I recently had someone ask me how I researched. It took me a moment, for I consider myself a sort of dive bomber when it comes to seeking information. I just set a course and jump in.
Another person asked me about my writing. That also is a 'loaded' question. While I'm not at the skill level I wish to be, I also write across many platforms. My writing practice, that which puts my body in the seat is haiku poetry. My passion for historic research led to writing non-fiction works. My love of storytelling is what drives my desire to tell the stories many of you have read.
However, it is my public persona that most people know me by. I hear people say that can't speak in public. They are scared, it makes them ill. I confess, I try to understand that feeling, but it just doesn't register. Other than being alone, the most comfortable place in the world for me is in front of an audience.
So, how does all this tie together and what can you learn from my experiences? Well, let's start with research. Women doctors in Colorado prior to 1900 has been my focus for about four years. It all started with an obituary in the local paper for Julia E Loomis MD. There was something about the way her story was told that just struck me. Add the fact that no one had really heard of her and I was off and running. First I made a copy of the obituary from the paper. Then I located her grave in the local cemetery. (It does help that I know people who work to preserve the headstones in that cemetery.) I found she was from New Woodstock, New York. I located the local historical society there, and sent an email with questions about Julia. Would you believe I had an answer the next day? The information they sent me about her background told me I was on a journey I was meant to take. A journey of following my instincts and clues that came my way.
This research led to writing about Julia and the other doctors I found. The local library staff, we know each other by name, encouraged and helped me on this part of the journey. When I would get stuck, or as I spoke about some of the information I'd found, they were there with other suggestions for even more places to search. The research also helps lend a level of veracity to my fiction. When I come across something that fascinates me, it many times ends up in my work. When I was writing "Never Had a Chance" a piece of research showed that former President U. S. Grant was in Pueblo around the time my story took place. Yes, he is mentioned in that short story.
This lead to speaking in public. Yes, you can write, but there is something about the spoken word that can draw people in that is magical. Now, as to the fear. Well, first off, accept the fact that you will probably not be perfect, and might even make a mistake. So, perfection is boring. Reading your speech is deadly. If you are just going to read, without a bit of dramatic interpretation, just hand the paper to the audience and save yourself a headache. The key to remember is, they are there to hear you. You have information they want to know. You owe it to them to make it as exciting and personal as you can. Look people in the eye as you speak. Trust me, it makes a connection that draws your audience in. This, along with the excitement to share your knowledge, is what makes what we do so special.
Share what you know. Research what your are passionate about. Write the stories that are in your heart. And above all share that with the world. Remember, just because you know it, doesn't mean everyone else does. These are your gifts to the world, and so ends this 'sermon'.
I leave you with a final piece of information distilled from my mother's words, "You can do anything thing you want with your life, you just have to give it a try with all your heart and soul." No one told me I couldn't, and even if they did, well I guess I just didn't belive them. (SMILE)
Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted five days a week at – http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com and has now passed one thousand haiku and photos posted on this blog. Check out her other work or like her Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL