Updated: May 10, 2020
Yesterday, I was supposed to leave on a road trip. Not just any road trip, mind you, I was going to embark on an epic research adventure for my first novel. From Vermont to Oklahoma, I had it all planned out—staying with friends on the way down, a cute Airbnb for two weeks in Bartlesville, then seeing college and high school friends in Texas and Louisiana before finally ending up on the Florida Panhandle for a nice long visit with my mother. It was just going to be me and my little dog, Lola, on the open road. I'd been dreaming about it for months. Enter COVID-19.
So here I sit, sheltering in place with my hubby, two sons home from college, an additional friend of theirs living with us, plus my sister-in-law and her daughter in the house up the hill. Not exactly the "me and my dog with the wind in our hair/fur" scenario I had envisioned for May. I have a 300+ page rough draft of my first novel sitting on my desk and a Google Sheet listing all of the blanks that require primary research staring at me from my laptop. Believe it or not, you can't find everything on the internet!
The novel takes place during the last two weeks of May 1941 in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The local paper for that era is only available in person at the Bartlesville Public Library. Native plants, flowers, and trees are critical to many of my scenes. And then there's the desire to physically walk downtown, in Johnstone Park, and at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Claremore, places which are all central to the plot. But hey, it's not happening. I'm not going. Trip canceled. What next?
I had already emailed the research librarian in Bartlesville to make sure they had the periodicals I needed. When I canceled my trip, I reached out to her to begin exploring ways for us to cooperate long-distance. The library remains closed until May 18, but she seems very supportive about finding a way to work with me once they re-open. I have also reached out to Evans Nursery, a family-owned garden and landscape center, and someone there is willing to answer my botanical questions via email. Getting my rough draft ready for beta readers has all come down to cooperation. I can't do this by myself—I'm going to have to find people on the ground in Oklahoma who are willing to assist me. Here's the cool part...
We have a wonderful tradition at The Dorset Church each January called the Epiphany Party. In addition to fabulous food, because fabulous food is essential to any event at The Dorset Church, every person in our congregation picks an Epiphany Star out of a basket. Each star has a word on it and that word becomes your theme or area for growth during the year. Sometimes it can take the entire year before you figure out how that word has shaped your faith and your life. This year I picked the star with the word "Cooperation" on it. And like so many years, my first reaction was, "Okay, Lord, what do I have left to learn about cooperation?" I took my star home and put it on the little bulletin board next to my desk wondering how 2020 would be shaped by cooperation. Those little stars never disappoint.
I had planned to start blogging while on the road, taking you along for the ride with me and Lola, and documenting my adventures as I figure out how to get the rough draft of my first novel across the finish line. I'm still going on the journey, just not leaving Vermont. I hope you'll join me.