blog header

Of Great Apes and Sticky Notes

Thinking, thinking

Did you know? John T. Scopes, the 1st-yr teacher/football coach @ Rhea County H.S. said NOTHING until the end of the 2-week trial that bears his name. In fact, after court had recessed for lunch on one particularly hot afternoon (it was a humid 90 degrees, the overcrowded, cigarette-smoke-filled  courtroom was on the second floor, most everyone wore dress shirts, ties, and  suits), Scopes left town and went for a swim in a nearby pond. When court reconvened, it took some time for anyone to notice that the defendant wasn’t even there!   

Tbk_ring_120his week marks the anniversary of the Scopes evolution trial, which took place in Dayton, TN. Ringside, 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial (Knopf, 2008) was an Oprah pick for ages 12 & up and an NCTE Recommended Book the following year. Even now, I get emails from readers who ask:

  1. “Why did you decide to use nine different narrators?”
  2.  and “How did you keep track of them as you wrote?”

Answer 1:  I originally had eleven narrators, but later decided to use just nine. I felt it was important to give voice to as many points of view as possible on this sensitive topic, while still remaining true to the historical facts of the trial. One, two, or even three narrators would not have allowed me to do that. Nine seemed about right, and also allowed me to embody in my characters a range of ages, genders, beliefs and opinions.

Answer 2: Sticky notes! If I’d had any sense at all, I would’ve run out and bought stock in 3M before I tackled this book. Every week, I’d take the pages of the particular section I was working on and spread them out across the floor of our living room, down the hallway, or across the top of my husband’s basement pool table. I assigned each narrator a certain color of pool-table275sticky note, so that when I put the pages back together again, I could easily see how often, and when, each narrator spoke without having to flip through the manuscript or look at a table of numbers (I am not a sequential thinker—just ask my 7th grade algebra teacher). Thank God for those multi-colored notes, that’s all I have to say . . .

You can visit the Scopes Trial Museum here. And watch a short video  here.

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: