Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. Every March, the Slice of Life Challenge is a month-long experience where Slicers post every single day for the entire month. I'm joining in on the monthly challenge this year! For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here.
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It feels weird to tell my story when it involves other people. I write a lot about my life and I share bits and pieces of interactions with others but most of the time my posts are about me and my thoughts, my ideas, my opinions.
I've decided this post is a disclaimer. I'm going to write about other people but that what I see and understand and perceive obviously is only my side of the story. And we know that there's at least two sides to every story...if not more than that.
Over the last year and a half, I've been doing research for a few different non-fiction narrative picture books. I spent a lot of time reading about George Ferris who designed the Ferris Wheel. After reading about the Columbian Exposition and their hopes to out-Eiffel Eiffel in The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, I became interested in learning more about how George Ferris was able to make the Ferris Wheel a reality.
I read lots of books:
I visited the Field Museum in Chicago and their 1893 World's Fair exhibit:
I visited the Research Center at the Chicago History Museum:
At the Chicago History Museum, I made an appointment to see the Ferris Papers. This was super cool and I finally felt like an official researcher. It was a quiet, cool room and I couldn't take pictures. I had to leave everything at the front desk. As I opened the folder and took my time going over each piece of paper, I felt like I was time traveling, looking back into history, feeling the excitement of the time.
I finally felt like I had enough information, like I did my due diligence as a researcher. I read everything I could, I delved as deeply as seemed possible. Now I would write the story. Actually, I started the outline and got some ideas down when I was at the Field Museum. I sat on a bench as other museum-goers wandered around. The sounds of the fair all around me and artifacts on display, I wrote about Ferris and his determination to make the Wheel come to fruition.
And then over the summer, when I visited The Little Shop of Stories in Atlanta, there was my story on a turning display rack, an expository book about George Ferris. And later that year, I discovered Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis. It was exactly the story I had been researching and the picture book I had imagined. It was a major bummer but at the same time, I learned a lot about researching and had so much fun on my expeditions that it was completely worth it. (I also felt a teeny bit proud of the fact that I had spotted a story even though someone else got it published.)
I have other ideas and have done research on these ideas but the hardest part for me is feeling like I'm qualified to write someone else's story. I know the first amendment and freedom of speech and all that but I want to be as true as I can when I tell someone else's story or when someone else's story blends with mine. Obviously, retelling a historical account of someone I don't know and their life is different from my Slice of Life posts but I still want to add this disclaimer - this honest reminder that anything I share here is my experience and my side of the story. Maybe it goes without saying but I feel like I need to point it, if only to assuage some of my writing fears.
To read my previous Slice of Life posts, click on any link below: