|Centre Dwelling at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill|
is now a museum dedicated to Shaker displays
about life in the village.
photo by Sara K Joiner
This would be a lot of fun.
As happens, an idea for a book sprang into my head while I was there touring the buildings and learning about life at Pleasant Hill. I didn't do anything with the idea at the time. It was vague and unformed. I would give it time to take root.
Two years later, I returned to Pleasant Hill for another event with the same friend. The vague idea had taken root but it was still struggling to grow. It needed fertilizer. Before my next trip to the village, I had to know more about the history of the place and the people. I wanted to be able to use my time there wisely to gather small details that would help make this story idea blossom.
I searched the catalog at the library where I work and found lots of books on the topic. Books for adults, books for teens and tweens, even books for preschoolers. I started with the basics, as I often do, and read some of the children's books. Reading the children's books allows me to ease into the deeper waters of the scholarly adult material. The children's books teach me the terms and phrases I'll need to know. The adult material adds depth but the children's books add interest.
|Looking down over the spiral stairs in the Trustees' Office|
at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.
photo by Sara K Joiner
As I read the material, I made notes of specific information that I would need to know. With only the main character taking shape in my mind, my research would guide me in a direction for the story. As I read, ideas took shape and questions needed answering.
Unfortunately, I wasn't always finding the answers in the books I had.
I don't rely solely on printed material for research, of course. I'm a librarian, and I love to find new sources of information. I watch documentaries. I buy appropriate music. I search Flickr or Google Images. I follow Twitter accounts or Facebook pages. I perform various and sundry Internet searches.
For the research for this book, I contacted the collections manager at Pleasant Hill and asked to meet with him. I had never done this kind of a interview before, and I had to make sure I didn't waste his time or mine by asking questions that could be answered with a simple Google search.
I kept a list of questions and thoughts about what might or might not happen in the book. Being very up front with him about the vagaries of publishing and the early stages of my work on this project (not a word written, yet!), I tried to ask questions specific to Pleasant Hill. Although there were a few general ones thrown in that I hadn't found answers to. It was a fun and exciting two-hour chat.
When I get to writing this story, which now has much stronger roots and is flourishing in my brain, I will certainly owe a debt to collections manager and the research provided by all those other scholars and authors.
Sara K Joiner is the author of After the Ashes. She is also a public librarian.