I live in a digital age. I have always had a computer in my life and starting as early as age 10, I have always had the internet. Choosing a topic that I “have not researched before” felt more than difficult. It felt impossible. There isn’t anything I’m interested in that I haven’t learned, researched, or tried on my own.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I haven’t extensively looked into Robotics or Paleontology, let alone attempted either of those. My immediate thoughts about what to pursue for my Core 2 Research Project were things I do but don’t know much about. I wanted to research how Picture Books are made. What is the working relationship between writers and illustrators like? How do you find an illustrator if you don’t want to illustrate your own? Who decides on the cover image? What percentage does the illustrator receive? How are picture books even queried? Is the art included? These are just a few of the many things I don’t know; but, I knew that would be rejected and knew that I would have been untrue to the spirit of the project as I write and illustrate my own picture books.
My next idea was to research Junior Olympic Sports and their development programs. This summer I received my Level 2 Certification to teach Archery and I have connections to a Junior Olympic Archery Development program. I would be too close to both of these topics regardless of how much I don’t know about them.
I spent a lot of time thinking about a topic that I didn’t already have substantial knowledge in which would keep me from approaching the project without my own prejudices (both positive and negative). This isn’t only because of the internet and my ability to have all that knowledge at my fingertips but also because I had a very fulfilling upbringing. I was, and still am, involved in the arts; I’ve had dogs, cats, fish, mice, and a ferret; and I have traveled to almost every single state (in fact, I have been to all but two aquariums on the East Coast). So what could I possibly research that I haven’t, at the very least, tried before?
The answer came to me in the backyard while I was training my Labrador/St. Bernard mix, Belle. Now, I have had dogs all of my life. I have been training dogs since I was in elementary school. Every dog I have owned knows how to sit, lie down, come, and give me the paw. The first dog I ever trained on my own was trained with hand signals and didn’t actually need to hear the command by the time she was one year old. But that’s it. And to be honest, not a single one of my older dogs ever listened 100% of the time.
I was speaking with my mother about how much energy Belle, and her litter mate Luka, had. My mother suggested enrolling Belle in an agility class. I know what agility trials are, but I don’t really know what agility trials are. I think it would be interesting to document the training process from day one and find out how other trainers came to be involved in the sport. I think the piece will be strengthened by the training of my own dog, rather than working with someone else’s dog or relying solely on interviews without the aid of my own experience.
As an article, this piece would work well in: Bark Magazine, Cesar’s Way, Modern Dog, AKC Family Dog, Dog Fancy, and DogSport because these publications focus on dog training, activities to do with your dog, and methods to build a bond between you and your dog. I think the piece will work especially for Cesar’s Way and AKC Family Dog because those publications have a strong focus on Dogsport and animal behavior.
But I believe that I can expand on this project and turn it into non-fiction novel focusing on how my own moods and anxieties are effected by the training and the competition, as well as how my bond with my dog increases or decreases. The longer piece will begin on the first day of agility training and end at our last competition of the year. As a longer piece of non-fiction this would work well for Willow Creek Press, Storey Publishing, and Alpine Publications because of their focus on animals. It will work best for Alpine Publications though, as they focus on animal companionship and have an emphasis on dogs.
I know that I will have opportunity to create and access paper, living, electronic, visual, audio, and experimental archives. I have done some preliminary prep-work prior to being approved in anticipation of the topic and have found many electronic sources including audio and visual sources. I am hoping that the bulk of my research is formed by my experience in training Belle.