In preparation for election day, we explore Traditional Nonfiction with Jeff Fleischer, author of Votes of Confidence 2nd Edition: A Young Person’s Guide to American Elections. This updated edition provides the next generation of voters with essential guidance about the past, present, and future of American elections. Continue reading to learn more about Jeff’s research process, Traditional Nonfiction, and the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction.
The research process for Votes of Confidence (and, for that matter, Rockin’ the Boat) involved taking subject matter I’ve studied for a long time and worked with during my journalism career, and then adapting that information in a way that young adults will hopefully find more engaging than a textbook.
I’d long wanted to write a civics book that would address a lot of the misconceptions or knowledge gaps about history, government, and politics that I heard when talking with others about those subjects. Things like why national polls that don’t account for the electoral vote can be misleading in presidential elections, or what powers the president does and does not have. Of course, social media and targeted propaganda have made it easier than ever for bad — and even dangerous — information to spread, and more important to fight misinformation.
I was a news reader at a young age. I followed election coverage long before I was eligible to vote, and was always as interested in policy as in politics (that is, how those elected actually govern, or fail to do so). In college I majored in both journalism and history. The latter major focused on US history (two of my favorite courses were History of the Democratic Party and History of the Republican Party, with the same excellent professor). And my professional journalism work often focused on current affairs, including writing about presidential and local elections.
So these are subjects I’ve cared about for a long time, and the loose outline of Votes of Confidence was already in my head when I pitched it in 2015. Once I had the structure (and the approval to move forward), I thought of examples and anecdotes I could use to illustrate key points.
That said, I definitely spent a fair amount of time doing research to fact check and verify the information I included in the book. That could mean anything from going through older news articles to confirm dates or quotes, or checking with state offices or the text of existing laws to make sure the information in the book was as up to date as possible. For the second edition, that meant double checking hundreds of facts to address things that had changed in the previous four years, or things that could use additional context.
Traditional Nonfiction is a category of Melissa Stewart’s Five Kinds of Nonfiction. This post is part of a weekly series of guest articles by nonfiction authors about their craft, their process, and their amazing books. Stay tuned each week to learn more by visiting the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction page for poster and flyer downloads, curated booklists and more. You can also follow the Lerner Blog’s 5 Kinds of Nonfiction series, or the hashtag #5KNF on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.