Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, July 26, 2010

Consulting an Expert

I've been on a contest bonanza over here, that's for sure. This week-- no contest, just a normal post or two. And it's Meet an Author Monday again. Go here to join the fun and add your blog!

Ok, I'm trying to concentrate while my son is on the roof fixing our evaporative (swamp) cooler, and hoping he won't fall off. For those of you in humid climates who have never heard of such a thing, a swamp cooloer puts moisture back in the air of your house to cool the air. Unlike an air conditioner, which takes moisture out.
 
And that's as technical as I can get without interrupting their work to ask my husband and get it accurate for this blog post. Oh here he comes, I'll ask him! "Pulls air through wetted mats and blows it into the house." (Fast answer since he's busy, but still there you go..)

He knows how everything works and can explain it in an easy-to-understand way. Plus he has an amazing memory for trivia. This makes him #1 resource for information when I'm writing. "Honey, who was the president in 1981?" "Vice- president?" "Remember that winter when we lived in the Franklin Street house? How much was our electric bill?" "$800 for one month? Are you sure?" (Yes, because it was 3x higher than the house payment.) "How high will the winter wheat be in Colorado in May?"

I could go on and on with off the cuff questions he's answered for me. He's like a freak of nature. And if he doesn't know, there's always Google.

Recently I read him a chapter of my wip, and he remembered a couple details about a shared experience that were nuggets of gold. I quickly wrote them in. It wasn't just the extra information, it was that it so perfectly fit into the story.

Years ago, before I was married, and I had this dream of being a writer of books, I felt a lot of anxiety about how to get information. (This was before Google, Wikipedia, and the internet.) I couldn't travel like Ernest Hemingway because I was a shy college girl with no guts and no money. I used to look everything up in the Encyclopedia Britannica or the World Book Encyclopedia, but they never gave enough information. It would be interesting without answering my particular question.

Then I got married, had a houseful of children, wrote stories and gave up the idea of writing a book. No time or energy, and I never WENT anywhere worth writing about, I thought. Finally, with my youngest headed off to kindergarten (the one who is currently on the roof), I said, "Now I've got time and screw this, I'm not Ernest Hemingway, and I'll write about what I WANT to write about which is family life, and family relationships and stuff that happens in families and to families." I know plenty about that, and what I don't know, my helpful husband-- my resident expert-- fills in the rest.

 Uh oh, there are some awful big banging noises coming through the ceiling as husband and son try to fix this cooler and make my afternoons less miserable in our 98 degree temperatures. Please don't fall...

Job done! Water running through the cooler, no one fell off the roof. Husband comes in and says, "That smell right there reminds me of my grandma. Reminds me of Avenal when I was seven years old."  (His grandma lived in Avenal, a small town in central California, hot and dry, and they used these coolers in the summer.)

Who or what is your favorite method of consulting an expert? In the field learning by doing? Google? Or do you have a resident walking encycolpedia who lives in your house?

38 comments:

  1. Yay your son and husband are ok!! And well done them for fixing your thingymijig cooler!! :-)

    Your husband's encyclopaedic prowess is amazing! WOW!! I can only rely on libraries and Google!! But much better if I had a real live human being who fixed stuff and knew stuff too to consult! Lucky you!!! :-)

    Take care
    x

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  2. All of the above, definitely. The internet is a marvel for checking on things, for sure. I've used Google Street View before to check on how a particular road looks if you drive down it. But there's also no substitute, surely, for drawing in your own experiences as you describe. You can transplant them, sure, but individual knowledge can't be beaten.

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  3. My wife say I am the fountain of useless knowledge in our house.
    And I lived in Arizona, so I know all about swamp coolers.

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  4. I'm too nervous to speak to real experts in person so I will often read their websites or email them... or buy their books.

    CD

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  5. Books and the internet - Google Earth - and, of course, there is no substitute for first hand experiences.
    Trivia = my other half
    Current musical trends = my son
    Masticated language = my daughter

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  6. Like you, I have expert-fixers right in the family. Hubby can repair anything broken, defunct, misfiring, or simply functioning below 100%. Haven't had a problem he hasn't been able to fix. And, the cost of his services is minimal and usually includes a kiss each time we cross paths. I can live with that!

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  7. Kitty, Thank you, I'm glad they're ok too. I actually had to write a post just to take my mind off what they were doing. I was going to post about something completely different today but obviously couldn't focus!

    Simon, I don't know how we did it before the internet. Writers had to actually go places, do stuff and talk to people LOL.

    Alex, I wasn't sure if people would know what I meant when I said swamp cooler. They aren't used as much anymore, having made way for air conditioning, but I love ours. When it works.

    Clarissa, I would be too nervous to even email them :) Although I did once. Or twice.

    Elaine, You've got it covered in your house!

    Nicole, that is so sweet! It's great being married to a handyman!

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  8. I'm the read the website researcher. I would probably get tongue tied talking to a real expert, that's probably why I don't write non-fiction! The publishers want expert fact checkers that the writer consults.

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  9. Catherine, Same here, I couldn't write non-fiction. Even when I try, I end up making stuff up.

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  10. Yay to your men for getting the swamp cooler to work! I must admit I have never heard of such a thing - imagine that existing in England! Like we need more moisture!

    My husband is pretty good at being a fount of knowledge (whether it's always right or not is another story...). And I HEART Wikipedia.

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  11. I love Google - I use it for SO many things!

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  12. Glad your swamp cooler is working!

    Google, email, phone calls, library, live-in handyman.

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  13. If I want a scientific fact it's usually my youngest son (I have no idea how he knows what he does). Oldest son is my resource for geography questions. Hubby does quite well all around but definitely the sports fact guy. Everything else it's google.

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  14. Haha it sounds like a lot of us married walking encyclopedias-- helpful when we need information, annoying when we don't.

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  15. Lots of things are almost only found on the internet - but when it comes to places, I like to experience them in reality as much as I can!

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  16. It helps that I have a dad who is brilliant with technical stuff like geography or engineering. Other than that I hit enter on Google or hit the library a lot. lol.

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  17. My Yahoo! groups and blogging buddies are my experts and consultants. I would not be where I am today without them.

    Stephen Tremp

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  18. Thank heaven they got it fixed on such a hot day. I love it when my husband can fix things - it's no fun to have to call someone in. We're both the learn-by-trying types, which is great except when we can't figure something out. ;)

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  19. My husband knows everything...or at least that's what our boys believe :)

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  20. Oh my--a swamp cooler. The animal shelter where I used to work (here in GEORGIA) used one. To say there was an abundance of humidity...It was miserable. Miserable! Just reading those two words makes me shudder.

    I'm a Google fiend. I love Google. I ask it all kinds of things....sigh.

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  21. Summer, I can't even put those 3 words together in my head-- animal shelter, Georgia and swamp cooler-- no wonder you're shuddering. I bet it felt like you were breathing wet fur. Someone should've told that place they are for DRY climates only.

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  22. Google. Definitely Google. I don't think I'd be any kind of a writer without the Internet.

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  23. I'm like Simon and use all of the above. No tool should be left alone when authenticating a new world from scratch.

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  24. I love that you consult your husband before you consult Google! I google everything, all the time. Probably on average 20-30 times per blog post I write. Maybe if I could borrow your husband every now and then I wouldn't have to...

    So glad that both your encyclopedia and your son got back down safely, and that your house is now cool and at the right level of humid!

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  25. That's great that you have an authority to turn to! I've used a lot of people I know...and lots of Google!

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  26. My answer would have to be all of the above. My husband has a great memory and knows facts that I wonder how he knows, but I still hit Google often. Occasionally, I try the learning by doing option.

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  27. Thank goodness no one fell off the roof :)

    I'm a google kind of girl - although, honestly, I hate research and wish I could just ask someone for a quick answer.

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  28. I remember swamp coolers! They really ought to come up with a more marketable name for the suckers, don't you think?

    My hubs has an incredible memory for trivial stuff...mostly sports stats and scores. I don't get how he remembers it all...but he does somehow

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  29. Hooray for handy husbands and sons!

    As for consulting experts, I'm a Google gal. Also YouTube. It's amazing what people will video and share--it can be very helpful, especially when researching places you haven't visited but your characters have.

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  30. I think our spouses would get along.(: My husband is a walking encyclopedia. I doubt there's a book/classic he hasn't read, or a word in the dictionary he doesn't know. When I was preparing for the vocabulary portion of the Graduate Record Exam,he only missed one word in the entire book. I felt like Forrest Gump next to hubby.

    In my novel I had to explain the reason God does not interfere with man. After reading the excerpt to my husband, he said, "Yeah, that's the ----theory." I looked it up and bingo! he was spot on. Although the theory has nothing to do with God, it echoed my sentiment. Needless to say, I added it to my prose. Between my husband, Wikipedia and research books on the Mayans, I can't lose.

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  31. In Michigan we have a HUMIDIFIER hooked to the furnace, because it's dry in winter, and a DE-humidifier that runs in our basement in summer because there is too much moisture.

    I love that your husband is so full of trivia! I love having a reference person to ask.

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  32. DH is my book of knowledge. I am intrigued by your machine, Cyprus is very hot and humid. It might be useful.

    Avenal caught my eye, my mother's maiden name is Avenell.

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  33. I'm glad you found your way to writing even if you were shy, unsure, and had a house full of children for a long while.

    Your husband sounds like my father, who is also the go-to guy for questions. He'd definitely be a lifeline on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?".

    I use books, Google, Wikipedia, and people who are experts. Lydia Kang answered my eye question for my WIP for "Medical Mondays" last week.

    Good luck with your swamp fan!

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  34. Google is always a fantastic back-up for me, but I also use my blog buddies that I know where they live, what they study and I use them (in all good ways) to help me better understand. Google can teach you things but people with real life stories, those are the people I listen too!

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  35. It kinda depends what I'm after, but the internet is awesome..go Google!

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  36. I google. I have a ton of reference books. Most of my worlds don't exist for google is used for just frame reference. My other books I use to keep my imagination flowing.

    The Man helps me keep thing realistic though. He's an awesome beta reader.

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  37. I don't understand how adding water to the air in an already humid climate helps make things cooler. This is why I never bothered taking physics in HS. My brain only holds so much info at one given point in time.

    My brother sounds a lot like your husband. Sometimes he'll drop some tidbit of information on me and I'm fairly well convinced he's not really human, but an android...though he swears he isn't. But I'm largely a Google girl myself.

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  38. I'm a Googler. I think I Google everything I have a question on.

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