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Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Joy of Picking Brains



At yesterday's meeting of the West Houston RWA, we tried something new, inviting in a "panel of experts" on various topics we thought would be of interest to members. Among our experts were a criminal law attorney/former prosecutor, police office, firefighter/EMT, emergency physician, computer forensic investigator, and an expert on Regency England. (Fun, fun!) After having each expert talk about his/her relevant background for a couple of minutes, we sent each to a table and let writers flow among them to ask questions pertinent to their manuscripts or simply listen in as these folks "talked the talk."

It reminded me of how very fortunate we are as writers to come with a built-in excuse to speak with fascinating people, very often to people who have the same kind of passion for their work that we have for what we do. It's their passion for it that makes these sources so interesting and out ability to imagine ourselves in the skins of strangers, to inhabit their existence in the guise of the characters we create, that breathes a bit of magic into our prose.

So today I'm giving thanks for the chance to pick so many willing brains, to learn about subjects ranging from Mississippi River steamboats and hog-rendering (really!) to criminal law, human psychology, glider flight, and Civil War spies. Being a writer can be an incredible (and tuition free!) education, and for the most part, all the teachers are just out there in the wide world, eager to share their knowledge for the asking.

What are some of the most interesting people or fascinating topics you have learned about while researching?

1 comment:

TJ Bennett said...

While researching my printer hero in THE LEGACY, I discovered the International Printing Museum in Carson, CA (where I lived then) had their own Gutenberg press. I was able to see a live demonstration, then participate in pressing a page of my own. They poured my name in lead type and showed me how the press worked (and smelled). It was tons of fun and added a lot to the scenes I wrote which included my hero's job details.

BTW, I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk with the experts at WHRWA yesterday. Colleen did a bang-up job of bringing all the right people together for a truly wonderful learning time. Thanks!

TJB