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Nokes to share writing tips at Willamette Writers


West Linn author R. Greg Nokes will be the guest speaker at the Willamette Writers meeting Oct. 1 at the Old Church in downtown Portland, 1422 SW 11th. The doors open at 6:30p.m.; the program begins at 7 p.m.

Nokes, author of two recent histories of largely unknown events in the Pacific Northwest, will focus in part on the challenge writers face in obtaining accurate information about obscure historical events.

Using his own writing in particular, Nokes will look at the importance of old newspapers, historical societies, museums, archives and online sources, such as Wikipedia and Ancestry.com.

He will also talk about finding people who should know, or might know, of particular events.

For an important section of his 2009 book, “Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon,” Nokes contacted two elderly women who initially refused to talk with him, but eventually revealed information that provided the critical foundation for the book’s massacre narrative.

“Massacred for Gold” was rated a Top Ten book in the Pacific Northwest and is now in its third printing.

Nokes will also discuss how he creates a believable scene that has a substantial ring of truth and brings the reader into the historical event.

“Creating a believable scene in nonfiction history is significantly different from a fictional scene for obvious reasons. In a fictional scene, if you want someone to trip coming up the stairs, or include the noise of a leaky toilet in the background ... you just write it. But in a nonfiction scene, you can’t wholly invent such details. The reader will know there’s no way you could know the toilet leaked ... unless you had actual knowledge,” he said. “You can address possibilities and probabilities based on your own observations, however. If you know two men met, and you know where they met, and you know why they met, you can put the reader in a plausible scene that could well be true, so long as you make clear it’s a possible account.”

For more information about Nokes and his books, visit rgregorynokes.com.