Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting Carmen Goldthwaite as she addressed a small group of editors in Irving, Texas, but her talk did not focus on writing mechanics, her process, or the author/editor relationship. Instead, Carmen spoke primarily of the women she has researched and written about, exuding passion and enthusiasm for these women—her characters—as she told us their stories.
“We depend on those who can write to record history and describe people,” the former journalist said. “It’s an easy transition from nonfiction historical to fiction. My task with these stories is to find the women and not just tell their stories, but illuminate them. To give them a voice.”
Carmen beamed as she told us some of these stories, and provided a few practical tips for writers, too—particularly writers of historical fiction and narrative nonfiction, her favorite.
“Bibliographies are a great place to start. Find sources for language and cultural interpretations. Community newspapers will give you a taste of the local politics; they are the heart and soul of communications. Court records can indicate what was important to someone, especially wills.”
She added that soldiers’ diaries are some of the most poignant she’s read, with “unnerving details unlike any you would find elsewhere.”
In remaining authentic, Carmen noted that it helps to learn what people ate, how they got around, and what they did for entertainment. “These details of daily life make historical narratives come alive, whether fiction or nonfiction.”
Carmen Goldthwaite is a 7th generation Texan and has worked as a skilled reporter, author, and creative writing teacher at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. In 2012, Texas Dames: Sassy and Savvy Women Throughout Lone Star History, was published by The History Press. “The book tells the stories of some 53 women. Without these ‘dames’ and their accomplishments—both sassy and savvy and piled high with courage—Texas would be a very different place.”
To learn more about Carmen and her work, or to contact her for speaking engagements, visit her website: http://www.carmengoldthwaite.com.