Friday, July 10, 2009

How Amazing is That?

Continuing on the theme of “great discoveries while researching…”

I have found so many weirdly wonderful facts while researching that I don’t even know where to start. Some are hilarious; some are profound. Some are both. Think about this one, which I discovered while writing The Truth About Poop: When they are upset, chimps who have been taught sign language (but not in this context) indicate their frustration by making the sign for poop.

But perhaps the most amazing thing I’ve discovered while researching kids books and magazine articles from my previous career is that just about everything is interesting. Everything, as long as I can understand it. There have been many times when I started a project (especially assigned ones) thinking ho, hum. But once I started looking around, asking questions, sinking into that world—it was fascinating.

Iris breeders not only know all about genetics and beauty, they also have a microcosm as complete as any society with the conservatives and the radicals and the innovators and the ideologues and all the feelings that past between them. Allowing hunters to cull herds of bison or elk might actually be the most humane thing people can do to prevent disease and starvation. A bunch of guys got together in Philadelphia a few hundred years ago and, by cherrypicking an idea here from Rome and there from France, managed to create the principles of a nation. We all know how hard it is to research an idea and come up with a decent book. How did they pull that off?

Once you look at something, really look at it, it is fascinating. No matter how big or how small, the whole world is in it.

How incredible is that?

5 comments:

Vicki Cobb said...

What you have so aptly pointed out, Sue, is that context adds meaning to trivialities (factoids) and that trivialities decorate concepts. The best factoids for spicing things up are those that have a very human connection. This your creative contribution to nonfiction literature and is what distinguishs the wheat from the chaff.

Linda Zajac said...

I must say I was not enthusiastic about being assigned a topic for a magazine. There didn't seem to be anything on the list that interested me. The editor asked me to choose between two. Let me tell you, after doing extensive research I found this subject captivating. I went with a friend to see this "off limits to the public" art object and had one of the most fun days I can remember. Yes, I definitely agree that sometimes you have to turn over a stone to find it's really a gem.

Sarah Campbell said...

Wonderful post! Going in with an open mind is key. Of course, we never know what will fascinate us, but if something fascinates us, there's a good chance we have the passion to sustain the research and the telling in such a way as to share the fascination with our readers. Share the joy!

Mark Herr said...

Regarding those guys a couple of hundred of years ago, I hear that Google ran much slower back then. They must have had incredible patience.

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