SCBWI Grants, the Cost of Research, and My Most Used Research Sites

Whew! Time flies.

The hustle and bustle of spring seemed to arrive early here and with it came the SCBWI grant deadlines of March 31st. Last year, in 2012, I was awarded an Honorable Mention for my nonfiction submission. It was indeed an honor, especially after learning that only six of the 500 entries received such letters. it was flattering, but it wasn’t the $2000 cash award. That particular project is now on submission, but I’m never without a new project.

If you write nonfiction, you know how expensive research can be. To be thorough, we need to travel. Truthfully depicting a person’s life and actual setting requires sensory familiarity. Maybe more importantly, there are undigitized resources sitting in libraries, state archives, historical societies, museums. Too often, when I try to tap into these sources from a distance, I find that the hardworking curators and archivists simply don’t have the budget, time, or staff to copy and mail materials. And, often, no copying is allowed at all. Period. If you want to see it, you have to go in person where you’ll sit in a carefully lit, temperature controlled room, struggling to make copious pencil notes while wearing clunky white gloves. I happen to love that kind of hands-on research. But it is cost prohibitive.

So, I buckled down with my 2013 grant application. I had already snuck in some preliminary research between working on other projects over the past year. Now, I had to give this my full attention. I blocked out the rest of the world (as I always do when I begin a new project) and amped up the remote research. I bought used and rare books and, thanks to my wonderful local librarians, secured others through inter-library loan. I filled a binder with archived newspaper articles, made friends with curators by phone, and identified people to interview. I dug and dug and dug until I felt I understood my character and her chronology enough to form a narrative. Now I could write my 2500 word sample or, in my case, a shorter picture book biography. If I’m fortunate enough to secure that grant, I’ll book my flights to two specific locations where the ultimate research gems are waiting for me.  I can’t let this, my fifth picture book biography, go out to editors until I’ve gotten my hands on these elusive sources.
Click here to learn more about the annual SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grants.

I may have shared these in a previous blog post, but here are some of my favorite general research avenues. Maybe you’ll find something helpful, too. (be sure not to add an ‘s’ in here. Otherwise, you land on Geneaology Bank which might also be a good source, but I’ve never tried them.) (be sure you do include an ‘s’ in here. Otherwise, you land on an Arab site.) (Helpful for for establishing family trees.) (archive for New York Times) (used books) (used, rare books) (Library of Congress)
Obviously, I access museums, historical societies, and archivists related to each individual project, too.

Oh and stay tuned for some long-awaited, happy news. Soon. Very soon.