The Date-A-Base Book 2017 by Dave Haslett and Kate Haslett
|The Date-A-Base Book 2017 by Dave Haslett and Kate Haslett|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: A useful tool for all writers, particularly article writers, containing 3,800 entries of anniversaries from the obvious to the downright obscure. Arranged chronologically from 400 years ago, to merely 10, each entry has a snippet of info to guide you if you want to follow up on people or events that spark an interest.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 544||Date: February 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
So here's a question for you: how do you go about reviewing a list - especially a list that runs to 3,800 entries and 544 pages? No, I'm not sure either, but I'm going to give it a go.
Let's start with the people behind the book: Kate and Dave Haslett credit Philip Pullman with generating the seed of ideas4writers. Check out their website and you'll find the quote that in 2001 led them to setting up their business aimed at helping writers to write by giving them kick-start ideas for topics or lead-ins and practical advice on the business end of getting stuff out there for others to read. One of those ideas is essentially wouldn't it be useful if you knew – say a year ahead, what anniversaries are coming up, which might give you a hook.
A hook is what it says it is: something upon which to hang something. In this case, the 'something' is your writing. It doesn't matter what you write: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, memoir, fantasy, travel, business… articles and books and screenplays will all get more attention if you can garner publicity for them, and for publicity – you need the hook. The connection might be fundamental – a recap of the event or the life and achievement of the person whose anniversary it is – or it could be tangential. In their introduction to the book, Dave and Kate suggest various other ways of tying your story or article or play back to the event – or using the event to prompt your writing: as a backdrop, as a subject of conversation, as what if it hadn't worked out that way...and so on.
A look at the practicalities of the book. The most widely available version of the book and possibly the most easy to use (Amazon Kindle) is in chronological format i.e. the events are listed by age, starting with the 400th anniversary of the death of Hendrik Goltzius and working through to the 10th anniversary of the death of Ettore Sottsass… to which you might (like me) be thinking who?. A helpful snippet is given for those wondering whether this is someone (or some event) that maybe they should have heard of, or just finding that it matches the date of their work in progress and wondering if a chance encounter might add colour. Goltzius was an influential Dutch printmaker, artist and draughtsman. The leading Dutch engraver of the Mannerist school, while Sottsass was an Italian architect and industrial designer. Noted for his use of bold colours and contemporary style in the design of post-modern furniture, jewellery, glass, lighting and office machines such as computers and typewriters.
It's not all arts and crafts though. A few random dips through the pages bring up the last ever blasphemy trial in the UK, the 1st manned drifting ice station, the lifting of Martial law in Taiwan, the plight of the passengers on the Exodus, the death of the coach who popularised the West Coast offense, the Esquipulas II Peace Agreement.
Anyone who loves lists for their own sake (i.e. those of us sad enough to actually read dictionaries and randomly flick through maps) will find no end of diversions and things to ponder of the 'what's that all about' variety. For the serious writer – and the aspiring-to-be-serious writer – there are things to write about, things to think about, things that might on an internet search lead to other things that are even more relevant to the project in hand. For the magazine article writer in particular, it is a wealth of ideas to enable you to get that all important query letter in well-enough-ahead of the anniversary for it to at least have a chance of being commissioned.
Other formats of the book are available direct from the publishers including a PDF download or a 267-page A4 printed copy (both of which come in a second format which groups events by calendar date).
Any limitations of the Date-A-Base?
Living people other than Royalty and Heads of State are generally not included… which leaves me wanting to search through and find out who else is - unless that's the legal get-out in case someone they thought had died, hasn't (it happens!).
War-time events (whichever war) have necessarily been limited to key events of general interest. If you're looking for the more obscure then further research will be necessary.
Currency exchange rates have been fixed at those which were in effect on 31st July 2015 – which might not give a true picture of the like-for-like value at the time. I can't say I've yet trawled in sufficient depth to see whether it matters… but again, the power of the internet is at our fingertips to correct this for project-specific purposes.
This is obviously a practical text, not intended to be read cover to cover – though I may end up being one of the eccentric few who does just that! As the editors say in their intro it does have uses for any writer, but its most practical one is for those generalist (or specialist) article writers looking not only to attract the publishing editor's attention but to give them a hook on which they can hang their own publicity for the edition in question.
Obviously, as we approach 2017 the events early in the year will already be getting past usability for article hooks – though still useful for other purposes, and I can't help thinking that having obscure anniversary dates might occasionally work – why not talk about the 247th anniversary of something, especially if your character is a bit of a geek. So although there is a tendency to think that this kind of listing has a short shelf-life, I'd say, maybe not.
This is the tenth edition of the database and the 2018 edition is already in the works, though it will have a brand new name of Next Year's News.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Date-A-Base Book 2017 by Dave Haslett and Kate Haslett at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Date-A-Base Book 2017 by Dave Haslett and Kate Haslett at Amazon.com.
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