The Art of Making History Fun and Other Writing Adventures of Ian Douglas.
Ian Douglas, a Nottingham Writer, is an example of someone who doesn’t know how to be lazy. If he is not busy writing stories, several of which have been published, he is reviewing and interviewing for the local culture magazine ‘Left Lion’. He has also recently run a comprehensive workshop at the Nottingham Writers’ studio on ‘Writing Reviews for Publication’.
‘Children’s History of Nottinghamshire’ came out last year and since then Ian has been on a major road trip, visiting local schools with his ‘Nottingham History Roadshow’.
You were commissioned to write ‘Children’s History of Nottinghamshire’ how did that come about?
The publisher asked the Nottingham Writers’ Studio if they could recommend a local writer. My name came up. I whipped off some clippings and it went from there. I had to compose some test pieces for them, these made the grade and I won the commission.
How much direction were you given as to what was needed?
The publishers, Home Town World, were great. They gave me several pages of guidelines and instructions and also worked very closely with me during the editing phase. If I was ever stuck, they were just an e-mail away.
I notice it is a mix of fiction and non-fiction. How did you work between the two?
That’s one of the book’s strengths and one of the reasons children seem to enjoy it so much. I call them ‘contextualisations’. You could call it ‘flash fiction’ or ‘little vignettes that bring the history to life’. I loved writing them! Each historical era captured my imagination so much, it was easy turning them into stories. Vikings, Roundheads, Victorians, what could be more inspiring!
It’s a very lively book with lots of pictures. As you were not responsible for the illustrations how did this work?
I did help with some of the picture research and I had to suggest scenes for the artists and cartoonists to depict. Naturally a professional layout and design team put it all together.
How did you go about doing the research for the book? What sort of resources did you use?
I used everything, from browsing newspaper cuttings at the local studies library to trips to the Castle Museum and Southwell Minster. Luckily a lot of data is online these days. Medieval tax receipts, Norman death certificates, Tudor wills . These all helped me get my head around the story. There are also some excellent local history web sites that showed me the way on the occasions I felt lost in the archives. I even joined the Thoronton Society. (Nottinghamshire’s very own history and archaeology society). They have a warehouse of research data.
The Nottingham History Roadshow is making an appearance at the Nottingham Festival of Words in February 2013.
Ian’s writing is also featured in the V&A Museum of Childhood new exhibition, along with writers such as Michael Rosen. It looks at the modern history of childhood from 1948 onwards. You can also read about Ian extolling the virtues of Scalextric and Zeroid Robots on the official blog ‘26 Treasures of Childhood’. The exhibition is on until 14 April 2013.