By: Stacey Purcell
I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you
because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top. ~English Professor (Name Unknown), Ohio University
It seems many of my blogs have to do with some form of research and how to breathe life into a manuscript in unusual ways. This past weekend I had the opportunity to take a group of writers from my chapter on a road trip! This was a hands on form of research, made sweeter by the presence of other writers and friends.
Louisiana elicits images of swamps, pirates, spicy food, mysticism, and tales of dark passion. Was it simply based on stories passed down from one generation to the next that grew in the storytelling? We were on a mission to discover for ourselves the allure of this intriguing state. A little research ahead of time and then we were off to New Iberia in the heart of Cajun country.
We rolled into town, got our stuff settled and headed for the Tabasco factory and Avery Gardens. Who knew it takes up to three years for Tabasco to age? They also use whiskey barrels the liquor companies are forced to throw away after one use. Recycling at its best! There are only a few ingredients in this world famous sauce- peppers, distilled vinegar, and salt mined from the island it sat upon. Appropriately, the word Tabasco comes from the Indians meaning “place where soil is humid”. They got that one right!
After visiting the factory, shop and museum, we explored Avery Gardens which sits on top of a salt dome reported to be taller than Mt. Everest. We entered a paradise steeped in breathtaking beauty only to discover dark secrets hiding under the verdant green. Our group consisted of writers representing many different genres so our brainstorming sessions produced story bites from all walks. Since I’m a suspense/thriller writer, I found unique ways to hide my heroine in swampy water while a crazed killer was after her. Goodstuff!
Does she survive? You’ll have to wait for the book to come
Others spun paranormal tales, Ya stories, and I’ve heard a rumor that a new children’s book is in the works about a tree looking for a home. The ideas were endless with such an unearthly splendor coloring the background of our future best sellers. What a way to get the creative juices flowing.
Our weekend marched along far too quickly. The culminating sight we investigated was Jefferson Island and Rip Van Winkle Gardens. The day was perfect. Temperatures hovered around 80, a stiff breeze blew over the lake and the giant oaks stretched out weathered limbs to shade us. A more perfect day would be hard to find. We toured the magnificent old home owned by a famous actor in the 1800s. The only actor more famous, at that time, than Joseph Jefferson was a fellow named John Wilkes Booth…we all know what happened to him.
We did find swamps, pirates, LOTS of spicy food, mysticism and a darkness that craved to be explored by brave souls. We also found camaraderie, laughter and a ton of brainstorming. (I think they got tired of me trying to kill all of the characters that we dreamt up.)
I highly recommend a writing road trip for research. You will find so much more than what you bargained for-