Friday, October 10, 2014

Filling the Well : : Anne McAlllister

Two and a half weeks ago my husband and I took a week out of our lives to do something quite different than we generally do with our days. We took part in an archaeology dig near Jamestown.

It was a great experience, made even better by the people at Road Scholar who were in charge of the week's schedule and the archaeologist in charge of the dig.  If you have never had the pleasure of a Road Scholar experience, do check it out. They used to be "Elderhostel" and once, a few years ago, a friend who was old enough, took me along because I wanted to learn about trail drives in the western US and you had to be 55 to go (unless you went with a friend).

In its new incarnation, Road Scholar accepts people over 40 -- and has programs for grandparents and grandkids as well as others for the 'whole family' -- meaning Mom and Dad won't get left out, either. Those look like great programs, too, but I haven't tried one, yet. My daughter is lobbying for one, though!

But the archaeological dig was fantastic -- a hands-on way to discover a lot more about US history, in this case -- and a good way to "dig" up details that will stand a hero and heroine of mine in good stead when I get around to their book next year.

Lots of times when people ask writers, "Where do you get your ideas?" we shrug and say, "Ideas are everywhere." And that's certainly true in my case. I look around and see possibilities under every rock and behind every bush.  But sometime -- lots of times, in fact -- an 'idea' will only get me so far. I need skills, knowledge of detail, a set of competencies for my hero or heroine at which I am not personally competent -- in order to make a book work.

Enter Road Scholar and their wonderful week in Jamestown.  I learned a lot about what goes into a dig, into the actual nitty-gritty of the daily work, of the process and the scope of how artifacts are treated when they are found.  It's not going to necessarily be front and center in my book. But I can guarantee you that you would miss them if some details weren't there. They are what grounds the story, what sets it in context, what my hero does all day (when he's not reluctantly rescuing damsels in distress).  After all, where would Indiana Jones be without the Ark to go after?

My guy won't be chasing the Ark. And he won't be in Jamestown either.  But I have the details now.  I've met the dirt.  And the potsherds and the Venetian glass and the Delftware and the lead shot and the broken pipe bowls.  I got my hands dirty -- and loved every minute of it.

Try it -- even if you don't write a book.  I bet you'll be glad you did.  If you already have, tell me about it or another venture you've gone on to experience a slice of life you don't get every day in your own environment.

Anne's most recent book, Last Year's Bride, is out on Kindle now.  She's so happy to have been able to go back and write about a cowboy after years and years of deprivation!  His brother is waiting in the wings, too.  She wishes he'd tell her what he does for a living so she could find a Road Scholar way to research it.  But so far he's been decidedly closed-mouthed. Drat him!

1 comment:

Liz Flaherty said...

This sounds so interesting!