Imagination in History & Writing

Happy July, friends! Here at Write Back When, our summer Literature Circles are wrapping up, and our Writing Historical Fiction camp is well underway – already halfway through! We’ve learned so much together.

Writing Historical Fiction Camp 

So far, historical fiction students have worked on descriptive writing, and we have begun to learn more about what good research means in order to tell a story set in the past. This week we’ll host a guest, Sampson Levingston of Through2Eyes, an Indiana historian and storyteller. With him, students and I will be able to have a deeper conversation about digging up stories and details from the past – doing that fun detective work that historians get to do! We’re all learning together how to find and tell good stories. 

Every student who completes this 6-week camp has the opportunity to move on into our intensive story-writing class, which culminates in a published anthology of historical fiction short stories. Yes – the kids will become published authors! It’s everything I dreamed of when I was a kid myself, and I am overjoyed to help students of today make this same dream a reality in these classes. 

Imagination in History and Writing 

As I go through my readings in my graduate program in American History, I take notes in Google Docs. This week I was struck by the opening chapter of a 1992 volume entitled Beyond 1492: Encounters in Colonial North America, by James Axtell. This chapter was about the importance of imagination in the historian’s work. And as I highlighted and copied and pasted a line that stood out to me, the formatting was all off from the PDF to the Google Doc. I started to change it, but then I stopped. It seemed fitting – because it read like poetry

“I

would like

to

make that argument

by

suggesting that

a

major component

of  the

historian’s  equipment,  indeed

his

most important  tool,

is his

imagination,

not

unlike

the

poet’s

or  the

novelist’s.” 

We all are living in historic times. We need imagination to keep going, to move forward, to make it through. And we need imagination in the study of history, and in the craft of writing. History is not dry facts, names and dates –  it’s always moving, always in flux. History is similar to creative writing in this way – even to our lives, as we are an integral part of the flow of history. We are always in motion, in flux, always changing and growing. Our stories and writing will continually change and grow, too. So we research, we study, we learn, and we write – all while keeping our imagination active and moving. That’s how we find and tell good stories. 

So write we must. And imagine, we must. 


I invite you and your family to join me in the work here at Write Back WhenSend me an email and subscribe to hop on the waiting list to enroll for fall historical fiction classes (4th grade & up). Stick around to learn more about our upcoming historical fiction book clubs for kids and teens, as well as our podcast that is in its earliest phase of creation. As always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions! 

Be well, friends, and happy storytelling! 

Katie 

Imagination in History & Writing

 

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