A Walking Encyclopedia

Updated:  02/04/2011:  First entry submitted and accepted.

It is a common joke among friends that I am a walking encyclopedia, and since childhood I have enjoyed reading encyclopedias, so it should come as no surprise that I am engaged to write entries for a couple of encyclopedias.  After all, it’s about time.  If you’ve ever wanted to know how encyclopedias get written, today I would like to give you a little indication, at least how I got involved with these two:  the Encyclopedia of U.S. Interventions in Latin America, and the six-volume Encyclopedia of the U.S. Civil War.

When a publisher wishes to work on an encyclopedia and wishes to get work done quickly (say, in a few months, which is pretty quickly for such work), will advertise with universities known for appropriate programs.  For example, if the topic is a military history related topic (like both of the ones I am writing for), they will find a military history program like Norwich and seek the input of graduates.  Thanks to Linked In, I got notice of both projects and was able to quickly send an e-mail to the two editors responsible for the encyclopedia projects, both of whom were quick to respond with the list of topics that needed to be written still, along with the word limits for each topic (the topics I chose were all in the 350-500 word limit range, as I wanted easily manageable ones).

For the Encyclopedia of U.S. Involvement in Latin America I chose to write about a suitably obscure president of the Dominican Republic, Francisco Henriquez y Carvajal.  Since I already had a book handy that talked about the U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic from 1916 to 1924, it was a straightforward one to do.  I would have liked to have written about U.S. involvement in Chile, but I did not see any of those entries on the list of entries that needed to be written.

For the Encyclopedia of the U.S. Civil War there were a lot of entries that needed to be written, but I chose three of them that are near and dear to me for one reason or another.  I chose two battles in Florida (Natural Bridge and Ft. Brooke) and another battle in Virginia (Chantilly).  Fort Brooke, which is now a parking garage, was the fortress from which the city of Tampa grew, so it’s an area I know very well personally.  I personally think that the city of Tampa ought to make a bigger deal out of its Civil War history, perhaps by reenactments of the Battle of Fort Brooke, or by having a Civil War riverboat cruise examining the location of the battle as well as the gunboat raid in 1863 [1].

Each of these entries has a deadline, and after they are written they will have to be edited and polished.  I imagine the language will have to be made simpler, with fewer commas and subordinate clauses.  The entries are, after all, written for a 12th grade reading level for a general reading audience.  This would make it some of my most accessible and easy to read work yet!

So, while I wait for my contract for the first Encyclopedia project to wind its way through the process I will be looking for some books that cover the Battle of Chantilly and the war in Florida in depth in my own personal library and elsewhere.   Hopefully I can finish this project before too long.  Nonetheless, I owe Norwich University a thank you for informing me of the projects, to allow me to finally help write an encyclopedia instead of just having the knowledge stuffed uselessly inside my head.

Update:  02/04/2011:

Yesterday my first encyclopedia entry on President Henriquez y Carvajal was accepted by the editor of the encyclopedia, and will be submitted in the first batch of entries for publication in 2013 (it’s a while off).  That said, one down, and three to go.  🙂

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/today-in-history-on-january-10-1861-florida-seceded-from-the-union/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Graduate School, History, Military History, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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