Saturday, December 04, 2010


I like the research part of writing. I'm currently working on a historical project again, but this time the story totally writes itself. As I'm reading a biography I'm highlighting like gangbusters because the character I've chosen to write about just happens to be naturally PERFECT for the story I want to tell.

I'm going to have to devote a lot of time to reading over the next few weeks because aside from reading two biographies of this person, I also now have given myself job-related homework.

I just assigned my 11th graders to choose a novel from a list of American authors, and by the time they were done selecting they had all convinced me to do the assignment with them, and somehow they convinced me to do a different book in the two classes, and of course I had to choose books I haven't read before, since I'm making them do the same.

So now I will be reading Their Eyes Were Watching God AND Gone With the Wind and doing presentations on both authors in January.

I tried to be all "But that's two books" and they all held up their copies of A Tale of Two Cities they've been assigned in history class and said they also have to read two books.

It's hard to argue with that logic.


  1. Lucky kids! And might every kid have a teacher as engaged as you. For me, 11th grade history teacher made a difference (I wanted only to see what was ahead, she made the past come alive in a way no other teacher had).

    Hurston wrote her book in 7 weeks (and went on to work as a hotel maid and then died penniless, damn crime that came to pass), Mitchell wrote hers in 7 years. Both strike me as having soap opera underpinnings, very glad I don't have to read Gone book (though Mitchell herself I find interesting), enjoyed Hurston's during a post college early/mid century american fiction immersion (when I realized I knew squat about american fiction, still true, but read some good stuff). Both stories could use a lot of puppies. Have kleenex ready.

  2. Emily,

    How do you get around using material from something like a biography and avoid getting sued, ala The Sting, because too much material was sourced from said book?

    I've got a project I put on the back-burner for some time because I was worried too much of the character's journey would be sourced from one biography, so I would most likely need the rights to the book to continue. I'd love to see the screenplay through, but don't want to waste my time.

    I've heard there's an 80/20 rule of thumb (change 20% of your content, and you're okay), but that still seems risky.

  3. I am not a lawyer, so take this with a grain of salt, but I believe if you can prove you used several sources it's fine. I'm reading two biographies of the same person as well as several online sources. Also, my story is sort of the rock n roll version. That 80/20 thing definitely applies.

  4. In grad school, I headed a scholarship fund named for Zora Neale Hurston. If you have questions about her/her writing I may be able to help (though honestly I'm more familiar with Mules and Men and Tell My Horse.)


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