Phone a Friend
By Cait Collins
I admit I’m far more at home with doing research from books and periodicals. There’s just something about the feel of paper that makes me feel scholarly. My apologies to Bill Gates, the Apple Corporation, Dell, HP, and all the other manufacturers of electronic tools, but I just don’t always get it. I key in what I think are the correct key words, but I get junk. The results don’t seem to have any relevance to my search. While I’m getting better with the internet, I still like books.
Recently I found a really great resource. I was trying to remember the names of the kids that lived next door to us in Bangor, Maine. I remembered a couple of the names, but was blank on the rest. I sent quick emails to Sisters One, Three, and Four. They didn’t remember either. However, a few minutes after reading Sis One’s email, I got a message from her with the names of the five kids. I may be from the Bronze Age when it comes to technology, but my older sister ran with the dinosaurs. I knew she hadn’t done the research. Her husband is the computer guru. I asked him if he had access to some secret military data base. His response was that he had taken direction from my sister. In other words she gave him the information she had and he took it from there. I’m grateful for his help. I would have spent hours keying and rekeying searches.
While I miss books, I have to admit there is a real convenience to the internet. When I’m working on a story late in the evening and need a date or the name of a town, Google or Bing are handy. And I don’t have to get dressed and drive to the book store or library. Or worse wait until the next day for stores or library to open to find the information. On top of that the internet is cheaper than a book store. Barnes and Noble has me pegged. Walk in the door empty handed and walk out with two full tote bags.
The point is we all have special sources. My parents and grandparents are gone, but they left a legacy of information. I use it. Often. My sisters are good sources. They remember details I forget. I also have friends who are historians, scientists, public servants. They are passionate about their specialties and are willing to talk. Offer them dinner or coffee and cake, and I have hours of instruction and fellowship. Our research sessions also allow us time to catch up on what’s been happening since our last chat.
Why not take a few minutes to jot down resources that are uniquely yours. Make sure you have current email addresses and phone numbers. Maybe add their favorite restaurants or favorite foods and beverages. Have an idea of their schedules so you don’t call the night shift worker during the day when he might be sleeping. Acknowledge their assistance with a thank-you in your book or article.
Professional resources are invaluable. A writer can’t be expected to know everything. In the early stages of a writing career, a paid researcher may not be in the budget. The phone-a-friend life line may be your best source for a quick answer or a can-I-pick-your-brain session. The information you receive might answer a question, but just think of possibilities. What if your protagonist takes a wrong turn when leaving Dallas and winds up in Salem’s Lot? Think about it.