National History Day

A break from writing related topics to talk about something I'm truly passionate about: National History Day.

I have competed in National History Day since I was a sixth grader. However, it wasn't until I moved to Iowa (after seventh grade) that I began to realize how important History Day was. My eighth grade Humanities class required me to write and research a topic on the Civil War. My teacher wanted ten sources - only two could come from the Internet. Everyone complained. I knew how to do it. It was nothing.

My junior year paper on Oscar Wilde, went to Nationals with 108 sources, an interview with a professor who wrote a book on Oscar Wilde and some of the best writing I've ever done. My senior year paper on Jane Austen made third in the state of Iowa. It was succinct (word limit: 2,500 words) and well-written. I am a fiction writer, however, I am not ashamed to say my Jane Austen paper, entitled, "'Only a Novel?': Jane Austen's Innovations for the Romantic Novel", is my best written work.

But History Day has not just taught me to research and write papers. Although I'm so happy I have these skills for entering college, that's not it.

National competition involves competitors from every state, DoDDS-E, Shanghai, China, Guam, the American Samoa and and even some Canadians that sneak in through Shanghai. You get about 2,000 kids together who are passionate about history and some sparks fly.

History Day makes me take my learning into my own hands. I want to know all about how polio was eradicated? Fine, that will be my topic. Want to know why Oscar Wilde was thrown into prison (it was illegal to be gay at the time) I can research it. At History Day you chose topics that interest you and then you take off.

Not only are you making history personal to you, but you're also getting personal. I love the people part of history. I want to know, "What did they think? How did they overcome [insert event here]." I want to know about the people and their emotions. History Day allows me to do this. It lets me get close to the person, so to speak. I would have never known about what Roosevelt thought personally, of the United Nations, had I not done History Day. I wouldn't have known that Jane Austen was a snarky person.

History Day has taught me so much - to research, to ask questions, to write well, to find both sides of the story. It's taught me to be outgoing with finding what I need to find to answer those questions I have. It's taught me about thesis, teamwork and hard work.

However, History Day in Iowa is in a bit of a pickle. The major funder of National History Day in Iowa, has decided to drop their support. I ask, even if it's just your time, to help History Day. I wouldn't be the person I am without this program. One thing offered every competition are special awards. For example, my Jane Austen paper won the "Outstanding Entry in Literary History." If you're passionate about an aspect of history, consider giving a special award.

If anyone has any questions about History Day and what it is, either follow the link above (to the National History Day contest site) or comment a question. I'm more than willing to help out in whatever way I can.

Also, here below are links to donate to the National History Day contest and the National History Day in Iowa.

Why Support History Day? (National Contest)

Getting Involved (Iowa History Day)

I thank everyone ahead of time. You are the ones who will keep this amazing program alive.

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Rereading for Fun

I am working hard on the list of 1001 Books to Read Before you Die. So far I've gotten 35 or so read with a goal to read 15 more this summer. Slow progress, most definitely, but when the books are War and Peace, Doctor Zhivalgo and Gone with the Wind one can understand why they take a while to complete.

I am also suppose to be reading All about Dreams by Gayle Delaney for my Honors First Year Seminar on Sleep.

What book did I just finish reading today? Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling.

Yep, I'm not doing my required reading (yet! I have to order the book) or books off the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. I'm rereading the Harry Potter series.

Is that a bad thing? No, actually I think it's good to go back and reread old books and here's why:

You realize what works in a story when you already know the plot
You pick up on little, minute things you missed reading it the second (or hundredth) time
You know you'll enjoy the book so you get more out of it.

While I'm in DC with National History Day I'll be reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles because Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire doesn't fit in my suitcase. But when I get back, the series will be there to great me and welcome me like an old friend.

What are your favorite books to reread; the ones you'll put down anything required just so you can read them?

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Graduation - Writing Related

Although it was less than a week ago, I barely remember anything of the three speaker's speeches. One was about how I didn't plagarize the speech so you shouldn't plagarize your life. Don't ask me what the others were about.

But as I sat, dripping in sweat, listening to speeches I wouldn't remember, I thought about how that related to books and writing.

How many books have I read that I couldn't remember the title or the plot? They weren't memorable. It doesn't mean they weren't good; it just means that they didn't have something to capture my mind and put some tidbit into my long term memory.

Harry Potter for example - I will always remember the scene where Sirius dies in the book. Maybe because of the imagery, maybe because I love the book and Sirius the character. (I named a fish after him, after all.)

I think it's every author's dream that their books will be remembered forever. And it presents a challenge. How do you do that?

Personally, I think you do it with emotions and imagery. What do you think?

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