The importance of research

As I pack for a family trip to Europe, part of me is planning how to fit some research for my book into the trip. On my last visit, I went to some of the towns and cities my father had lived in or visited. This visit, I would like to delve further into my family’s history and some of the history and strategies of WW2.

We are spending a few days in Latvia, where I will show my sons the estate which used to belong to my father’s family. I hope to discover stories about the family, anecdotes or remembrances, although I doubt there is anyone still alive who would remember them.

We will also stay a few days in Berlin, where I hope to learn more about division and unit movements during WW2. I have emailed an organisation which I am optimistic can assist me with my research. Even if they cannot help, I will continue to look for those who can.

I find research fascinating. I often get sidetracked when hunting down facts, only to discover myself lost in a completely different area. Although there are writers who have been quoted as saying that research is not writing, I tend to agree with Leon Uris who said, “Research to me is as important or more important than the writing. It is the foundation upon which the book is built.”

This is very true of the book I am presently rewriting. If I hadn’t researched the incidents which prompted Latvia’s fight for independence, the events leading up to WW2, the conditions of prisoner of war camps, and the destruction and despair of the German people after their surrender, I would never have been able to write about my father and his experiences. The research in this case has truly been the foundation of my work. Without it I would have been left with disjointed notes in my father’s hand, letters from a young girl he met during the war, letters from my parents to each other and memories of the rather fraught relationship between me and my father. It wouldn’t have been enough.

Over the next few weeks I hope to fill in the remaining gaps in the research I have already completed. Put the cement between the bricks, so to speak. What better way to do it than to travel to where my book began. In the words of Michael Scott, “The research. It is always the best part of writing. And, of course, it is the great excuse to travel.”

#Anthology17

Writing is a solitary and often lonely. Even if you set your laptop up on the corner table of a busy café, you are most likely still writing alone. If you are like me, you are probably sitting alone in front of your computer, in your pyjamas. So, it is a wonderful moment when you find a group of likeminded writers who you can bounce ideas off and meet, in real life, every now and again.

I was lucky enough to find just such a group when I stumbled across Women Who Write, Melbourne. With a Facebook membership of over 500 fabulous women, who write in a variety of genres, this group is one of the most supportive I have come across. I felt welcome from the first time I joined one of their meetings. This group of women is happy to answer questions, critique writing and make suggestions and I have never heard any negative or derisive comments.

This year Women Who Write decided to put together and publish their first anthology of short stories and poetry. The call went out and I submitted a story which I felt suited the theme of “New Beginnings”. I was so excited when my story was selected.

Compiling, editing, publishing and marketing a book does not come easily, nor is it an inexpensive process. So, a crowd funding campaign has been launched. You can find it here: https://pozible.com/project/women-who-write-anthology The monies pledged will help us pay for professional editing, graphic design, production costs, printing of 170 copies of the anthology and our book launch.

If you like to read, if you enjoy discovering new authors, if you have enjoyed my blog posts, or if you simply would like to donate a few dollars to a help us out, please do so. Your contribution will be appreciated, not only by the twenty authors included in this, our first anthology, but also by all of the members of Women Who Write, Melbourne.

Everybody has a story to tell, but…

If you think of it, our lives are built on stories. Our stories begin with our birth, our mothers relate tales of various levels of pain in labour; often our details are written down or at least discussed with family and friends, our length, weight, the colour of our eyes, how we fed, how we slept. Our stories continue as we grow, our first tooth, first word, first step, first day at school.

Our stories also rest on the building blocks of our ancestor’s stories. If our great great great grandparents hadn’t done this, or moved here, or worked in this job or the other, we might not exist. For example, if my father had immigrated to Canada as he had originally planned, instead of America where he ended up, I might not exist. If the Russian Revolution hadn’t taken place, my grandparents would have stayed in Russia and I probably would never have been born.

Similarly, our future is a product of our stories. Our decisions in life form the pathways for our future; what we study, the jobs we accept, the moral choices we make, all construct our future stories.

Most of us want to share or tell or write our stories. We firmly believe our stories will be interesting enough for everyone to hear. As a writer, I would love to know my stories are so fascinating that they will draw in a large audience. There are plenty of writers in the world whose stories do just this; JK Rowling, Stephen King, John Grisham, Dan Brown, to name a few. Their stories are popular, their books sell and are often turned into movies or television series. I can only dream of ever being as admired.

But here’s the catch, although we all have stories to tell, not everyone wants to hear them. Our family and friends might be interested in our birth and childhood, although I doubt repeated tales about how your mother barely made it through labour or how you were clever enough to walk early, would manage to hold your audience for very long. But I somehow doubt the rest of the world would care.

It is the same for other stories. Take the memoir I’m struggling to finish which deals with the rather fraught relationship I had with my father. I hope my sons will be keen to read about their grandfather, some of my friends will no doubt want to hear my story, there might even be others out there who have had similar issues with their parents who will pick up my book; but I doubt my story will ever make it to a best sellers list. I can always hope, but I also must be a realist. Yet I often hear of writers who complain about the lack of readers or interest in their story. Not everyone will be eager to read about the disease you fought, your efforts to rise above situations, your battles with racism, sexism, ageism, or your relationships. There is not likely to be a huge audience for yet another take on child wizards, supernatural horror or quests for the holy grail, especially if these stories are badly disguised copies. This is just how it is.

If you feel your story must be told or written, then please tell it or write it. A story which begs to be told or written, is an important story. But don’t expect anyone else to be interested. Write it for yourself. Because you are not only the writer of your story, you are also its most valuable reader.