Research…love it or hate it.

[ri-surch, ree-surch]  noun:  diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc.

There’s a very popular children’s book called “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” which I had read over and over to my granddaughter; we both loved it.  The premise of the story is as follows:  If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want a glass of milk to go with it.  If he wants a glass of milk, he’s going to have to get the milk from the refrigerator and pour it into a cup.  When he pours it into the cup he might spill it and then he’ll have get a mop to wipe it up, etc., etc., etc.   I think it’s the what happens next question that makes the story relatable.  Each choice the mouse makes has a direct connection to the next choice.  And on, and on, and on.  I do know that if you give me a cookie I’m going to want to know where it came from and what’s in it.  (And I’ll want a glass of milk.) This is what I do when I’m writing.  One piece of information leads to the next and then the next and so on.

For example, my current WIP (work-in-progress) I’m researching a very specific event in California history that occurred in the winter of 1861/1862. Although the Great California Flood of 1862 affected the entire state, the northern part of California suffered the most—the great “inundation” at the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers.  The rain poured steadily over a period of ??? days and the entire Sacramento Valley turned into one big lake. Sacto Flood 1862 So much so that ??? inches were registered. The Sacramento river rose ??? feet, broke the levees and covered ??? square blocks of the city.  Hundreds of people, livestock, homes and property were displaced.   See the question marks?  So I don’t slow down during my actual “writing” I put them in, go back later, search for the marks and fill in the missing information.

I can’t help myself.  Research—for me—is trying to eat just one M&M.  I look up one simple fact and swoosh, I get sucked into the vortex of information not to be seen or heard from for days.  I want, no, I need to know what was so unique about the weather and related conditions that caused so much flooding and damage?  How much (cold) rain came down each day and how many feet did the river rise?  How did it feel to stand near the river’s edge and think “how bad can this get” then watch a boat or two float up to street level?  How did the business owners on Front Street feel as they watched debris-ladened water rush into the streets, Flood of 1862fill up their basements and then…..rise to the height of the second floor?  How did they save their merchandise?  What if they couldn’t get a boat?  What about their families?  Who would save them?  And worse, what if they got swept up in the water and possibly drowned?  Research, research, research…….

But, I love it.  It’s my favorite part of writing.

See you later.

Katie

(Answers:  90 days; 33 inches; 24 feet, about 30 square blocks.)

Power Spot vs. the Write Place

In 1929, Virginia Woolf wrote and delivered her famous lecture “A Room of One’s Own” to an assembly of university students in which she states that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

A notable amount of analysis is in print about the themes suggested by her lecture–the five hundred pounds, women’s access to education, women’s writing, writing about women, and so on.  I won’t go there right now.  However, what I found amazing is in 1929 the value of 500 British pounds equaled approximately $30,000.00 US dollars; today the value is around $300,000.00.  What confounds me is $30,000.00 was a LOT of money at that time and how she could think the average woman could enjoy this amount of security.  But then, Virginia Woolf came from a well-to-do family and her husband, Leonard, had money and a printing business.  I don’t believe she ever worried about money.

Virginia Woolf's DeskBut, I was most interested in Virginia’s writing place which was situated in a little cottage of sorts out in the garden behind her country residence in Sussex, England.  Simply furnished, she sat at a plain desk in a plain chair with her favorite pads of paper and pens spread out  before her.  This was Virginia’s  “power spot.”

While researching for this blog post I searched the Internet for information on your “power spot” and I discovered that—simply—it is that special place where you feel most like yourself.  The place (inside or outside) that makes you feel secure and comfortable.  Where, as you are settled in, your creative ideas burst forth.  Where you “must” be in order to accomplish your best thinking, etc.

I have that spot.  No, it isn’t in the “room of my own.”  Katie's DeskMy Elfa office were I have everything I could want to be a productive writer.  My desktop computer, printer, scanner, music, reference books, whatever waits for me.  It waits, and waits and waits.  But, I just can’t sit in there.  No matter what I tell myself.  No matter how hard I try, it just doesn’t “feel” right when I’m there.  I have concluded that—for me—the main reason I avoid it is this perfect writing place is because sitting there reminds me too much of my real job—the one that I have been going to for almost 35 years.  Word and Excel all day long, filing, emailing, proposals, presentations, etc.  Get the picture?

Power SpotInstead I take my laptop to my “spot” in my comfy living room on the left side of my even more comfortable sofa.  This is where I can view the outside and where I enjoy my bookshelf.   It is said when you keep coming back to the same place it literally creates an energy vortex around it. Absolutely true.  Whenever I sit there I definitely feel the energy.  I get ideas.  I write.

As much as I am convinced of the perfectness of this idea, my theory was recently challenged.  I was mousing around the other day and landed on a unique blogsite called “Wellness for Writers.” A contributor stated that it wasn’t a good idea to spend too much time in one spot.  I panicked.  It seems my “power spot,” my “creativity place,” my favorite place to sit and write might not be such a good idea after all.  According to the post, unless you force yourself to get out of your comfort zone your creativity will suffer.  When you get too comfortable, too secure in your “place” you miss out on all the challenges and adventures life holds for you.

So, now what do I do?  It does make sense.  (I’m going to sit in my “spot” and think about it.)

Katie Keelor

A Christmas Wish from Katie

It’s not about the presents.  It’s not about the cookies.  It’s not about the decorations and ornaments on the tree.  It’s not about what we receive.  It’s all about what we can give to others.

Christmas Wish

From Katie and all the authors of Writing Something Romantic, we would like to give a sincere wish to our readers that you have a wonderful holiday season and enjoy happiness, health and success in the coming new year.

Take me there…with Katie Keelor

Val MilletteIf I didn’t live here, I’d want to live there.  If I didn’t live now, I’d want to live then.  If I didn’t do this, I’d want to do that.  Curiosity about history and wanting to know what happened in the past…you become a time-traveler. As a writer, add travel to historic locations only fuels the fire.  Every place I visit I want to know what it would be like to live in that era and there’s where the time-traveling takes place.  It’s such fun!

My first “real” trip took me to the legendary St. Winifred’s Well in Holywell, Wales.  Later trips found me dazzled by the Book of Kells and the famous library at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, swooning over the magnificent architecture of John Ryland’s Library in the industrial manufacturing city of Manchester, England and later to my grandparents’ birthplace in Blackburn, Lancashire—one of the most important cotton producers in the world and just one of the hundreds of cities, small towns and villages where the majority of the work force kept the cotton mills operating in the 1800’s.  For “fun” I traveled with a good friend on a tour of Regency-era London, Bath and Brighton and other locations in-between where the passage of time has been overlooked and history preserved.  My last “real” trip took me to never-to-be-forgotten sights of Paris and the silk weaving center of Lyon, France.

Closer to home, I love going to Sacramento.  Yes, I have family living there but you will find that our state’s capitol is such an interesting place.  Before each visit my son’s usual question to me is “What do you want to do while you’re here?”  and unless I have something special in mind, my usual answer is “Let’s do something you haven’t done yet.”

His response to a recent challenge resulted in a trip downtown to the Old Sacramento Historic Park and the “underground tour.”  Another weekend living the past during “Gold Rush Days” was all it took for me to get the idea for my current novel “Swept Away.”

Today, California is experiencing a serious drought.  Not so in the mid-1800’s.  In the winter of 1861-62, heavy snowfall and 45 days of rain inundated the city of Sacramento breaking through the levees with momentous flooding.  A fantastical idea came out of this catastrophe—in 1864 the citizens banded together to raise the streets 21 feet higher than the river’s edge, or 9 feet higher than the street level. Close your eyes.  Can you imagine watching the state’s capitol building balancing on hundreds of screw jacks being raised less than an inch a day?

I can.  Take me there…please.