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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Fun With Research

Fun With Research

Along with the line edits and the revisions, much of the work I’ve been doing on my manuscript for the past couple weeks is checking for historical accuracy – making certain that this item or that detail was appropriate for the setting of my story.

I did a lot of this research while writing my first draft, of course, but I didn’t make a record of it.  Now it’s been so long since I wrote the first draft, I find myself repeating the research, just to make sure. (Lesson learned for next time!)
For example, I can tell you with certainty that cupcakes were an innovation of early nineteenth century Americans and valued for the time they saved in baking.  Originally they were baked in – what else? – teacups, although later in the 1800’s ramekins were used.
While researching what a young lady of means might wear as a wedding dress in 1867, I came across this fascinating article, originally printed in Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1866 — Dress Under Difficulties: American Civil War Fashions in the South During the Blockade.  It seems that making a dress from the household curtains was not so far off the mark.  
The article appears at The Ladies Treasury, an online magazine devoted to Victorian and Edwardian fashion.  There are other fascinating articles on this site that I would love to read … when my revisions are finished.

18 Responses to Fun With Research

  1. I want to do a Mat Hatter tea party now and serve cupcakes in tea cups. : )

  2. TC Avey says:

    Love “Gone with the Wind”- couldn’t imagine making a dress, let alone doing it out of curtains.

  3. that is so interesting! No wonder they’re called ‘cup’ cakes:) Yeah, I know, I should have totally gotten that sooner. I remember how much fun I had researching for Gretchen Grey. Been awhile since I wrote a historical…

  4. Linda G. says:

    I never realized cupcakes were actually first made in teacups — cool!

    And I can’t see that dress from GWTW without thinking of the Carol Burnett comedy sketch–the one with the curtain rod on her shoulders. “Oh, it’s just something I saw in a window…” *grin

  5. SA Larsenッ says:

    So that’s where cupcakes originated. Nice.

    Could Scarlett be anymore precious?? NOT!! But I’ve got to give her Kudos for that dress.

  6. Chris Fries says:

    LOL! Thanks to your curtains comment, now I’ve got the classic Carol Burnett “Went with the Wind” spoof in my mind.


  7. What suggestions do you have so that you don’t have to do all the rechecking of facts next time? 🙂

  8. Lydia Kang says:

    I’ve been obsessed with Godey’s Lady’s book since I read about it in the Little House books. Last year I got my daughter a Godey’s Lady’s coloring book–it was SO COOL.

  9. I wish I loved research! Perhaps it would be easier to write straight through, THEN fact-check…but I find that when I discover facts that were off in that early draft, changing the scenes accordingly absorbs too much time for my liking. Sometimes I think historical fiction takes 2x the time of writing modern stuff.

  10. When I was doing my research, I’d bookmark the link. Later I started copying the link in a separate document. Of course, the ones I did neither of these with are the ones I needed to look back on. *sigh*

    Love Scarlett’s dress in that scene.

  11. Your research sounds like the kind that I could totally spend days on. Cupcakes and dresses! Seriously, days and days!

  12. LTM says:

    Hey! Thanks for sharing those links! When I was researching for the WIP I’m getting back to, I was reading stuff from ag colleges online, etc. It was crazy… and I don’t think I kept source notes. D’oh!

    Thanks for the tip… zerg. ;p

  13. Gina says:

    I love the Scarlett O’Hara picture! One of my favorite movies of all time, and I’m pretty sure my spunkier heroine’s are based on the way Vivien Leigh portrayed her.

  14. Wow, interesting info on cupcakes. Pretty picture. Thanks for sharing it.

  15. Lenny Lee* says:

    hi miss dianne! wow i didnt know any of that about cupcakes. cool stuff. i could just see my sister making a dress outa our curtins. ha ha. i love doing research (not for school -ack!)
    …hugs from lenny

  16. The only thing wrong with doing research is it’s highly addictive, and an interesting “tidbit” can lead you (okay… ME) on a merry chase in an entirely different direction than initially intended. (But even the “wrong direction” stuff is FUN!)

    LOVE that info about the first cupcakes.

  17. I did some research for a future fiction book I had in mind. Never wrote it, but did write a completely different one based on the things I learned 🙂

  18. mshatch says:

    love the tea cups – I have two from my grandmother and they are sooo pretty. Also love Godey’s Lady’s Books. I have two but I wish I had more. They are very helpful when writing historical.