Society Saturday: I Need Your Advice!

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Howe Letters

If you’re new to my Society Saturday series, I invite you to take a look at the other posts I’ve made concerning my work for the Nez Perce County Historical Society, which involves brushing up on my knowledge of Idaho history so I can eventually docent but, mainly, working through the letters of Phineas H. Howe and his son, Morris, in order to write an article for the society’s newsletter.

Usually, I post excerpts from Phineas’ letters every Saturday, but this week I’ve been more concerned about what I’m going to do with them. Though I still have more outside research to do on the Howe family (I had wanted to do some at the FHL this week, but had no time!), I’m already starting to think about how I’m going to structure the article(s) I want to write for the historical society’s newsletter. I sent an e-mail off last night to the editor of the newsletter to ask what sort of submission requirements he has, if any, and also for his personal opinion on what content should be included. Being a genealogist, I love the entire story, including Phineas’ family history in Maine and his adventures in California, but it’s possible the editor may only want content relating to Idaho, so I’ll wait to see what he says.

I also have to consider how I would present the information. Narrative format? Excerpts from the letters (let them speak for themselves)? It’s hard for me to know, which is why I asked for the editor’s opinion. Part of the difficulty in structuring a tale like this is that it involves three very different men and their different generations and concerns. This was something that struck me while I was at the UGA conference yesterday, listening to Lisa Alzo speak (albeit on a different topic!). She wrote Three Slovak Women, and that had a similar problem of differing perspectives, so after the lecture (more on that tomorrow) I asked her how she structured that narrative, even if it’s a longer book and not an article. Her decision, as I understood it, was to keep the narratives separate, making it a clear delineation in perspective, first her grandmother, then her mother, and then herself. I think something like that could work well for my situation, too, since halfway through the letters, they stop being written by Phineas and are taken over by his son, Morris, after Morris joins his father in Idaho. It’s still a difficult question, though, so I put it to you! Have any of you ever faced this sort of problem in writing an article or family history book? How do you separate generations or individuals? Chapters? Sections? Or do you weave them all together? What do you prefer to read?

A final consideration I’ve had is that…I’m sorely tempted to somehow turn this research into a book. I’ve learned a little lately about self-publishing through Lulu or other self-publishing sites, and I’m wondering if I could do it – turn the story of the Howes into a book. I don’t want to do it for myself, though, but for the society. It’s their  material, and they let me work with it. So here is my second set of questions: Could I possibly turn this into a book and then donate the monies from it back to the society, which is struggling for funding? Is that even feasible? How would I get the word out about the book once it was published, though? And who would even be interested? Maybe I’m the only one interested in this story at all…but I really would love to help the society by publishing more than just an article for their newsletter.

So I’m asking, pleading even, for help from anyone reading this who has an opinion or experience with these things – should I tread this path? Or am I making a big mistake even considering it?

Thanks in advance for your help, we’ll return to Phineas’ letter excerpts next Saturday, I promise! The next few concern gold and murder! (That lecture by Lisa Alzo was called ‘Murder, Mayhem and Small-Town Tragedy’, and she jokingly said murder, death, sex, etc. will always bring people back for more – we’ll see if she’s right! :) )

© 2011, copyright Genealady & JustFolks

Series Navigation<< Society Saturday: Howe Came They Here, 1858Society Saturday: Phineas Howe writes of Gold and Lincoln >>


Society Saturday: I Need Your Advice! — 2 Comments

  1. I’m on this path right now. I haven’t self-published yet, but it is imminent. Any time I had a question about writing or formatting, I asked my friends online (including Lisa Alzo). Everyone was so helpful with their answers.

    The process of writing and publishing is really fun and there’s a great sense of accomplishment. If you have the time and heart, I suggest you start down that path.

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