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An Unusual Approach to Writing about History

I chose an unusual approach to create, compile, and edit a small-town's history. The book focused primarily on the period of the 1930s to the 1960s since that was the time frame to reach folks who were alive and old enough to have lived in Mascot when it was still a company-owned town. I wanted to share these stories for future generations, my sons in particular, who didn't get to experience living in a company-owned town.

We decided to do mostly long-distance phone interviews since we live in Texas and interviewees are in Tennessee. We compiled the writings of 39 folks who each got their own chapter in Mascot: Memoirs from a Zinc Mining Town. One of the 39 contributors was my mother who edited the book with me.

What suggestions do I have for you after having published this project?

  • If I'd had more time and wider connections, I would include more diversity in the contributors. My grandparents lived in the more affluent part of the town. I found contributors for the book, working mostly long-distance and by word-of-mouth and with established family connections. So this book did not make for an extensive account representing the whole community.

  • Maintaining the person's voice in the writing makes history engaging. Too many folks think history equals a dry, chronological, and factual account.

  • You can decide to donate the royalties back like I did since I envisioned the project and wrote the introduction but mostly edited and compiled others' stories. For me, it felt right to give back to that community for this project.

The photo is of our family's four generations on my grandparents' porch in Mascot one summer. I believe this is the summer I began the project by doing a few in-person interviews in 2009.

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