Sunday, August 4, 2013

Jeri Chase Ferris' Workshop: Primary Sources! How To Find Them And How to Use Them

Jeri Chase Ferris leads her workshop

Jeri Chase Ferris is this year's Golden Kite-Winning Author for nonfiction for her picture book, "Noah Webster & His Words."  She's also written eleven other biographies of people from 1776 to 1936 who did great and important deeds for America but have been overlooked in history.

Jeri starts out by saying,

"Kids want to know history -- they just don't know it yet."

She reviews the difference between secondary and primary sources, pointing out that in nonfiction we can't say "her smile was tinged with sadness" unless we have proof for that.

One anecdote is how for one of her books, What I Had Was Singing: The Story of Marian Anderson, all the secondary sources (including the Encyclopedia Brittanica) claimed Marian Anderson was born in 1902.  But when Jeri was doing her research, she came upon Marian's birth certificate.  She was actually born in 1897!  The encyclopedia had to correct their entry.

Jeri points out that with the Common Core, students will be looking at two or three books on the same person or event to compare how the authors treated the subject, and they'll also be comparing the facts... we need to get to the truth!

She discusses photo research, interview techniques, on-line research sources, "digging around in musty stacks" and so much more.

Here are just a few nuggets:

"I write about dead people, but I still need to interview family members and get quotes."

"I want experts to point out my mistakes before reviewers do."


"It's our passion that's going to make our nonfiction timeless."

Jeri is passionate not only about her own writing, but also passionate about sharing her expertise.  The session is packed with great research tips, information and resources, and ends with an burst of applause.  Her final words inspire

"Go forth and research with a passion!"

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