A Writing Conversation:

Welcome Ray Raphael, and everyone else, to A Writing Conversation: Episode 3. Today Ray Raphael, a “people’s historian” for over 30 years, is taking a moment to share with us. Ray has written more than 10 books including A People’s History of the American Revolution and Founding Myths. Our discussion begins.....

Virginia: I am currently working on a piece about World’s Fairs. I wonder how much research is “enough”? It seems as though there is always another personal journal to unearth, or newspaper article to read, microfiche to scan, historical society or site to visit. How do you know when you’ve researched a topic enough to write about it with authority?

Ray: That’s the curse of the curious writer! Without the passion to discover, whatever you write will be trite and incomplete-but you can never know enough to get the story 100% right. I suggest a continuous interplay between studying and writing: study a bunch, and when you feel inside the story, start to write. Then keep studying, keep writing, and so on. At some point, the biggest question: when to go public, in whatever medium you choose? And if you are truly curious, that will not end the saga. You will find more, which will lead to the next project, and the next.

Virginia: I am starting to think that maybe I love researching even more than I love writing. I especially enjoy interviewing people or reading oral histories.

Ray: Go with the flow, wherever it takes you. My “People’s History of the American Revolution” opened new places for me to explore, and the books kept coming, each leading to the next. My latest project was the most fun of all: “The United States Constitution: The Citizen’s Annotated Edition.” Vintage asked me to do it, and they gave me three weeks to do it so it could come out before the election! Living inside the Constitution 24/7-what a blast! You have to love your subject, that’s always the key.

Virginia: You are right, Ray! I think enjoying the process turns the key.  Thanks for your time and insights. For those of you interested in finding out more about Ray check out: http://www.rayraphael.com/.  You can purchase most of his books on Amazon.com or at your local brick and mortar store.