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420Latinidad - 11/12: How to Write History that People Want to Read

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  • desi
    Nov 1, 2012
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      Latinidad – 11/12: How to Write History that People Want to Read

      1. Saludos
      2. Q&A: Ann Curthoys & Ann McGrath
      3. Resources: Mayborn National History Writing Contest
      1. Saludos

      History books encompass a wide and diverse range of styles, from
      meticulously researched tomes (1491: New Revelations of the Americas
      Before Columbus by Charles Mann) to delightful chronicles (Consider
      the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson) to searing
      graphic novels (Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History by
      Art Spiegelman). Good historians must master the tools of the
      researcher, interviewer, and storyteller. A tall task to be sure, and you
      can have no better guide than How to Write History that People Want
      to Read by Ann Curthoys and Ann McGrath, an eminently readable
      primer which offers practical advice on how to prepare for library
      visits, conduct audio and video interviews, and write a compelling
      narrative. To learn more, read this month's Q&A with Curthoys and McGrath.

      Helping Latinos get published,
      Marcela Landres

      2. Q&A

      Ann Curthoys completed her PhD on racism and race relations in
      colonial New South Wales. Since then, she has followed many
      intellectual passions: histories of feminism, popular culture, television
      and journalism, Australian politics, Chinese-Australian immigration,
      and especially the relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous
      people. She is an Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow at
      the University of Sydney. Her publications include Freedom Ride: A
      Freedomrider Remembers; (with Ann Genovese and Alexander Reilly)
      Rights and Redemption: History, Law, and Indigenous People; and
      (with Ann McGrath) How to Write History that People Want to Read.
      For more information, visit http://sydney.edu.au/arts/history/staff/profiles/curthoys.shtml

      Ann McGrath is a professor of History and Director of the Australian
      Centre for Indigenous History at Australian National University in
      Canberra. After studying at the University of Queensland and LaTrobe
      University in Victoria, she worked in the Northern Territory,
      interviewing people who had worked in the cattle industry. Her first
      book was Born in the Cattle: Aborigines in Cattle Country. She has
      published various books and articles on the history of Aboriginal
      Australians and Colonialism, and has won various prizes for history
      writing. For more information, visit

      Q: How did you get started as historians?

      Curthoys A: I got started at school, as a History student, probably
      around grade 7. I went on to study history at university, and did my
      PhD in history. From there, I went to academic life, where I have
      always taught and researched history.

      McGrath A: Whilst at senior school, I came to realize how the world we
      lived in was changing and that we could understand this better by
      understanding how history had made us like we were, and how there
      was always possibility for dramatic changes to improve society. I was
      also confused as a child as to what 'had happened' to Australia's
      Aborigines? Where had they gone? It was a great silence in the history
      that we learnt in schools and that my (non-Aboriginal) family passed
      down. I felt these silences were lies, and I was keen to know the truth
      of what had taken place. At University, I came to learn of a history of
      race bias, restriction, and regulation, and studying history seemed a
      method by which we could harness social reform in the future.

      Q: If you knew then what you know now, what would you have done differently?

      Curthoys A: If I had my time again, the main change I would make is to
      choose a little more carefully where I publish, to aim for high impact
      journals and publishers.

      McGrath A: I would have bought an alarm clock so I didn't miss my
      boring English communication tutorials.

      Q: What three mistakes should newbie history writers avoid?

      Curthoys A: 1) Always make sure you know what your main argument
      or main story is. If you write history without knowing what you really
      most want to say you will get bogged down in unconnected detail.

      2) Don't write without having a good idea about who you are writing
      for, who your audience is.

      3) Don't try to include everything you know about your subject. Choose
      what is most important, or most revealing, and tell your story.

      McGrath A: Passive voice; trying to sound serious and important, and
      ending up stodgy; putting the exciting or controversial bits in the footnotes.

      Q: Alternatively, what are three signs of a top-notch history writer?

      Curthoys A: His or her work has originality, clarity, and dramatic tension.

      McGrath A: Scintillating prose that draws you in from the first sentence;
      a confident ability to synthesize and not waffle on; the courage to
      generalize from small to big but to always pay attention to the micro.

      Q: Who is your agent and how did you meet him/her? If you don't have
      an agent, how did you come to be published by Palgrave MacMillan?

      Curthoys A: The book was first published by the University of New South
      Wales Press, and our publisher there is Philippa McGuinness. She is an
      excellent publisher, helping academics write for wide audiences, and
      working with freelance and other authors as well. She made the
      arrangement with Palgrave McMillan so that UNSW Press has the rights
      for Australia and New Zealand, and Palgrave McMillan for the rest of the world.

      McGrath A: I don't have an agent. I have tried to get them and they
      won't have me! Our original publisher was University of New South
      Wales Press for the Australian rights. This company is quite
      commercially oriented and actually contacts various overseas
      publishers to produce editions that can be circulated in different countries.

      Q: Aside from your eminently readable guide, How to Write History
      that People Want to Read, what resources would you recommend to
      writers who want to learn more about writing history?

      Curthoys A: Stephen Pyne, Voice and Vision, Harvard University Press,
      which came out about the same time as our book did.
      Mark Tredinnick, The Little Red Writing Book, UNSW Press.

      McGrath A: Greg Dening's Historical Performances; it is about passion
      and transcendence, about being brave and 'being there' as a historian.
      Also Minoru Hokari's Gurindji Journey: A Japanese Historian in the
      Outback, UNSW. His voice has such honesty and integrity and leads the
      reader along like a first person account. Historians tend to be afraid of
      revealing their intellectual journeys, yet people are fascinated by such personal quests.

      Q: Do you have upcoming projects that my readers should have on their radar?

      Curthoys A: Not really. I plan to write a memoir about being a historian
      but that is a few years off, I think. I am also writing a book with Jessie
      Mitchell with the provisional title Taking Liberty: How Settlers in Australia
      gained Self-Government and Indigenous Peoples Lost It.

      McGrath A: Heaps. One is a downloadable multi-media history based on
      Australian national parks called Deepening Histories of Place. Our
      website should be live soon. Another is on intermarriage in Australia
      and North America and this is to be published by University of Nebraska
      Press, hopefully in 2013.

      3. Resources

      "I read How Editors Think in one sitting and was engaged from beginning to
      end. It is well written, highly informative, and humorous—I found myself
      laughing out-loud in a few spots! Thanks for sharing the secrets of the trade."
      —Mayra Lazara Dole, author of Down to the Bone

      Inspired by my experience as a former Simon & Schuster editor, How Editors
      Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You reveals what it really takes to get
      published. For more information, visit:
      $10,000 POETRY PRIZE
      Deadline -November 30
      The University of North Texas offers the Rilke Prize of $10,000 to a
      published book that demonstrates exceptional artistry and vision written
      by a poet who has published at least two books of poetry. For more
      information, visit http://english.unt.edu/creative-writing/poetryprize
      Application Deadline: December 7
      Class Dates: January 7 - 30
      The Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust is a nonprofit
      organization dedicated to helping writers of fantasy, science fiction,
      and horror improve their work. Director Jeanne Cavelos, who was a
      senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell and is a published author, will
      teach the online course Three-Act Structure in Fantastic Fiction. For
      more information, visit http://www.sff.net/odyssey/
      Deadline: December 15
      Poetry and fiction winners will receive $200 and publication in the
      Prism Review's 2013 issue. All contest entries will be considered for
      honorable mention prizes (includes publication) as well. For full details,
      visit http://sites.laverne.edu/prism-review/
      Deadline: January 14
      An honorarium of $2000 and publication by the Center for Literary
      Publishing is given to the writer of a book-length poetry manuscript.
      For more information, visit
      Deadline: January 15
      Creative Nonfiction Journal seeks essays that illuminate environmental,
      economic, ethical, and/or social challenges related to the state of the
      planet and our future. Whether you're deciding it's not worth the trouble
      to recycle or living off the grid; torn between driving your car, taking
      public transportation, or riding your bike; or just grappling with which
      apples to buy (organic? local? the red ones?), they want to hear about
      it. For more information, visit
      Deadline: January 15
      Offers residencies to writers of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.
      Past attendees have included Pulitzer and National Book Award winners.
      Some writers who have worked at the Colony are Oscar Hijuelos, Angie
      Cruz, and Alice Walker. For more information, visit
      Deadline: May 31
      Ten high school and community college students and their
      teachers/mentors win a free trip to the 2013 Mayborn Literary
      Nonfiction Conference, including hotel and meals, to hang out with
      Pulitzer Prize winners and learn more from the master of the craft, Ron
      Powers. For more information, visit http://journalism.unt.edu/maybornconference/student-biography-contest.
      Skyword in collaboration with Vista (http://www.vistamagazine.com/), a
      bilingual online magazine for Latinas, seeks Spanish/bilingual writers
      for 300-500 word articles in the categories of Beauty, Style, Home, and
      Family. Writers will be paid. To apply, visit:
      English: https://write.skyword.com/join.action?programId=48
      Spanish: https://write.skyword.com/join.action?programId=39
      The Business of Writing: Professional Advice on Proposals, Publishers,
      Contracts, and More for the Aspiring Writer by literary agent Jennifer
      Lyons demystifies the publishing industry. Including a foreword by
      Oscar Hijuelos and contributors offering advice from query letters to
      children's picture books to self-publishing, The Business of Writing
      empowers writers to start or continue their careers. For more information, visit
      8 Ways to Say I Love My Life is an anthology by eight accomplished
      professional Latinas who are trailblazers in their respective fields, with
      a foreword by singer Vikki Carr, written to inspire Latina and other
      female readers as well as fortify their spirit by addressing subjects close
      to their heart. For more information, visit http://8waystosay.com/
      Please forward Latinidad® widely.
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      "Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always
      glorify the hunters."
      --African Proverb

      Latinidad® © 2003 by Marcela Landres

      Marcela Landres
      Author of the e-book "How Editors Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You"