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Thursday's thing to love...

The Rich Writer: Thursday's thing to love...

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday's thing to love...

...about being a writer: I'm still loving research.

Did you know that there are about three libraries in the world that have copies of The Hot Springs Daily Star from the 1890's? And yet, you can have the microfilms sent to your local library (for a minimal charge) where you can read the daily events of a booming frontier town from over a hundred years ago.

I know, I know--this is old news to all you experienced history writers--but it astonishes me every time I scroll through those microfilms.

What appears in these old newspapers? Each edition is about 4 pages long, with one page covering local events (with a heavy emphasis on politics;) two "women's pages" containing everything from how to make a cocoa whip to how to treat a sore throat to slightly romantic fiction; a page or so of advertisements, including all sorts of patent medicines; and a page devoted to local events, such as nearby train information, new hotel visitors, and--my favorite--the "NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS."

Remember, this is before every house held a computer, television, telephone, and internet access. The NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS includes items such as the following:

  • J.B. Dickover is intending to leave for Chicago on a business tour.

  • For lame back, side or chest, use Shiloh's Porous Plaster. Price 25 cts. Sold by W.W. Root.

  • R.W. Shann has leased his meat market, and it is rumored that he intends to go into the real estate business.

  • Charles Streator is steadily improving, his many friends will be glad to learn, although he is getting weary of lying in bed.

  • John Sidey has some centipedes found in the Bad Lands a few days ago.

The ones that wrenched at me were the ongoing sagas of this or that sick person. "Dr. S is sick with pneumonia" followed the next day by "Dr. S seems to be improving" and then "Dr. S is very low today." I found myself scrolling ahead to find out what happened to these far-off people. Did Mr. R's 4-year-old recover? Did the 2 pound baby survive? In the 1890's death was never far off. Reading these snippets of news, it was easy to forget that I belonged to another century, easy to get drawn into these peoples' stories.

I guess that's the point. Perhaps the hours I spend in a dark library room, scrolling through microfilm, will breathe life into the final draft of my nonfiction picture book. Wish me luck!

:) Cheryl


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