HOW TO WRITE ABOUT YOUR HOBBY OR PASSION

Neridah McMullin is the author of a number of inspirational books about the people who have shaped Australia’s sporting history.  

Her latest book, KICK IT TO ME tells the story of Tom Willis (known as the father of Aussie Rules football) and how indigenous Australians and their game Marn-grook shaped and influenced the game that is played throughout Australia today.

As Eddie McGuire, president of Collingwood Football Club says in the Foreword of KICK IT TO ME,

We have begun to realise what Tom Willis knew all along – the historical inhabitants of this country have put the “Australian” into Australian Rules.

Today at DeeScribe Writing, Neridah takes us through her research and writing process and gives us tips on writing about your hobby or passion.

1.  Where did the inspiration for your new book come from?

I’m a big Collingwood fan and in 2007 Eddie McGuire spoke at a function about the life of Tom Wills, his influence on the first set of rules for Australian Rules Football and how he lived his life.

Tom Wills was the son of a squatter in Western Victoria in the 1840’s, growing up on a pastoral station called ‘Lexington’.

In these hard working days, the children of squatters were pretty much free range and did whatever they wanted.

Tom befriended the children of the local Djab Wurrung tribe and wandered freely throughout their camp. He spoke their language fluently; he knew all their clapping songs and joined in their corrobborees. And he watched, and learned and played marn-grook – the ancient Aboriginal game.

Tom was 10 he went away to boarding school in Melbourne and England, returning at 20 years of age. He proceeded to play a lot of cricket. Cricket was hugely popular, and inter-colonial rivalry was massive.

But in between cricket season, Tom wanted to do something else and wrote to a local sporting magazine quoting these famous words “We shall have a game of out own” and so it was that the first set of rules for Australian Rules Football was written; the game we love was borne, a game that is now the biggest spectator sport in Australia. And I’m so proud of this.

I found it fascinating that most people from early colonial Victoria saw themselves from their country of origin e.g. they thought of themselves as English or Scottish or Irish. But Tom Wills identified himself as being Australian and he wanted to create something uniquely Australian.

Tom was an ordinary guy who did something extraordinary. Is aussie rules like rugby? No! Is it like Gaelic footy or Gridiron? No! It’s unique.

There is no doubt in my mind that Tom Wills never forgot the joys of playing marn-grook

So just to fill you in, marn–grook was a game of kick to kick. It was all about long kicking and fast running with the ball, and it was also characterised by speccy’s. Sound familiar? High flying, aerial, acrobatic marking of the ball. So here is the connection – the speccy; a signature of ‘aussie rules’ footy.

Marn-grook didn’t have goals or points, so the influence of other sports can be also seen here.

But you only have to watch any of the Aboriginal boys in the AFL play footy to see how natural the game is to them. How easily they move the ball, take speccys and kick these amazing goals.

And that’s what happened, after Eddie spoke at this function, I started to watch Leon Davis more closely. Then I started to watch other Indigenous players at other clubs, the likes of Alwyn Davey and his brother Aaron. In fact, I now follow all the Indigenous players. They’re amazing.

Leon Davis had a stellar year in 2007 and I remember I used to sit at the footy and laugh with disbelief watching him – he was so amazing.

Today, I really admire Paddy Ryder from the Bombers, Adam Goodes from the Swans and Liam Jurrah from the Demons. I also admire their individual stories, where they have come from and the journey they had to make to play AFL footy. It’s tough for them to leave their homes and families; they do an awesome job.

2.    Why is “Kick It To Me” important to you?

To me, it’s an acknowledgement to Indigenous Australians that they are a huge part of the great game of ‘aussie rules’.

It’s also about acknowledging Tom Wills; not only a fine sportsman but as a humanitarian as well.

To live peacefully and respectfully is all about tolerance and I believe sport crosses that cultural divide.

3.   How long did it take to research?

I’m a research scientist by trade so I feel really comfortable doing research. I’m systematic and quite obsessive about it – I love it.

The research for this book took about three months (fitting in with family demands). I really like to seek out all sources of information and immerse myself in them.

4.   Can you tell us what was involved in the research process?

I read several books, including biographies and Tom Wills father’s journal (Horatio Wills). I visited the State Library, and interviewed several people in the process. Academic and writer, Greg De Moore wrote the book ‘The Tragic Rise and Fall of Tom Wills’ and I just loved this book. I contacted Greg and he was super helpful, even reading my manuscript for me and suggesting improvements. I wanted it to be historically accurate, so his input was invaluable.

Martin Flanagan, a senior football writer at The Age, was also a big help. He wrote the book ‘The Call’ and it’s a cracker for footy fans.

I visited Melbourne Football Club Archives (Tom Wills formed the Melbourne Football Club) and my publisher, Bernadette Walters, and the artist for my book, Peter Hudson, and I made a day trip to visit ‘Lexington’ Station in Moyston in Western Victoria. The current owners, Peter and Elizabeth Crauford were very generous with their time. The ‘Lexington’ homestead is very charismatic.

It was inspiring. The homestead has a door architrave with notches for the heights of all the Will’s children growing up. It was a visceral experience, you could literally feel the history all around you.

5.   Do you have any research tips for new writers?

Yes, delve deep and keep good records and references. If you’re writing historical narrative you may need to substantiate it. I once lost some information I found on the internet and it took me months to find it again! It gave me nightmares.

Always acknowledge people, sources and references. It’s respectful and it’s just the right thing to do.

6.    This is not your first book on football? Do you have any tips for writers about how you combined your passion for the sport with your love of writing?

I’ve written three Chapter Books for the Collingwood Football Club. These books follow a generation of a family who experience the highs and lows of following the Pies. The books document the clubs wonderful history. Some of the stories are gory, some are funny and others are inspiring and tragic. All footy clubs have these wonderful stories.

My advice is to write from the heart, it’s always genuine then.

Planning is important when writing more than one book, so having an angle to approach each one with works well.

7.    Do you have any other books planned on this topic?

My third Collingwood book is due out later this year. It’s called ‘Collingwood Forever’ and is set in the 1958 Grand Final. It’s when the Pies beat the Melbourne Football Club, preventing them from winning four premierships in a row and equaling Collingwood’s four premierships set in 1927 – 1930. I love this story as many of the players in this team are still with us. They were never meant to win it. They were a young team and on the morning of the grand final it started to rain. It rained and rained all day, so this changed the way the game could be played. Funny things can happen on Grand Final day. This story also features the great Phonse Kyne speech to the players at half time; “the eyes of a generation are upon you…” Sterling stuff!

I also have a cricket story coming out later this year too…

I think it might be time for me to write.

Thanks so much Neridah for visiting DeeScribe Writing and sharing your insights and inspiration.

Check out Neridah’s KICK IT TO ME book launch on Youtube.

Friday Feedback is back at DeeSribe Writing this week so feel free to come back then and share your feedback and tips.

Happy writing:)

Dee 

THE RESEARCH PROCESS – AUSTRALIAN STORY – WITH TANIA McCARTNEY

Today, I’m pleased to welcome good writerly friend, Tania McCartney to DeeScribe Writing. Tania is sharing her research tips and she’s visiting as part of the blog tour to celebrate the release of her fabulous new book, Australian Story

Tania McCartney is an author of children’s books and adult non-fiction. Her works include You Name It (Hodder Headline 1995), Handmade Living: a designer collective (Handmade Press 2010) and the Riley the Little Aviator series (latest title: Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne, Ford Street Publishing 2011). She is also an established magazine writer, editor and blogger, and is a NYR12 ambassador for the ACT. She lives in Canberra with a husband, two kids and a mountain of books (especially history books). www.taniamccartney.com

The Research Process – Australian Story

by Tania McCartney

What is it about research? Some people love it, some people hate it; I fall into the former category, and then some. I’ve always been obsessed with diving into the deep end of almost any topic, and fishing out delicious facts and figures that bring subjects alive and kicking.

If there was a book more in need of research than Australian Story, I’d like to hear about it! Essentially an abridged historical account of the entire history of Australia – from creation through to our very first female prime minister – the book took many, many hours of fact-scouring, and certainly didn’t start out ‘abridged’.

Gathering facts and figures to tell Australia’s story was a fascinating but lengthy process – and I started out with many more entries than I needed. I began by keeping a Word document of all my findings, including entries I knew were not going to be wholly appropriate for a children’s book. Including these entries in the initial drafts was vital to help me gain a ‘whole picture’ view of our past – and also helped me place events chronologically, and make more educated decisions on what should be cut.

I frequently saved my Word documents as second, third, fourth, etc, files in order to keep a series of updated drafts. This was important due to the large amount of entries I was finding. As entries were cut and added to, I knew the possibility of losing entries – or inadvertently tampering with their accuracy – was high.

The other issue I had with finding entries for the timeline was questionable accuracy. Not only online, which is rife with inaccuracies and subjective information, but also in the history books. Accounts shift and change with popular opinion – so not all dates or recollections would match up, especially on entries before the mid-19th Century. It was important to document each version of these entries so they could be fact-checked. Indeed, some entries were reluctantly deleted in the end, due to an inability to satisfactorily legitimise the content.

Other entries to be deleted were those that were laborious, boring, convoluted, not-so-important or age-inappropriate. Sometimes it was difficult letting these entries go, but it was vital to streamline entries and ensure they were appealing and relevant to children, as well as to the shaping of our nation. Australian Story is by no means a comprehensive and all-inclusive version of our country’s history, but it has turned into a phenomenal and child-appropriate resource for primary school age kids – for whom I’ve been determined to make history ‘cool’ again.

Much of my research was done online and cross-checked ad infinitum. I made certain the bulk of it was done on reputable websites, such as government departments or legitimised historical sites. I also researched entries at libraries and in text books. Entries were fact-checked by historians, teachers, experts, government departments, Indigenous advisors and other professionals before finalising. Then they were checked again.

One of the joys of researching this book was discovering the entries I initially knew nothing (or little) about. As each new entry unfolded, even more would be discovered – it was like opening a multi-layered gift that just kept on giving. I’m so grateful, in particular, to the professionals who mentioned timeline entries I had inadvertently omitted – for these entries often turned out to be very important, most particularly when it came to relaying them to our children.

For this kind of book, I therefore feel that a collaborative effort is key. Compiling and revising (and revising and revising) this material over and over again was dangerous in that I frequently became too close to it, so having others scour and fact-check was vital for accuracy and clarity.

Another aspect of my research process for Australian Story was a very visual one. I tend to work and think visually, so I compiled page layouts as I went along, especially towards the final stages. Text was not the only thing needed for Australian Story. Being a visually-based book, using images from the NLA’s extensive Digital Collection, I was tasked with choosing images to accompany most of my research findings – and this was probably my favourite part of all.

I kept a spread sheet correlating images to text. Laying out pages in draft form with the images I sourced also helped me see where any visual ‘holes’ might be. Of course, not all entries could include images, so it was important to strike a visual balance.

Researching Australian Story was one of the most challenging, uplifting and rewarding processes I’ve ever been through as an author. Sure, it was daunting at times, but keeping and updating regular drafts of your work makes it a whole lot easier, as does taking teensy bites and moving forward, step-by-step, without becoming overwhelmed.

If you are tasked with such research, think about ways you can make the task fit more neatly with your mental processes. If you are a visual, use ways that will maximise a visual slant, even if it’s keeping a running diagram or chat. If you work better with lists or themes, divide your work up appropriately. Keeping separate documents with headings such as Notes, Web Addresses, Contacts, Bibliography, will also help you keep your research on track.

Researching books is a monumentally rewarding part of being an author. Emotional, dynamic, challenging and enlightening, it’s far far far from boring. And the reward is well worth the effort.

Wow, thanks Tania for this fascinating insight into the research process.

ABOUT ‘AUSTRALIAN STORY’

Take a trip into the past––from the explosive beginnings of our planet to modern day Australia, in this fascinating journey through time. Featuring succinct entries on historical moments over the past 47 billion years, Australian Story covers ecological change, politics, invention, war, immigration, celebration, culture, modern technology and more.

Illustrated with a striking collection of photographs and images from the NLA’s digital collection, this is history for children like never before, and is a fascinating snapshot of our country. Australian Story tells who we once where, who we are today . . . and where we are going. Australian story is aimed at children in both Key Stage I and II.

Australian Story: an illustrated timeline (1 March 2012), $24.95

National Library of Australia, ISBN: 9780642277459

http://bookshop.nla.gov.au/book/australian-story.do

TANIA IS VISITING ALL THESE GREAT BLOGS ON TOUR

Australian Story Blog Tour, March 2012

Monday 5 March

 

Blog Tour Schedule and Book Giveaway

Kids Book Review

kids-bookreview.com

Book Launch Party Wrap-Up

Tania McCartney’s Blog

taniamccartney.blogspot.com

Book Giveaway

Alphabet Street

alphabetstreet.com.au

Tuesday 6 March

Book Review

Buzz Words

buzzwordsmagazine.blogspot.com

Australian Story Research Process

DeeScribe

deescribewriting.wordpress.com

Book Review and 10 Reasons Why History is Exciting

Soup Blog

soupblog.wordpress.com

Wednesday 7 March

Australian Story Teaching Notes for Key Stage I

Sheryl Gwyther’s Blog

sherylgwyther.wordpress.com
Book Review and Teaching Notes Ideas for Key Stage II

The Book Chook

thebookchook.com

Book Review

Kids’ Book Capers

content.boomerangbooks.com.au/kids-book-capers-blog

Image-Sourcing for Australian Story

Blue Dingo

bluedingo.ning.com

Thursday 8 March

 

Book Review

Reading Upside Down

readingupsidedown.com

Book Review

Pass It On

jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com/school-magazine

Book Review

Bug in a Book

bugreviews.wordpress.com

Friday 9 March

Book Giveaway

HerCanberra

hercanberra.com.au

The Writing Process for Australian Story

Sally Murphy’s Blog

sallymurphy.blogspot.com

Book Review

Books for Little Hands

booksforlittlehands.blogspot.com

Book Review

ReadPlus

www.readplus.com.au

Saturday 10 March

Book Review

Kids Book Review

kids-bookreview.com

Book Giveaway

Posie Patchwork Blog

posiepatchworkblog.blogspot.com

Book Review

Suite 101

suite101.com/worldliteratures

Sunday 11 March

Book Review

My Little Bookcase

mylittlebookcase.com.au

Book Giveaway

Australian Women Online

australianwomenonline.com

Blog Tour Wrap-Up

Tania McCartney’s Blog

taniamccartney.blogspot.com

NEUROSCIENCE IN YA NOVELS – By Maree Kimberley

Image by James Clayton

Forget the zombie apocalypse, the neuro-revolution is coming

Neuroscience is everywhere. Almost every day, there’s a story about a scientific study or a medical breakthrough related to the human brain. People are writing about a coming ‘neuro revolution’, where everything from brain boosting drugs to 100% accurate lie detection machines are in use. It’s the stuff of science fiction made real, and it raises a lot of questions about the future of human society.

But long before neuroscience was making daily news, a few standout young adult novels looked at the possibilities of a new type of human. Brian Caswell’s Cage of Butterflies (1992) is about a group of small children, the Babies, who have an abnormality in their brain anatomy which makes them unable to speak. But the Babies can communicate telepathically as a ‘”shared mind”, both with each other and with people outside their group. Peter Dickinson’s Eva (1988) tells the story of a teenage girl who, after a horrific road accident, is given the body of chimpanzee to replace her human body so that she can continue to live. Among other things, Eva must cope with the memories of the chimpanzee whose body she now inhabits.

But as the neuroscientific discoveries become more amazing in the early 21st century, the young adult novels don’t seem to have kept pace. There are some around that include neuroscientific elements. In Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies, sixteen-year-olds are given plastic surgery to make them ‘pretty’ but the operation also includes putting a lesion on their brain, which makes them easy to control. In Brian Falkner’s Brain Jack people wear neuroheadsets, which are caps with small wires that attach to your head and allow you to control your computer with your thoughts. David Klass’ Dark Angel takes a different approach, using recent discoveries about human brain development to explore questions about the nature of good and evil in a contemporary setting.

We’re in an age where the possibilities of the human brain and technology are moving beyond science fiction into reality. Some of these possibilities have serious implications on how we live our everyday lives, from the way students are taught at school to the way a young person might be categorised and treated, depending on how their brains are configured.

And yet, apart from the few books mentioned, neuroscience is not often featured in young adult fiction. Perhaps it’s just too scary. After all, we can curl up with a good vampire/werewolf/zombie story knowing that these creatures don’t actually exist. But the coming neuro-society is real.

Fiction is a great way for teens to learn how to make their way in and interpret the world. So whether it’s through contemporary YA like Dark Angel or the dystopic futuristic world of Uglies or another hybrid that hasn’t been created yet, I think it’s important to for teen novels to explore how these neuroscience-driven changes might play out.

How can/should the neuro-society be written about in young adult fiction? What other books are out there at the moment using elements of neuroscience in plot, narrative or structure? Why aren’t there more young adult novels looking at the frontiers of neuroscience and what the neuro-society might mean for young adults?

What about writing where teens take the power of their evolving brains and use it to create a better world? Caswell’s Babies did it way back in the early 90s when most of us still thought the human brain stopped growing at puberty.

If we’re going to have a neuro-revolution, let’s bring on some teen neuro-heros!

YOU CAN HELP MAREE WITH HER THESIS

Maree Kimberley is visiting my blog to try and track down YA novels that deal with or include a neuroscience element for her phd research. Please share any examples you might have.

Also, Maree would like to know why you think it’s not written about that much. Maree’s thesis is looking at the fact that neuroscience is about to revolutionise our lives but ya books being published don’t seem to be addressing it much, and when they do, it’s usually on the edges. Would love to hear your thoughts on this too.

Any comments you have would greatly assist Maree with her research.

Thanks.

Dee

Janeen Brian’s Tips on Researching & Writing – Part Two

Today, Janeen Brian is back at Tuesday Writing Tips to talk more about the research process involved with her two camel books, Hoosh and Columbia Sneezes.

Can you tell us about the most moving camel story you uncovered when you were doing the research for Hoosh?

More than a story, I think it was an attitude that moved me.

Whose story was it and why did it move you?

When the editor proposed I write an information book about camels, I agreed, because of my respect for the animals and their ability to adapt to the harshest living conditions.

By the time I had finished researching and writing, that respect and amazement for the camel had deepened. However, it now went hand-in-hand with the original trainers and owners who first brought camels to Australia – the Afghans, as they were commonly called, although the men who crossed the oceans in the 1800s, living in the holds of ships with their animals came from many countries including India, Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.

Cameleer's memorabilia

For months on end, these hardy men trekked the long, lonely stretches of sandy, rugged terrain. They were separated from their wives and families back in their homeland, and to a large extent, ostracised by Anglo-Europeans because of cultural and religious differences. However, those same settlers relied entirely on camel transportation to bring them the goods they so desperately needed. No corner shop to be seen! Prior to cars and trucks, camels carried every item needed for everyday life, from windmills to roofing iron, schoolbooks to sugar and wool bales to wire.

My respect for those early camel men and their animals will always remain with me.

You took over 1500 hours to research and write this book? Why did it take so long? Is there anything you would do differently next time?

Although I made an outline of what I wanted to research, I probably over-researched in my need to feel more confident with the material. The topic also grew as I discovered more unexpected information. And because I had never tackled such a book before, I was treading new ground in both sourcing and noting.

interviewing

However, nothing is ever straightforward. Verifying one small piece of information alone took six hours. In 1866, a steamer carrying the first load of camels arrived in South Australia. But was the steamer called the Blackwall or the Blackwell? It was written both ways in many books and newspapers. I finally validated it as the Blackwall through carrying out a number of searches at various maritime museums.

I believe you collected 36 folders of information for the book. Where are they now? Do you have any tips on how to store research information?

I have culled some notes but the majority of research still lies in folders in large, rollaway plastic tubs in my office. It would need another review to decide on what else to cull and what to save. A librarian has told me that special material, ie primary sources, documents or photographs should be stored in acid-free plastic sleeves.

When you were researching for Columbia Sneezes did you find a camel that was allergic to sand?

No. That was purely a tale.

Do camels really do what Columbia does to stop the sand getting in his nose?

Yes, they do.

Where did you get this research from?

That was one of those aha! moments. The original resolution of the rhyming picture-book story wasn’t working. I had tried many different versions during the editing stage when suddenly a piece of random research from my information book, Hoosh! popped into my head and neatly solved the problem.

Inspiration for Columbia Sneezes

Did the research inspire the idea for the book?

In a way it did. Whilst in Alice Springs at The Voyages Camel Cup race, I bought a small soft-toy, rainbow coloured camel. Back home, I set it on top of my printer and whenever I felt exhausted or frustrated with the project, I’d look at the little camel and somehow find the energy to keep going. One day, my young grandson and I made up a story using the little camel as a character. He was a sneezy camel, and several years later I used that story as a basis for Columbia Sneezes!

Do you have any other tips for us about the research process?

These days, the internet offers greater access than ever to research, but use it widely because often the material isn’t validated and can vary. However, it’s a great tool to lead you towards both primary and secondary sources. Similarly, read widely because information in books can vary as well.

Cross-referencing is good because often particular errors can otherwise simply be passed on. Oral transcriptions, available from libraries, are a great source of real life information, often triggering story ideas as well as giving first-hand knowledge or attitudes of the person, or of the time. The same with diaries. Much information can be gleaned too from studying every aspect of a photograph. And, importantly, be aware of people’s time, and be prepared to thank them.

Thanks so much for visiting DeeScribe writing and sharing your fascinating experiences with us, Janeen.

If you want to know more about camels, research and writing, check out Janeen’s fabulous blog at http://janeenjottings.blogspot.com/ where she’s going to have more great tips and tales.

NEXT WEEK AT TUESDAY WRITING TIPS, POET STEPHEN WHITESIDE IS VISITING TO TALK ABOUT  MEDITATION AND WRITING

Tuesday Writing Tip – CAMELS, RESEARCH AND ROAD TRIPS with Janeen Brian

Today, I’m pleased to welcome to Tuesday Writing Tips, good writer friend and researcher extraordinaire, Janeen Brian.

Those of you who know me and my website will know that I have a thing for camels so I couldn’t resist the chance to chat with Janeen about how she wrote her two wonderful camel books, Hoosh and Columbia Sneezes.

Janeen is a diligent researcher and spent over 1500 hours researching and writing Hoosh and collected 36 files of information.

Janeen, you travelled to Alice Springs to see The Voyages Camel Cup to research this book? How important do you think it is to do field research when you are writing a book like Hoosh?

In my opinion field study is vital. I can’t imagine how else I would’ve been able to research the topic of camels in the outback of Australia with any veracity if I hadn’t had some field experience. I was able to come face-to-face with my subject matter and in doing so, gained far more knowledge and awareness as well as discovering unexpected information. Aspects of my field study included experiencing the Camel Cup race, interviewing camel breeders and handlers, viewing museums that highlighted camels as part of Australia’s early development, and riding a camel.

Afghan mind-mapping

Why is it important?

How can you write convincingly about a broad, information topic if you don’t have some vital experience? We often research prior to, or during the writing of fiction, but since my topic was huge and encompassed many features of camels, I knew I had to research at ‘grass roots’ level as much as possible. Prior to writing Hoosh! I knew nothing about camels and so, in my research, I gathered more information than was necessary – somewhat similar to writing fiction where we create more detail background for our characters than will ever turn up in the final draft.

There was another important reason for field study in researching this book. Apart from providing current and accurate information, I also wanted it to carry a ‘narrative tone’. For that to ring true I needed two things; a sense of the anecdotal and the use of the five senses. I needed to experience the landscape and climate, touch the type of herbage eaten by camels, smell their aroma, drink the milk and listen to their sounds and those of their trainers. I couldn’t have written Hoosh! simply by researching from written material, be it books, primary resources or the internet.


What was the most fascinating piece of research you found when writing this book – the fact that you had been looking for – that sent a tingle down your spine?

As you can imagine, there were many! But I think the most fascinating piece of research was the discovery that up until the 1950s, police patrolled vast stretches of the outback by camel. It had never crossed my mind that areas that spanned hundreds of thousands of square miles/kilometres would’ve needed policing. And of course, in that rugged terrain, camels were ideal vehicles.


Can you tell us where and how you found it?

It was a case of pure serendipity. By chance I was one day flicking through the pages of an Adelaide newspaper. I came across the obituaries page where several people of note were cited. One, in particular, caught my eye. It was for Max Homes, and the obituary stated he was one of the last South Australian outback police officers to patrol by camel.

Farina 1928 camel trade in its primeThat was an eye-opener for me and I quickly scanned the report, especially looking for names of any descendents. Close to the end, it mentioned that later in his life Max moved ‘to Christies Beach to live with a son.’ My heart beat as I checked the phone book. Sure enough there was the same surname, an address and phone number. I made contact and to my amazement, the grown-up son not only handed me his father’s journal that contained newspaper clippings of his police life in the outback but also told me with affection of his pet camel when he was a boy. From that wonderful experience, came a whole, new, unexpected chapter topic.

What was the most difficult part of researching for this book?

Apart from striving for information accuracy, I’d say sourcing the photographs, because it was all up to me.

Why was it hard?

To begin with, I’d done little research of this nature. Sourcing photographs was time-consuming, fraught with copyright problems and potentially costly, since I was paying upfront.


How did you overcome it?

I made hundreds of phone calls seeking help with visual material. I checked the internet searching for names of people who had some connection with camels or the camel industry. I contacted tourist offices that were willing to provide certain photographs gratis or for a minimal cost. As much as possible I used my own photographs and spread the word to friends and acquaintances, hoping it would bring some rewards. In many instances it did, however not all photographs offered could be used, either because they lacked reproduction quality or the information about them was scant. Those with potential I either made copies of, or if I did need to keep the originals for some purpose, I had to protect them for many month and return them safely. Once a camel handler in northern South Australia gave me a bunch of old photos in an envelope, giving me permission to use any of them. Naturally I was thrilled, until I discovered copies in books etc. Alarm bells rang. The handler was unable to remember how he came upon the photos in the first place, but assured me he didn’t mind which ones I used for the book! I, however, was pale at the thought of copyright problems and spent countless hours checking numerous sources for duplication, and/or extra information.

How important is it to verify your sources? How do you do this?

In that particular instance, I trawled through books, internet sites and photographs cited in various state and territory library archives.

Thanks Dee, for your great, explorative questions. I enjoyed revisiting Hoosh!, Columbia and camels. Thank you so much for hosting me and I hope one day you get your wish and have your own camel!

Janeen will be back here on Thursday with more great tips and information on how she researched both Hoosh and Columbia Sneezes. Hope you can join us then.

If you want to know more about camels, research and writing, check out Janeen’s fabulous blog at http://janeenjottings.blogspot.com/ where she’s going to have more great tips and tales.