On Writing History: The Power of Place

I’ll be sharing my thoughts with teachers on writing history and its value at the ALEA Conference – Melbourne this week – The Power of Place. Here’s a glimpse:

Follow After Me is an historical and contemporary tale told in parallel narratives of today and a century before. The historical story within Follow After Me is based on research the tragic WWI experiences of my ancestors, the Marlow family, as detailed in my nonfiction titles of Anzac Sons.  Of six brothers, five went to war, only two made it home. Some of the correspondence in Follow After Me uses the actual letters of my ancestors but with additions or modifications to move the narrative forward.

Research is the key to creating powerful historical stories that will connect today’s readers with the past. The opportunity to research and write at the Australian War Memorial, courtesy of a May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Fellowship, made a significant contribution to the writing of Follow After Me. My top tips from this writing journey which I share at the ALEA Conference, Melbourne (10 July) are:

  • Write for yourself – the places, landscapes, stories and objects that pass through your life and are meaningful to you.
  • Faction has unique needs – recreating an era long gone requires research. Research will ignite the spark that creates a sense of place and brings the world to life.
  • Facts can drive the narrative, or they can rest in the background, but facts provide authenticity. You need them to create depth.
  • Stay as faithful to the truth as you can – savvy readers of that time period will know when you change a fact, if you do it, let them know.

I firmly believe that we cannot understand who we are today and develop a strong sense of identity without understanding the past – it helps develop empathy for all and an appreciation and conviction for the values that Australians hold dear. Keep sharing Australian stories and reinforce our unique sentiment and characteristics!

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