Request for ideas on historical fiction & revision tips!

I’m giving two presentations at the NYS English Council’s annual conference later this month, and I wanted to ask my LJ author friends for some input.

My presentation called Historical Fiction as a Bridge to Content Area Literacy focuses on high interest historical fiction with solid historical content as well as nonfiction picture books and middle grade books that teachers can use to teach Social Studies content as well as English Language Arts.  I’m in the process of adding new titles to my presentation to mix in with my regular favorites.  I’ve added Laurie Halse Anderson’s historical novel CHAINS and her picture book INDEPENDENT DAMES, M.T. Anderson’s new OCTAVIAN NOTHING book, Tanya Lee Stone’s ELIZABETH LEADS THE WAY, and Jenny Moss’s WINNIE’S WAR, set during the 1918 flu epidemic.

What other NEW 2008 historical titles have you read and loved?  Do any of you have new titles coming out in 2009 that would fit the bill?  If so,  I’d  love to include them in my presentation!

My second presentation is called Walking the Walk: How Teacher-Writers Encourage Student Revision.  In it, I share the ways in which my own writing has helped me to be a better (and more understanding) mentor to my students when it comes to revision.  I talk about my strategies and my experiences with critique partners and editors, and I discuss how those concepts and strategies can be adapted to the classroom.  Part of this workshop is a PowerPoint presentation that gives examples of how different authors like to revise.

Do you have a favorite revision strategy that you’d like to share with kids & teachers?  I’d be happy to include your idea with an image of your book cover in my slide show.  (Some of you were kind enough to share thoughts with  me last year. Thank you!  With your permission, I’ll use the same advice/slide for you unless you have a new book out that you’d like me to feature.)

Thanks, everyone, for any thoughts you choose to share!

13 Replies on “Request for ideas on historical fiction & revision tips!

  1. For Historical Fiction: I assume you have Fever, 1793, even though it’s not 2008? Picture books I liked that work: Lady Liberty by Doreen Rappaport, Naming Liberty by Jane Yolen (Statue of Liberty – Yolen’s book also deals with immigration); My Heart Glow by Emily Arnold McCully (creation of ASL); We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson

  2. HI, Kate, I really liked the picture book Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathi As the first woman to win the Nobel in Africa, although relatively recently, it still seems history, and is certainly social studies. A new book about Maathi is coming out soon I think from Jeannette Winter, so might be fun to compare.

    Maybe when I’m more awake I’ll think of others and even revision ideas. But that just came right to my mind. It’s a beautiful and profound book.

  3. Hi, Kate, It’s morning. I wanted to mention Karen Hesse’s just out novel, Brooklyn Bridge, set in the early 20th century. Then realized I have a historical pb, Anne Hutchinson’s Way, that came out last year: of course setting is Puritan New England.

    Re revision strategies. Since most of my books are based on research which I have trim a lot, something I look for when I read are concrete things that might make readers come closer through their 5 senses. In picture books, the illustrator, of course, adds to the visual, and dialogue helps with hearing, so I look for details that might evoke taste or scent. Writing Anne Hutchinson’s Way, I knew she was a midwife, and researched herbs she might have used in caring for women and infants. I could write about her sleeves smelling of chamomile and mint.

    Good luck with your talks!

  4. HF/ Revision

    OHhhhh I hope you’ll consider including THE FLOATING CIRCUS for Civil War era study!


    I like to do waves of revision so I’m not intimidated by tackling everything at once. For example, I’ll read through with character fleshing out in mind and add details and tags to dialogue that reveals more information about that person- give them a quirk, say, or some other revelatory detail. Then, I’ll go back through and check to see if the characters are represented in both positive and negative (in other words, realistic) ways across the story.

    GOOD LUCK on your speeches- I’m sure you’ll be fantastic!

  5. Revision:

    One thing I do when I’m having trouble getting “inside” a secondary character is to write the scene from his POV. This doesn’t end up in the book directly, but helps make his part in the scene more consistent and realistic.

    I also stick my favorite deleted parts in a separate file (which I call “the attic”). That way, they’re not lost forever, so I can be more ruthless in cutting them out of the main work, instead of clinging to useless darlings!

  6. Thank you so much for the CHAINS love, Kate!

    My first revision strategy is to make sure that the plot of the story unfolds in a logical order. Then I trace the emotional journey of my main character I often stick in the emotional response I want, instead of what the situation merits in an early draft.

    Once those two aspects are nailed down (which takes FOREVER) I try to make the details in each scene as specific as possible. And I pay a lot of attention to transitions.

    FYI – I’ve never been able to write a novel in fewer than seven drafts.

  7. Re: HF/ Revision

    Thanks, Tracie! THE FLOATING CIRCUS is on my to-read list, but even if I don’t get to it before the conference, I had planned to mention it. I appreciate your revision suggestions, too, and will add them to that workshop!

  8. Thanks, Laurie! I’ll definitely incorporate your revision thoughts into that workshop, and I’m going to quote you on the “seven drafts” thought. I’m right there with you, and when I tell kids that I’m working on draft 12 or 13 of a book, they’re always stunned. I’m excited to help debunk the myth that real writers get it right the first time.