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Tip Tuesday #166 And Giveaway of WRITTEN IN STONE

Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Hi Everyone! Natalie here today. Today I have a fantastic tip by middle grade author Rosanne Parry on how to research multi-cultural characters. And she’s offering a giveaway of her new book, WRITTEN IN STONE, which releases June 25th. Details of the giveaway will be at the end of the post. You can find Rosanne at her Website.

Researching Native American Characters

Native Americans are integral to our national history and yet they are the least commonly portrayed non-white characters in children’s literature. I think many authors fear "getting it wrong" and find it easier to leave Native American characters out of their stories than risk possible criticism. But leaving Indians out of the books children read is far more damaging than any factual error would be. After all, a mistake is an invitation to a conversation, but to leave Native American's out of the conversation entirely is dehumanizing and communicates the message that the world of books is no place for an Indian child. Nobody wants that. The answer is to include the Native American character where it's appropriate as best you can and be diligent in your research. Fortunately this has never been easier. Here are 6 steps to take when researching Native American content and characters.

1. First of all, be specific about which tribe you are representing. The Native American experience varies widely from tribe to tribe. Languages, economies, ecosystems, religious practices, and mythologies are unique to their own tribes and regions. It may feel like more work to delve into one particular Native American history, but your story will be strengthened by you’re your focus.
Just as you wouldn't write an immigration story without deciding first whether your immigrant was an impoverished Jewish tailor from a Warsaw ghetto or a wealthy Christian university professor from Paris, so you should be specific about the type of Native American experience you are trying to portray.

2. Start with the tribe's own website, museum, historians, and authors. Nearly every tribe has a website. It's a valuable starting point. If a tribe has a casino, they may have a historical exhibit somewhere in the casino--also a good place to start.

3. Look for a cultural event specific to your character that is open to the public. For example Chief Lelooska's educational programs in Ariel Washington are a great introduction to the song, story and dance traditions of the Kwakiutl.


You might try an Indian rodeo or a powwow or treaty day celebration. Many cities have an urban Indian center with a variety of activities. Go. Absorb. Be friendly. Ask permission before you record anything. Most public events are fine for recording, but it's best to ask first.

4. Learn about a tribe's land both current and historical. Visit if possible. People are shaped by the land they love. For example, Chief Joseph of the Nez Pearce was hounded out of the Wallowas in northeastern Oregon. Why was that place so hard to for him to give up? Well, take a look. It is among the most beautiful moraine lakes in North America. The Wallowa mountains are the Alps of Oregon. Ask anyone who has hiked those hills or fished those cold clear waters. I've only visited four times in forty years and yet the place has a hold on my heart and imagination like few others.

5. Learn about their art and how it's made. Visit galleries that show the work. Support Native American artists by buying some of their art. Visit museums that have displays of their work. Talk to curator about the collection and find out if there is an off-exhibit archive. Some universities have good archives as well.

6. Be aware that some cultural information is not public and you will not find the answer; you'll have to adjust your story to accommodate that. For example, in working on Written in Stone, a story about a whaling family from the Makah and Quinault tribes, I knew I wouldn't be able to learn the rituals involved with preparing for a whale hunt. They are unique to each family and only shared with members of the whaling crew. So I chose a girl for my viewpoint character. She wouldn't know those rituals either, so I could convey the experience of waiting for the whalers to return authentically without delving into a topic off limits to the public.

But most important, be brave on the page. A “perfectly authentic” representation of a culture is not possible because every culture is made up of unique individuals who conform in some ways to their culture of origin and diverge in others. In the end what the child needs most is a character that feels like a real friend and at least some of the time looks a lot like him.

Here’s a blurb about WRITTEN IN STONE from Goodreads:

Rosanne Parry author of Heart of a Shepherd, shines a light on Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest in the 1920s, a time of critical cultural upheaval.

Pearl has always dreamed of hunting whales, just like her father. Of taking to the sea in their eight-man canoe, standing at the prow with a harpoon, and waiting for a whale to lift its barnacle-speckled head as it offers its life for the life of the tribe. But now that can never be. Pearl's father was lost on the last hunt, and the whales hide from the great steam-powered ships carrying harpoon cannons, which harvest not one but dozens of whales from the ocean. With the whales gone, Pearl's people, the Makah, struggle to survive as Pearl searches for ways to preserve their stories and skills.

Rosanne has generally offered a copy of WRITTEN IN STONE for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on July 6th. I’ll announce the winner on July 8th.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter.This is for US/Canada residents only.

I’m on a vacation and blog break after today until July 8th. I’m excited to go to my nephew’s wedding. I’ve known him since he was a baby. I’ll be blogging a little bit less over the summer. I know it gets quieter in the blog world during the summer as people spend more time with their families and go on vacations. I’m looking forward to slowing down a bit too and hopefully writing more.

But I have a lot of good things planned for the summer, starting with:
Freedom to Read Blog Hop on July 2nd

Interview on July 8th with debut author Melanie Crowder and ARC giveaway of PARCHED, a middle grade apocalyptic novel about a world with hardly any water with a touch of magical realism. I found the whole idea of such a world fascinating.

And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Thursday agent spotlights.

Hope to see you on July 8th!


Martina Boone said...

Thanks for the tip, Natalie. And have a wonderful blog break. If anyone deserves one, you do. Enjoy the wedding and the family time! Hugs and thanks for all you do!

Old Kitty said...

Good luck to all entering!! There really is nothing like thorough research to ensure sensitive use of information especially if the subject matter is of other cultures and histories.

Congratulations to your nephew, Natalie!! Enjoy your break! Take care

S.P. Bowers said...

Great suggestions for historical research! It's true, sometimes I worry so much about getting something accurate it's easier not to put it in.

mshatch said...

Enjoy your nephew's wedding, Natalie and yes, those are excellent research tips - thank you Rosanne :)

Heather Villa said...

I can hardly wait to read Written in Stone. I like how you explained “the character needs to feel like a real friend.” Thank you!

Enjoy your summer!


Joanne R. Fritz said...

This is wonderful information, Roseanne. I haven't tried to write historical fiction yet because the research always seemed so daunting, but I have a friend who's writing a novel with Native American characters, so I'll mention this to her.

Thanks for the great interview, Natalie, and the giveaway. I'd love to read Written in Stone.

And I hope you have a nice time at your nephew's wedding. Enjoy your vacation and blogging break.

Brenda said...

Love the quote of making a character that feels like a friend. Natalie, hope you have a wonderful time at the wedding and enjoy your writing/blog vacation.

Rosanne said...

Thanks for making time for this post, Natalie. I've had weddings and graduations all month longtoo. June is busy. But I'm so excited to share about this book. It was a long time in the making but very much worth the journey.

Jessie Humphries said...

Oh my goodness, I am so fascinated by this story! Pacific Northwest! Indian tribes! Historical setting! Brave girl! I adore it. And I super adore the idea of being brave on the page AFTER having done such great and thorough research. Really great stuff. :)

Jessie Humphries said...

And I'm going to tweet about this right now! :)

Emily R. King said...

Wonderful info! I don't know why people are intimidated to write about Native Americans. Where I live and grew up, we celebrate their history. So glad to see them getting more page time!

Faith E. Hough said...

I'm even more excited to read this story now! (I love Rosanne's other books, and I've been eagerly awaiting this and checking and double-checking the release date for a while. :) Please enter me in the giveaway!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip... and I love what you said about " A “perfectly authentic” representation of a culture is not possible." This is something I always have to remind myself of while writing and reading.

Manju Howard said...

Natalie, thanks for all the work you do for fellow writers. Have a fun summer!
Rosanne, thank you for sharing your novel and research tips.
I will be happy tweet about WRITTEN IN STONE.

Rosemond said...

Can't wait to read this! I would love to win!

rosemond22 AT aol DOT com

Jemi Fraser said...

Research is always important - great places to start! :)

Anonymous said...

Great tips. I've read a few books featuring Native Americans and they seemed well-researched and realistic.

Thanks for the giveaway.

Heather said...

This is great info! I'd love to see more Native Americans portrayed in literature.

Lisa Gail Green said...

This is SUCH a great post! I have to admit I'm guilty of avoidance for fear of getting it wrong. You've inspired me to do my research and try it again.

Rosanne said...

Thanks for stopping by everybody!

Lisa, I was nervous sometimes about approaching sources and yet I found nearly everyone was kind and eager to help me get the information right. And also I often found that what seemed to me a simple question turned out to be much more complex and far more interesting than I'd imagined.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Great tips. Historical research has always been daunting for me.

Enjoy your nephew's wedding Natalie.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Natalie, Hi, Roasanne,

This is fascinating. I think native American culture/society is highly underrate and under represented.

Fantastic tips on researching. It's all about the authenticity that makes this type, or any novel for that matter, keep the readers interest.

Have a wonderful time at the wedding, Natalie! Enjoy your vacation and blog time off.

Unknown said...

Great tips, and this sounds like a great read too.

Unknown said...

The writing tips are well presented. Researching can add so much to a book - not to mention the knowledge can enrich the lives of the author and readers. :-)

cleemckenzie said...

This is a fascinating topic for me since my background is inter-cultural communication. Learning about a culture is an amazing experience and challenging. I loved that you mentioned studying the people with respect to their native land, their art, language and ritual. So much to a culture to know.

bfav said...

Great tips, I need to research a little more for one of my characters. Thanks. And I've heard amazing reviews on this book.

DMS said...

Have a great blog break Natalie!

I really enjoyed this post. It was full of great advice and I just love the picture of Oregon. Wow! I think the cover of this book is beautiful and it sounds so good. I look forward to reading it! Thanks for a chance to win. :)

Rebecca Gomez said...

Great tip. My daughter and I were having a discussion about writing about different cultures recently. Research is essential!