#Research Can Be Fun at Paperback LA

So, all deadlines are converging here at Paperback LA— not a surprise. For both off-site editor (Susan LaTempa) and in-office publisher (Colleen Dunn Bates),  small-press publishing is  modern cottage industry– today’s post-post-Industrial Revolution, gig-economy version home-based weaving, cobbling and blacksmithing.

The common denominator is research. We’re prepping for the imminent publication of Paperback LA, Book 1.  We’re prepping for the LA Times Festival of Books (Booth 103). We’re editing contributions for Paperback LA, Book 2. And we’re on the hunt for pieces for Paperback LA, Book 3.

LA Herald
Los Angeles Herald, April 1905


For networking, fact-checking manuscripts or compiling reading lists,  we are constantly looking things up and making mental connections  in our sleep. Heads don’t explode, but wheels turn, or as  Boris Dralyuk, Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books says about a eureka research moment in this essay, gears tumble.

Here are some sources we’ve been fascinated by lately:

  • For detailed California plant history including info on dating the introduction of “wild” mustard to California by examining 1920s archeobotanic records of a study of 18th-century mission adobe bricks “melted” in buckets of water to see what was inside:  Richard Minnich’s book, California’s Fading Wildflowers: Lost Legacy and Biological Invasions.
  • For responsibly-reported local news, cultural discussion, interviews and taco-truck reviews, the LA Taco website, featuring pieces like this short but well-informed backgrounder, The Rise and Fall of Oscar Zeta Ocasta.
  • For interviews and essays on California that cut across category and subject lines, there’s Boom California, a free refereed online publication that features work by academics, journalists, writers, photographers, artists, and students presented in a “public facing” manner. That turns out to mean you’ll find pieces like this riveting Q & A with Tin Nguyen, a former gang member and current college student, serving a life sentence at LA County Prison, Lancaster.
  • With more than a thousand FB followers, the California Digital Newspaper Collection isn’t an unknown resource, but it’s an addictive one. Search for “avocado” and you’ll have about 29,000 choices of articles, ads and illustrations— including the June 13, 1921 piece in the Los Angeles Herald headlined “Avocados Arrive From Taft Ranch” or the Palos Verdes Peninsula News piece from October 7, 1938 listing the crops of which California was the nations’ leading producer including figs, plums, prunes, walnuts, cantaloupes, carrots, cauliflower peaches and avocados
  • For explorations, adventures and maps, check out writer Eric Brightwell’s site. In 10 years, he explored and wrote about 100 communities for his California’s Fool’s Gold series. His report with photos and map of Terminal Island today helped our understanding of the details described in a story about the 30s-40s era Japanese American fishing community there.


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