by Kathiann M. Kowalski
There's a lot to be said about being in the right place at the right time. For a lot of my non-fiction writing, Ohio has been exactly the right place to write. Several years ago, Cobblestone did an issue on the Ordinance of 1787. They wanted to include an article about The Ohio Company. "We're hoping that because you're in Ohio, you'll have access to materials on it," the editor said.
Sure enough, the Cleveland Public Library had several books, including journals of its two founders, Rufus Putnam and Manasseh Cutler. One man had just two years of formal education; the other had a Yale degree. Together, they organized a group of former Revolutionary War soldiers and lobbied to open Ohio to settlement. "Eyes on Ohio" opened my eyes to an early chapter in Ohio's history.
Looking for someone interesting to write about? Eight presidents were born in Ohio. Other famous Ohioans include Thomas Edison, Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Dorothy Dandridge, Erma Bombeck, Dean Martin, Arsenio Hall, Halle Berry, Annie Oakley, and more.
Read up on your town's history. How was it founded? What pioneers lived there? What traditions, crafts, and other features is it known for? Are there any good legends or ghost stories? Look hard enough, and you'll probably discover a story that young people will enjoy.
Enjoy Ohio's cultural resources. Visit an art museum. Attend a concert. Visit the zoo. Catch a ball game. Hike through a park. While you're having fun, open yourself to the inspiration those activities offer. While you're at it, make mental notes about possible resources for experts. Get yourself on e-mail lists for press releases too. These tips have helped me tap an entomologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History when I needed to know how many species of butterflies the state has. The Cleveland Museum of Art's media relations people have been helpful too.
Searching for science resources? Contact universities, government agencies, and technical societies when you need input from an expert. Interviews at NASA's Glenn Research Center helped me write "Space Science Cleans Up," "Marvelous Microgravity," "The Trouble with Bubbles," "Mite-Size Machines of Might," and more. Experts at Miami University gave me valuable insights for "The Rhythms of Rap" and "Bodies in Motion." Scientists at Ohio State University's Agricultural Research Center helped immensely with my book, The Debate Over Genetically Engineered Foods: Healthy or Harmful?.
Hospitals can offer great help on health topics. Experts at the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals gave me valuable interviews for articles on asthma, sports injuries, drug addiction, the respiratory system, and other topics.
Don't forget Ohio's companies. Children love learning how products are made. A Nestle food scientist in Solon gave me great insights for "Anatomy of a Cookie." A Proctor & Gamble scientist was wonderful when I had questions for "Faking It in the World of Fats and Sugars."
Talk with Ohio's children and teens too. Editors love when you include insights from real kids in your articles. You'd be amazed at the insights of peer health educators, peer mediators, SADD leaders, and even your neighbor's children.
In short, you'll find lots of great writing resources right here in Ohio. Let them inspire you today.
©Kathiann M. Kowalski, 2004. All rights reserved.
KATHIANN M. KOWALSKI has written eleven books for young people, plus over 150 articles, stories, and activities, mostly non-fiction. She is an active member of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, Northern Ohio Chapter and is available for as a speaker on subjects as diverse as science, space, politics, nature and writing. To schedule a speaking engagement or school visit contact Kathi at firstname.lastname@example.org.