Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hey, they have books in there?

Maven Lacey KayeFor the last three weeks, MaveFave Keira and I have met up on the weekend to write. Since many weeks our little write meets are the only time I get to do writing-related things, they're quickly becoming sacred. But last week's write meet was particularly inspiring, as I had an Aha Moment so big it derailed my entire set of plans for the weekend.

The first time we got together, it was at a small library. The no-talking thing was difficult, so when it unexpectedly closed at 5pm (what??) we went to the local Pizza Hut to talk craft. Not the best move, after all: not only was it a bad thing for our waistlines, but it also meant we spent the entire night chatting instead of working.

Which isn't to say it was all bad, since that's the night I had my aha moment about BTL stories. Keira got an impromptu Maven Storyboarding 602 presentation. But no writing occurred.

The next week, we met at a coffee shop. This was better than the previous week because we weren't prohibited from talking, but our table was small and there was still food nearby. However, we did manage to do some writing things, which was awesome. I took my previous week's idea to expand my story and put thoughts into action, writing up a new micro synopsis I then translated into a brand new storyboard the following day. (That weekend, work plans were also derailed in favor of writing stuff. Sensing a theme...)

With my brand-spanking new storyboard, you'd think I spent the next few days furiously banging out new scenes. But I couldn't, because in my case "bigger story" means bigger social and political flavor and for some reason, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get a sense of 18th century British Abolition staring at the walls of my home office. Too broke to go on Amazon until the following paycheck, I let the story sit.

Learning from the previous weeks, Keira suggested the following week we meet at an enormous library in the middle of town. Bigger tables, more privacy if we wanted to talk, and yet still the general no-talking rule -- packing up my new storyboard with the intent of forcing myself to write crap, I thought meeting at the library was a cool idea. Until I got to the library, at which point I went, "Omigod. There are books here!"

Yes, people! Thousands and thousands of books! Many of them non-fiction! Many of them research! And at least twenty of them on 18th century British Abolition! All free to read anytime I want! Who knew?!?

Uh, everybody. Everybody says "Don't forget to go to your local library. It's the best place to get research material." But I never understood. Did I think my subject was too obscure to be stocked locally? Certainly, by now I've found enough obscure stuff on Amazon to know they print books on my subject. Did I think it would be too hard to find the books on the shelves? It only took a few tries to get the hang of the system. Did I think inter-library loan was going to be the only way to get my hands on the books I need? The big central library had almost all the books not only on their shelves, but checked in. No wait list!

In short, I took home about twenty books. Not just books on Abolition, but also books on the history of lace. I've already read 3, devoting every evening and all my breaks to pouring over the books as fast as I can. After all, I can't start writing until I know what I'm writing about. What was I waiting for?

What cool book did you find at the library? Have you gone? Never gone? Why? Did you know how easy it is to get BOOKS there? Are you one of those lucky people who doesn't need to research her stories *cough cough Contemporary*


Erica Ridley said...

LOL. I use my library for research books all the time. Even when writing contemporary, missy! I've researched historical england, contemporary firearms, medical conditions, various pantheons, the psychology of relationships... once I even checked out the Dummies Guide to Nonverbal Communication to help me get over all the blinking and smiling and frowning going on in my first drafts. I love the library!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm actually a reference librarian in my local (medium size) library. Yeah, there are tons of cool books here, and interlibrary loan is probably the best invention in terms of research ever. (Ok, maybe 2nd if you count the internet!)

I can't recommend enough at least looking through your library's catalog. Most are accessible from home (online again) so no leaving the house required.

There, that's my librarian speach for the day.

lacey kaye said...

Dummies Guide to Nonverbal Communication

I wrote this one down!

Christine, the online catalog is what suckered me in (finally). I thought hm, I can Google, so maybe I can use the online catalog. Can't be that different, right? And lo and behold, it returned hits! From there, I was intimidated about trying to find that stuff in this huge library place (so scary!), but when I saw a book I HAD TO HAVE, it was worth the learning curve to get to it.

Or I could've asked for help, I guess. What?!?

Bill Clark said...

Yay for libraries!

Did you go to the big one in dowtown Portland? The one just a few blocks from Powell's bookstore?The one that took one look at my Greenwich Library card and gave me instant internet privileges? The one whence I posted paragraphs of deathless prose on my blog?

pouring over the books

Uh-oh. Don't pour stuff on their books - they won't like it. Try to limit yourself to poring over them - much less damaging over the long run. :-)

(Sorry - my inner college English prof side is acting up today - down, boy!!)

Jennifer Linforth said...

I have to jump in here and mention one key thing you should do on your next vist to the local library...

Tell the librarian you are a writer. Once I did that the flood gates opened. I live in a small community, and discovered the library staff LOVED to chat with and help a published author. Builds up the networking. If I ever want to do a workshop--they know who I am!

I love working in public places. Folks are so curious about writers. A fellow writer and I were polishing pitches at our local Borders... got a few folks coming up to us asking questions about writing.

Online catalogs = love.


Jackie Barbosa said...

I have to admit, quite shame-facedly, that I don't use the library for research a whole lot. Not so much because I don't think they have books there as because I am HORRIBLY absent-minded when it comes to RETURNING the books I check out. In many cases, I wind up paying more in late fees (or worse, paying for the book because it gets lost) than I would if I just bought the book in the first place.

I really need to work on this aspect of my life, however. As soon as I figure out how to keep track of my kids' homework and projects, school activities, after-school activities, and everything else, I'm sure I'll get to it. So, um, maybe in 10-12 years when the little one is in high school and the others are in college?

Kelly Krysten said...

I always figured the library would to be a hard place to look for my subject of books. I mean there's so many and it feels so daunting. But since you reccomend it I'm on my way out the door now(well not literally, but I will go there soon).
Thanks for the tip!!

Erica Ridley said...

Tell the librarian you are a writer.

LOL b/c this never, ever occurred to me to do. But yes. Duh. I can see how that might be of interest to my local librarians. Especially since they probably think I'm an ADHD psychotic, based on my ILL habits.

Darcy Burke said...

I'm terrible. I never go to the library. Ever. Should probably think about changing that.

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