Saturday, July 31, 2010


Months ago, Yolanda asked me to address the subject of research and money.

There are many answers to the question of funding research. I do most of mine on the cheap.

As in last weekend. After stopping in at my sister’s house in VA overnight, hubby and I drove to PA for a family wedding. The ceremony took place in NJ but Chuck’s brother lives nearby in PA and there were empty beds at his house. Voila!

We didn't go straight to the in-laws' house however. Chuck dropped me off at Swarthmore College so that I could spend the afternoon in their library and peace collection archive.

Can you say, adrenalin pumping!? I found some amazing personal letters written in 1942 and 43.  Photos, old newspaper articles.  Details I needed to make my story authentic.

When the library closed we headed to Bucks County, PA where one of my characters lives. I wanted to get the lay of the land.  Familiarize myself with names of rivers, townships, and businesses. 

We picked up calzone at Pizza Bella and proceeded to Ringing Rocks, a mysterious field of boulders that my father took our family to decades ago. I'm not sure, yet, whether it figures into my story but it was a memorable experience to balance myself on a rock and eat calzone (and to dodge the mouse who  wanted my meal). I could say much more about Ringing Rocks but follow the link above because it's been done so well already.

After Ringing Rocks we headed to Owowcow Creamery, a spot I discovered via google.  I was looking for the perfect place for my character to stop often to have ice cream with her BFF. And o wow cow!  This is it.

See how much fun research can be! Saturday, on the way to the wedding I even got to make another trip back to Owowcow.  More crrrrreamy ice-cream.  Yeeesh - the cost of research was adding up!

The wedding was a fun and perfectly beautiful affair at scenic Prawlsville Mill in Stockton, NJ.  I suspect something from this family day will find its way into a story sometime but probably not my work-in-progress. Although it was right on the Delaware River.  Hmmm, my character may want to go tubing.

On Sunday morning we drove to New Jersey where I attended a Quaker meeting.  This was a new experience for me and I liked it.  Maybe I wouldn't have loved it so much if I weren't writing about the Quaker experience, and if there hadn't been a Quaker teen to observe during the meeting, and if I weren't listening for what one hears in a Quaker meeting. But I did like it. I am liking silence more and more - there might be a little bit of Quaker in me.

Yas, also a writer, is one of my brand new experts.
The Quaker teen has agreed to answer questions for me and to read my manuscript and give feedback. He has so much in common with my character that I am feeling a little bowled over by my good fortune. (I actually met two young people who are available for Q & A!)

After Quaker meeting we enjoyed a delightful lunch with an expert (someone who knows more about the subject of my novel than I do). In this case he was a WWII era Conscientious Objector who worked in a mental hospital in place of military service.

Warren has been where my character has been and he remembers details!

I'd spoken with him on the phone several times but he knew I had more questions.  "Fire away," he said. Warren is no teenager but this does not stop him from getting things done.  And oh, he has a great big heart and a lifetime of experiences to share. After lunch he took us to his home where we sat with 4 other CO's and listened to their incredible stories of compassion during dark days of mental hospital work.

After our visit we headed south - which brings us back to the subject of financing research. There were some expenses.  Gifts for the experts who helped me. Ice Cream. Gas. Tolls. A few meals along the way. But hey, we were going to the wedding anyway!

Honestly, this is how a lot of research happens for me. I attach it to trips I’d be taking otherwise. Sometimes that doesn't feel like enough.  It’s hard to spend only 4 hours in an archive when I want to camp out there and stuff myself with research. But I think the little bites I take when I’m in the area anyway, allow for time to digest my findings in between. This was my second trip to Swarthmore. The first time I was on the way to a writer’s workshop.

I expect to stop in again, someday. On my way to somewhere else.


  1. Love your PA pictures and the Quaker teen expert was a great find!

  2. Thanks, Yolanda for inspiring this post! Yeah, the Quaker teen is a gift!

  3. Thanks for the travel journal. I enjoyed reading it. Enjoyed listening in last night on the didn't see me nodding my head saying, "that's Joyce!" but I was there, in the shadows....

  4. Carol, thanks for checking in on the chat. And the travel journal.

  5. Great traveling post with lots of tidbits for us!

    I wanted to visit the Ringing Rocks until I got to the mouse part... now, not so much.

    Keep traveling and researching too!