I request a partner to assist in researching my novel “Barren Island,” which is inspired by a real island in Dead Horse Bay, off the coast of Brooklyn. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, a community of immigrants, ex-slaves, and outcasts lived and worked on Barren Island, processing New York City’s garbage and rendering the horses that died in the city’s streets.
My research partner would play a crucial role by collecting historical materials and anecdotes related to this setting, to provide matter and detail for my novel. The research partner should be adept at historical research, and also have the discernment and sensibility to identify materials that may be particularly interesting to a writer of fiction, rather than of history. The research partner’s work would allow me to devote more time to writing, and less time to collecting the book’s raw materials. The student would benefit, in turn, by honing her or his research skills, particularly in the areas of urban-American history, municipal politics and infrastructure, and the history of immigration and race relations. The research partner would also gain a look into how historical materials may be used, transformed, or even distorted in the process of writing fiction.