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Thursday, January 22, 2009


A week or so ago, I mentioned trying to research using Google Maps—a fun and somewhat helpful method of seeing my setting without actually being there. But as several of you responded, you prefer the “in person” method of doing research. Today I took your advice, and with a notebook and camera, went for a drive.

First stop: Downtown Tulsa where I went to the Jazz Hall of Fame. It’s in the Old Union Depot, a magnificent Art Deco building with gracefully curved arches and original Native American artwork painted on the walls and ceiling. There I met two lovely, sweet women who gave me a packet of information and invited me to a special concert in the music hall this Saturday—a tribute to one of Tulsa’s jazz icons. One of the two women I met is his daughter, and she shared with me some memories of being part of the jazz scene in Tulsa and about the way the neighborhoods used to be. Priceless information that has given me a much better feel for this aspect of my new novel. And I’m looking forward to the concert on Saturday.

Art Deco buildings are some of the treasures of our downtown, so I took a winding drive going to my next destination—a neighborhood with a small lake surrounded by a walking path. As the sun warmed my back, I meandered down the path and clicked away with my camera to get the details I need for my story. A woman walking her Airedale (named Teddy Roosevelt) struck up a conversation with me, so we chatted, sharing what we did. I explained that I was a writer and answered her questions about what my novels were about.

Here’s what occurred to me: We learn to “pitch” our stories at conferences to agents and editors thinking that is the only goal, but we can use that same technique to sell our story ideas to potential readers (providing we become published), so they say, “What was your name again? Where can I get a copy of your novel?”

Okay, so that’s a little dream scenario, and perhaps the unseasonably warm day made me a little giddy, but the nice lady with Teddy Roosevelt gave me her address and phone number and offered to help me with any questions I had about the area I was researching. Two lovely surprises in one day.

I came home excited, refreshed, and ready to layer in the textures my novel needs--the precise details provided by “being there” in person.

Have you had any unexpected blessings come when you are doing research? For those of you who don’t write but are faithful to read my blog (bless your hearts!), what kind of surprise encounters have you had lately? Anything fun or intriguing going on in your lives? As always, I’m curious and invite you to share your comments.


Erica Vetsch said...

what a wonderful day of treasures! Love Teddy Roosevelt.

I hadn't realized Tulsa had a rich Jazz tradition.

My trips to Duluth have sparked many story ideas and given me a feel for the setting. I don't know what it is about that city, the ships, the steep hillside on which the town perches, or the beauty of the open water spreading out before me that feeds my imagination.

Leslie Raney said...

Yes, I am one of those faithful readers of your blog, who is not a writer and therefore never responds to your inquiries. However, I recently had an interesting experience that I thought I would share. I noticed an advertisement in the Oklahoma Today magazine for some colorful jewelry that I thought I had to have. It was made from remnants of "Graffiti Bridge", as it was known, which was located at 59th and Western in Oklahoma City but was torn down some time ago. So on my next trip to OKC I located the store that carried this particular jewelry. It just so happened that the artist who makes the jewelry was in the store that very day and I was able to purchase two pieces from his collection. I visited with him for some time and he even gave me some literature that told the history of the bridge. Coincidentally, "Graffiti Bridge" was demolished on June 29, 1991, which is a special day to me since that was the day I was married!

I enjoyed hearing about your day trip and I agree that a personal touch always makes an experience more memorable. For example, I have told many people about meeting the aritst that designed my jewerly and isn't "word of mouth" the best way to sell a novel or any product for that matter?

carla stewart said...

Thanks, Erica. I've been reading about your Duluth exploits. On the spot research really does spawn ideas, especially if it's something you're fascinated with. Tulsa does have a rich jazz history, mostly in the post-Depression days, but still lingering today. The concert on Saturday was a huge deal! An inductee into the Jazz Hall of Fame and two hours of fun music.
Lots to help me on my WIP.

carla stewart said...

Leslie, that is such a cool story about the jewelry. You just never know what's out there, and it was your good fortune to meet the artist. That will always make your jewelry more memorable. Be sure and show me the next time we come to see you.
And, THANK YOU for coming out of lurkdom and commenting. I love it when people speak up.

The Koala Bear Writer said...

What a neat afternoon! The problem is, if you are just writing the book, is the person you're talking to going to wait a year or two for it to finally get published? Or longer? :) It's still a good idea, though I'm not very good at talking about what I'm writing!