Sunday, October 29, 2017

From Print to Web to Social Media: Discovering New Research Resources

by Julie Tollefson

As a reformed journalist (four years as a copy editor for a daily newspaper before I jumped ship—first to business and then to higher education), I have a soft spot in my heart for good journalism. And my love is strong for work that seriously examines the stories, challenges, and triumphs of the people in my part of the world, the largely rural central United States.

Great journalism that also informs and strengthens my fiction writing? Score!

A couple of years ago, The New Territory, a magazine with a mission to “cultivate connections among the land, people and possibilities of the Lower Midwest,” launched.

It’s a beautiful magazine, published quarterly and filled with personal essays, photography, fiction, poetry, art, and the kind of quality journalism that takes a deep dive into important issues. Its focus may be Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Missouri, but the stories have significance beyond their borders. Conservation. Transportation. Health care.

Its insightful articles are also a terrific resource for my fiction, most of which is set in small towns in what some people deride as flyover country.

This past week, The New Territory’s role as one of my writing resources took a new turn when it hosted a Facebook Live event with Michael Noll, whose short story “The Dependents” appeared in the magazine’s second issue. (“The Dependents” is this month’s free story of the month on The New Territory website.) For forty minutes or so, Noll gave a mini-class in fiction writing, character development, and place as an integral story ingredient. If you have time to spare, especially if you’re a writer, check out the October 25 video on the magazine’s Facebook page.

Because of that Facebook Live event, I visited Noll’s website, Read to Write Stories, and found a treasure trove of writing resources: an extensive collection of author interviews and writing exercises—in categories such as Exercises to Help Find a Premise and Exercises for Structure—based on excerpts of published essays, novels, and more. The interviews I’ve read so far have been enlightening, and I’ve bookmarked the site for the future.

My younger self, from the pre-Internet era, would be overwhelmed by the sheer volume, diversity, and availability of resources for writers today. The ones described here—from traditional print journalism to websites to social media—represent just a tiny slice. As a writer, what are your favorite resources for research or honing your craft?

As a reader, what are your favorites for learning about writers or books you might be interested in?


  1. One of the things I find interesting is how much I need to recall that I have already learned. I’m wrapping up teaching my online class, Revision and Self-Editing, and as I read through the lessons and respond to student homework, I keep coming across things I need to work on in my current WIPs!

    ~ Jim

  2. Reading--I learn more from the mystery novels I read than from any other source. The last resource book I read totally intimidated me. It was on emotional crafting by Donald Maas--I doubt I could live up to his expectations. It had me questioning if I truly was a writer. By the end of the book, Maas wanted writers to be spiritual leaders. I have faith, but I sure don't want anyone looking to me for spiritual leadership--I have a certain confidence in my work, but my ego isn't big enough to handle that position.

  3. Jim - The exercises on the Read to Write Stories website remind me of the exercises you've shared on your blog in the past. And I agree, I constantly re-teach myself things I've learned in the past every time I write a new story.

  4. Oh, my, E.B. - that does sound intimidating! I have a couple of Maass books that I turn to over and over again when I'm writing, especially when I'm putting the final touches on a manuscript, but I don't have the one on emotional crafting.

  5. What a wonderful resource. I've bookmarked it.

    E.B., I'm with you, every time I get a new resource book, I wonder how it is that I do this, and start pulling my work apart from the beginning. It's intimidating, until I figure out once again that I do know this stuff and I've already teased out the nuggets that work for me (but often need reminders). I could never, ever, presume to know enough to teach though. And with every new resource, I do pick up one gem I never knew I needed.

  6. Additional resources are always welcome. We all have our favorites, but in the end, have to fall back on what we want to say and how we want to say it.

    I recently had an historic short story published (in Passport to Murder, the latest Bouchercon anthology) and it has left me with a new appreciation for authors who not only have mastered their writing, but also historic settings.

  7. Warren and Kait - Glad to share!

    KM - I truly admire writers who master historic settings. That's a challenge I have not tackled and maybe never will -- too intimidating!


  8. Most of my resources are from reading, mostly mysteries, but also the books picked for two book clubs I belong to. Last year I read 87 books, and I think this year I've already passed that amount. I read a daily newspaper, TIME magazine and Reader's Digest. Once in awhile I go to Google to check something out. Also, I was late going to college, and I took an overload every year by taking writing and literature classes.