To my surprise and delight I was asked to present at our annual Writers’ Weekend which was held on February 4. I presented “Historical Research for Writers” to a very surprising (to me, at least) crowd of 125 people who were all eager to find out where all the good stuff is stashed. As is usual with me, I was set off on a tangent thinking about the authors who have worked in our Local History room.
I remember when Will Ferguson, author of a number of books (all available at the Calgary Public Library) had his first “office” in the local history room. While working on Canadian History for Dummies, he stored his computer (kind of a joke to call it a laptop) in the Local History workroom. He tells the story in a Swerve magazine article. You can read it here and see a picture of him in the room.
We have also recently hosted Brian Brennan, who was researching and writing the official history of the Calgary Public Library, which will be released in April (to celebrate the “official” opening of the new library in 1912). I’m looking forward to this one, because Brian is such an inspiring storyteller and what I’ve seen of the book seems to me to be his finest work yet.
We also provided research assistance for Katherine Govier, whose protagonist in the book Between Men becomes obsessed with the story of Rosalie New Grass, a Cree woman who was brutally murdered in 1889. Rosalie’s tragic story is true and Ms Govier researched the case in the Local History room. Our copy of Between Men is signed “with gratitude” for the assistance she received on her project from our staff.
As I mentioned, the Writers’ Weekend was a huge success and I was chuffed to see the crowd that came out to hear about research. Nothing turns me off a piece of writing quicker than an error. (Well, bad dialogue comes a very close second). Where the work is fiction or non-fiction, good, solid research always has a place. We are very lucky to be able to meet and assist authors with their projects. We have helped with fairly modest publications, such as family histories, and with some major projects, such as the upcoming history of the library. We are always delighted to be able to assist – it is an opportunity for us to show off our wonderful collections and we always learn something new. What I guess I am trying to say is that you should all come down and visit us and see what weird and wonderful things you can dig up.