Holiday gatherings are a research resource for your book.
Yeah, I know, holiday gatherings exist to torture many of us. Whether it’s politics, “why don’t you have a boyfriend/girlfriend,” to other subjects that absolutely set you on fire, these events make us cringe. Or ball up in a fetal position and refuse to go.
How about we turn that on its head this year? What if there was a way to have conversations with family members that don’t end up in confrontation? Let’s talk about your book idea.
Family as subject matter experts
When writing a history book, old folks are your subject matter experts. Our families often influence the process. You’re collecting images for the book. Maybe Uncle Joe or Aunt Betty know the whole story on the neighborhood, or the department store. Fighting with your mom at Thanksgiving? Ask her about when she worked at the bank downtown. Pick Dad’s brain on the historical society’s resources.
In Vino, History?
Lisa Graves, the History Witch, nails it in her holiday infographic. Step 2, Have Plenty of Booze, provides you with an opening. Get Aunt Betty a glass of wine or three, so she’ll spill the tea. Is she still going to ask you about that girl you’re seeing? Probably. Bite your lip and focus on the story. Treat the gathering as a business meeting. Engage Uncle Joe on subjects which benefit your research.
Ask for photos! Arcadia books require visuals. It may take chatting up Dad to learn that there’s a whole scrapbook of stuff on the bookshelf at his old firm. Your relatives want to help you, if you and Mom can get past whatever it is you usually quarrel about.
Absolutely, Uncle Joe’s going to mention things that trigger you. That’s where Lisa’s Step 3 comes into play. OK, maybe you’re not drugging the mashed potatoes, but preparation helps. Get a ride, so you can have a cocktail before heading out. Have an edible, if you so choose. Whatever you do, make sure you have your notebook and pen handy. If you can, record Aunt Betty’s stories. Get to work!