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Prepping for Research Trip


Yesterday, I had a revelation. It wasn't a big one. Probably, it was one that most of you had and didn't really notice or pay much attention to. Here it is:

OMG, it's July.

Did my first draft get written in June? No. I'm okay with that. I've made progress and will make more and the draft is moving forward. I have some feeling that, with this story, moving a little more slowly may be the right choice (rather than just an inability to get it together, on my part). It may be the best way to understand my characters and the choices they will/won't make. I hope.

But...here's the other thing about July. In one month, I go to Chicago to do research for this WIP. And I need to put some time into that, so I don't want into those museums with a big "Um!" thought-bubble over my head. And I haven't really, ever, done historical research. So the "Um!" is there, and I'm trying to figure out how to make it go away.

Here's the tricky part, probably oh-so familiar to those of you who write history/historical fiction already. I've got BIG things I need to find out about, like: 

  • Every connection that Ida B. Wells had with Hull-House
  • Every connection Hull-House had with the suffrage movement in the 1910s
And I need answers to very specific questions like:
  • Which railroad station did the Chicago suffrage train leave from, to take suffragettes to the march on Washington, D.C.?
  • Were Ida B. Wells and/or Mary Terrell on that train? Were they traveling together?
  • If they weren't on that train, how did they get to D.C.?
And so many other things, both big and small. Not to mention, I'll have some questions about Ida B. Wells & Jane Addams for a NF picture book I'm contemplating.

Ack!

I only have a couple of days max, to visit several museums and do as much info-collection and hands-on research as I can. I feel like I need to, at once, be as pre-organized as possible and stay flexible/open to research paths I won't know about till I get there. Organized AND flexible.

Yeah, that's me. Not.

I'm going to start by just making as long a list of questions as I can think of, then try & break them into categories. I'm going to send an email to each of the museums, saying that I'm coming, WHY I'm coming, and asking for any tips on how I can best work with them to find the info I need. I'm really hoping to meet some people with whom I can communicate, by email or phone, later, as the story progresses. Some people who might want to read for accuracy/general feel of the book when it's close to done.

That's where I've got so far on the planning. Any tips from research wizards would be seriously welcome!

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