where do you find important, but unexplored histories connected to your city? I have three suggestions:
(1) Visit local history and art museums.
(2) Explore special archive collections at the local public and academic libraries.
(3) During family fellowship and reunions, interview senior family members concerning their personal histories and life experiences in your city or town.
When you find a local history or hero that inspires your writing interest, let me suggest three online resources to stoke your research for photographs, video and biographical facts. These sources include:
(1) the Library of Congress--www.loc.gov
(2) the American National Archives— www.archives.gov
(3) newspaper coverage—www.newspapers.com.
When it comes to my writing journey, I live in the city of Memphis. If anybody is going to write about the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968, it should be me. Many of the striking workers lived in my South Memphis neighborhood and went to my local church.
What is your city? What is your town? What local histories require your perspective and voice? The dead talk. The dead want to be heard. Are you listening? Resurrect untold histories. Educate the children.
Furthermore, authors are urged to use primary sources and up-to-date scholarly works in their bibliography.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alice Faye Duncan is the author of Honey Baby Sugar Child, Just Like a Mama, A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks, and Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop—which received a 2019 Coretta Scott King Honor medal. For more information about Alice Faye, her books, and current research, she can be found at www.alicefayeduncan.com.
ABOUT THE PRIZE
One lucky winner will receive two prizes from Alice Faye! She is giving away a digital copy AND an autographed copy of her picture book, A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks.
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