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So You Want to Write About American Indians?

A Guide for Writers, Students, and Scholars

Devon Abbott Mihesuah

Publication Year: 2005

So You Want to Write about American Indians? is the first of its kind—an indispensable guide for anyone interested in writing and publishing a novel, memoir, collection of short stories, history, or ethnography involving the Indigenous peoples of the United States. In clear language illustrated with examples—many from her own experiences—Choctaw scholar and writer Devon Abbott Mihesuah explains the basic steps involved with writing about American Indians.
So You Want to Write about American Indians? provides a concise overview of the different types of fiction and nonfiction books written about Natives and the common challenges and pitfalls encountered when writing each type of book. Mihesuah presents a list of ethical guidelines to follow when researching and writing about Natives, including the goals of the writer, stereotypes to avoid, and cultural issues to consider. She also offers helpful tips for developing ideas and researching effectively, submitting articles to journals, drafting effective book proposals, finding inspiration, contacting an editor, polishing a manuscript, preparing a persuasive résumé or curriculum vitae, coping with rejection, and negotiating a book contract.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

So you want to write about American Indians. Tens of thousands of books and essays about Indigenous people are already on the library shelves, and at the rate they are being published it appears that many more are on the way. That's a lot of writing, but surprisingly all this investigation and imagining has only ...

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1. Think on These Things First

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pp. 1-16

There is always a market for original, well-written, thoroughly researched nonfiction and fiction. Many books written about Natives need revision so that tribes' viewpoints and voices are included. Desperately needed are problem-solving books and essays. ...

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2. Stereotypes and Other Mistakes

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pp. 17-30

For readers who are well aware of Native history and culture, reading a book replete with stereotypes is unbearable. Imagine how modern-day Natives feel when they read that their ancestors were "savages," "ignorant," or "heathens," or the countless other unsubstantiated stereotypical claims made by writers in thousands ...

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3. Getting Started with a Project and Staying with It

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pp. 31-47

You know your potential audience and you now have an inkling of an idea of what to write about, but you still aren't sure. How do you go about solidifying your idea and keeping your enthusiasm? Here are some things that you must do as you gear up for your writing project. ...

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4. Writing Nonfiction

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pp. 48-61

If the author is an observer of a culture but not a member of that culture and does not know the language or intricate cultural mores, then how can the reader be certain that what that author has written is true? Many times the listener misunderstands and incorrectly translates what the speaker says. Sometimes the writer ...

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5. Writing Fiction

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pp. 62-73

Most of American Indian "fiction" is based on fact. Native writers who have lived close to their culture have a plethora of stories and emotions to draw from. They can recount tribal stories and history from the tribal perspective, not to mention firsthand encounters with the effects of colonization: racism, prejudice, ...

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6. Ethics in Research and Writing

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pp. 74-80

Many nonfiction scholars writing about Natives know that if they plan on focusing on Indians, especially if they are writing about cultural issues such as religion, then they must secure permission from that tribe before trying to publish their work. If you (whether you're Native or non-Native) plan on writing ...

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7. Editing Your Work

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pp. 81-86

Everyone, no matter how skilled in writing, must edit his/her work. Rarely can a writer create an adequate product in only one draft. I'm not the only writer who has become frustrated by editing my writing -- sometimes rewriting a dozen times -- only to find yet another error after the "final" read. I estimate that research ...

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8. Submitting Your Work to Journals

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pp. 87-96

Look at the journal's Web page, or request guidelines to ensure that you won't waste your and the journal editor's time. I get five or six essays per month that have nothing to do with what AIQ publishes. For example, I have received papers dealing with India, German history, and Viagra. For two years I did not ...

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9. Submitting Your Work to a Book Publisher

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pp. 97-126

Submitting your manuscript about American Indians to a book publisher is much the same as submitting an essay to a journal, but there are important differences. Keep in mind that no matter what kind of work writers produce, they generally go through the same process. ...

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10. The Contract and the Second Wait while Your Manuscript Becomes a Book

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pp. 127-136

Once your proposal or manuscript has been accepted, the press will want to formalize its publishing agreement with you through a contract. Upon hearing that their first submission has been accepted for publication, many writers are more interested in the pending book than the terms of their contract. ...

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Appendix A: Creating Your Curriculum Vitae and Résumé

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pp. 137-156

Now you have a few publications under your belt, some book reviews, conference presentations, and some committee work. Or, you're not a student and have some writings you'd like to put into some kind of compilation. How should you present your work so others can learn what you have accomplished? ...

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Appendix B: Suggestions for Writing a Book Review

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pp. 157-158

Writing a book review is not the same as writing a book report -- you know, those assignments we all did in high school that required us to tell the teacher what the book was about. A book review is not a description. It is a critique, a concise evaluation of a book. Book reviews are crucial aspects of discussing ...


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pp. 159-164

E-ISBN-13: 9780803204744
E-ISBN-10: 0803204744

Page Count: 164
Publication Year: 2005