History has been a passion of mine since I was old enough to sit around “the grown-up table” at holiday dinners and listen to memories that introduced conversation and involvement to the room, along with smiles, outright guffawsand an occasional tear. At family reunions, I was the kid on the porch with the storytellers or the one on the grass beside the oldtimers under the shade tree. I’ve never outgrown that passion; in fact, it has grown into a continuing interest in learning and teaching history.
“But, that’s not ‘real’ history!”
While my passion and interest in history never waned, I sometimes wondered why I was fascinated by it. After all, I was often made to realize I didn’t have much interest in the scholarly aspects that my teachers, professors, and colleagues called “real” historythey were much more interested in me learning the names of kings and queens, the dates of battles in wars, and the number of people injured in certain disasters and events.
Rather, as I discussed in an old post, The “fiction” in historical fiction; and the why, I was more interested in the part of the story that history books seldom touched on; the part that related why what happened, happened. In my mind, the “story” in history wasnot instead of the facts, the people, the event, or the place but in addition tothe why and the how, the underlying (and frequently socially based) reasons and explanations for what happened.
Editing nonfiction materials: “real” history
To tell the truth, trying to uncover the why and the how actually requires knowing “real” history even more completely. Fortunately, I had good history teachers all through school who made history interesting, even if I did have to learn names, dates, and numbers! My knowledge of American history helped me serve as historical editor and even ghostwriter on several projects. Being in the right places at the right times also occasionally allowed me to work specifically on regional histories (especially histories related to the old Northwest Territory and locations along the mid-Atlantic coast) and on local histories of towns, counties, and parts of states.
While I enjoy editing “real” history for nonfiction works, I’ve also come to focus on two special, historical niches over the years:
Interestingly, editing either of these genres allows me to make even more use of my particular interest in history than a purely historical”real” history, that islook sometimes can and results in a deeper, richer look at history. After all, in my opinion, the stories of the why’s and the how’scombined with the facts, the persons, the events, and the placeshelp to convey what I prefer to think is real history.
Do you have a piece of history-themed nonfiction you want me to edit? Let’s work together to pass along the whole picture of what happened . . .
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