On Friday and Saturday I attended the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators Fall Fest/Critque Fest Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. It was fab. Great mix of informative workshops and critique sessions – including a rather frightening ‘first pages’ session where ten writers first pages were read aloud and then critiqued by a panel of three agents and three editors.
One of the workshops was about writing historical fiction and non-fiction for children which got particularly interesting when this book came up.
Here’s the blurb about it from Amazon: An inspiring true story of Amelia Earheart and Eleanor Roosevelt — and a thrilling night when they made history together! On a brisk and cloudless evening in April 1933, Amelia Earheart and Eleanor Roosevelt did the unprecedented: They stole away from a White House dinner, commandeered an Eastern Air Transport plane and took off on a glorious adventure — while still dressed in their glamorous evening gowns!
Sounds great! Except it’s not a true story. Apparently while these two famous ladies did go for a flight together, they were far from alone and may have hardly exchanged a word. Amelia wasn’t the pilot and the whole thing was a complex formal event.
In the workshop there was much debate about the rights and wrongs of this. My instinct is that some history for kids is better than none, but reading that Amazon blurb I do wonder about the blurring of the line between fact and fiction. Had this had been presented as a ‘what if’ story then there would have been no debate at all. Or perhaps the real events should have been written about…. except they are not half as interesting as the idea of Amelia and Eleanor sneaking off by themselves.
And that’s where we come to today’s writing prompt. In Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, Pam Munoz Ryan has taken two great characters, researched the facts and then embellished them to find a great story. That’s the challenge.
Take a true story or event. It could be from history, from current events, about famous people, or about two people you know. But don’t just write what really happened. Lie! Embellish! Add tension! Make it fiction. Have fun and your readers will too.