Three Questions With Debbie Levy, Part 2

We recently interviewed Debbie Levy, author of I Dissent, a biography of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In addition to our Three Questions, she also had some advice for aspiring young writers and biographers. Check out part two of our interview, three tips for young writers, below.

For children who are interested not just in being authors but in being biographers what's the most important tip for them?

This is such an important question as we make our way forward in what many are calling a “post-factual” era. I sincerely hope we are not living in a post-factual (or post-truth) world, but still, if I may amend your question a bit—For children who are interested not just in being authors but in being biographers, and in being well-informed members of a society that is teeming with facts as well as innuendos and untruths masquerading as facts, what’s the most important tip for them?

Tip #1: Know your sources

My top tip as a nonfiction researcher and as a consumer of information: Evaluate your sources. Know whether a source is a person or organization advancing an agenda, and consider how that agenda might influence the source’s presentation of information.

Tip #2: Support your work with multiple sources

Understand that even those who aren’t biased or promoting an agenda can get things wrong. When I’ve done school visits, I’ve shown students “information” they can find on the Internet about me that has me as the author of books I’ve never written. There errors were not made out of malice or in mischief. They’re just innocent mistakes. So tip #2 is to try to get more than one source for assertions you take as true.

Tip #3: Gather information from a variety of sources

Gather your information from a mix of sources, both primary and secondary, and make sure to include sources that are curated by reliable, experienced writers/editors/publisher who value research.

Finally, if something sounds unlikely—say, if some theory tries to connect the dots of far-flung issues into an incredibly shocking story . . . don’t swallow it. Slow down. Evaluate the source. Check out other sources. Be skeptical!

Thank you to Debbie Levy for chatting with us. To learn more about I Dissent and other new titles coming to PJ Library in 2017, click here.

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