Washington History and Historical Fiction
From Homer to Hollywood, storytellers have reported the facts of the past and, more importantly, conveyed to audiences a vibrant sense of lived history. Based on his experience writing two novels drawn from Washington history, author Peter Donahue will discuss the rich opportunities, challenges and surprises of conducting original historical research and spinning this research into story. The conversation will address the implications of basing characters on historical figures (such as national labor leader Dave Beck) and depicting events for which there is often limited historical record (such as the regrading of Seattle’s Denny Hill). Donahue will then guide the audience in an impromptu composition of a story based on their own knowledge of local history. The discussion will ask questions about personal understanding of history and the relation between historical fiction and the historical record. What are the boundaries between fact and fiction?
About Peter Donahue
Peter Donahue is the author of three works of fiction set in Washington state, including The Cornelius Arms, Clara and Merritt and Madison House, the winner of the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction. He is co-editor of the anthologies Reading Seattle and Reading Portland, and, since 2005, has written the Retrospective Review column for Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History, published by the Washington State Historical Society. Donahue has published numerous articles on American literature and taught seminars on American historical fiction. He teaches English at Wenatchee Valley College in Omak.
Donahue currently lives in Winthrop.