I went to Ripton, VT yesterday for research in the latest revision of my MG novel.  It’s currently titled MAPLE GIRL but needs a new title (but that’s a whole ‘nother story). 

What’s in Ripton?   There’s a country store that still sells penny candy.  There’s Robert Frost’s summer cottage, which was in the news recently when kids broke in and trashed it during a party. And not too far away, there’s a short trail through a forest and blueberry fields – the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail

I’m trying out a scene where my MC comes here with her mother and grandmother collecting leaves for a school project.  There are whispers of Frost throughout the novel, but right now, my MC needs a place where she can understand her mom and grandmother a little better.  She also has to collect a whole bunch of leaves — fast — so she doesn’t miss her deadline.

I’ve hiked this trail before, but not recently enough to remember the kinds of tiny details that make writing real — the electric blue damselfly, the feel of sap stuck on your skin after you touch a pine bough.  And I wanted to read the poems again.

The Frost trail has short poems and quotes from his work posted all along the walkway, in places that relate to the poems.  This was one of my favorites, near a lush marsh buzzing with dragonflies.

And this one…posted at the entrance to a bridge with dark woods on the other side.

Here’s the reason my MC wanted to come here…

The trees are already identified for her, so she doesn’t have to use her leaf key.

While I was walking the path, I kept a lookout for someplace where my MC might observe her mom and grandmother from a bit of a distance. Then it appeared in front me – the perfect climbing tree!  Of course, I had to climb it in the name of research.

There was an amazing, amazing view from the top, and best of all, I discovered that my MC could duck behind a branch to see and hear people passing on the trail below.

When I climbed down and rounded a bend in the trail, I found another well-placed quote from a Frost poem.

Heaven gives its glimpses onto to those not in position to look too close.
                                                          ~from “A Passing Glance”

I got home last night more than ready to tackle my new chapter. I’m back to manuscript, pen, keyboard & screen revisions today but with visions of mountains and butterflies to carry me through.
The research for this novel has fed me in more ways than one.  Last year when I was drafting it, I had to make and eat three batches of Italian wedding cookies before I got one right.  (Definitely more pleasant than getting stung by a bee, which is research


What about you?  What wonderful or painful things have you done while researching a book?

19 Replies on “Pilgrimage

  1. I haven’t done anything that wonderful, Kate, but maybe I will one year.

    This is a major change from the version I read, isn’t it? Good idea, to have her try to get out of using her key. Does it work?? (Of course, I have not read the version you just posted in group yet. Maybe I should.)

  2. What an amazing adventure! I can feel your joy, can see it in your words. Thank you for taking us along today.

    I love the Frost poem, too. It’s such an apt way to describe some of my own life/WIP research.

  3. I knew you were dying to go there, but I had no idea how beautiful that trail was. “G” will love going there today. Today is Dad’s and my anniversary,and that picture of MY swinger of birches up in the tree was a beautiful gift this morning. It made my day.

  4. I had no idea there was a Robert Frost trail! Is it open in winter? If I head up there to KW this winter it might be worth going early to see it …

  5. Unfortunately, I am allergic to bees, so I can’t go out and get stung for the sake of research, but I think getting stung more than 20 times (which caused the allergy to develop) and twice since (which caused some fun trips to the doctor) has exempted me from that one.

    I have, however, made several different versions of cherry lemon pies to find out which one my character makes. The worst part was I had to eat them. I’m not sure I have the recipe just right yet, so maybe I’ll have to make another one this week.

  6. I went to the Frost trail once (at the time I was researching composting toilets–but that’s another story). What I remember was the blackberries. My husband and I ate so many we didn’t stop for lunch on the way home. It is a lovely spot.

  7. Thanks for sharing all the photos of Ripton. If you live in this part of the world and know it, Frost’s poetry takes on so much extra resonance.

    While I was working on my completed novel, I got turned on to drums and ended up taking lessons on a set for a semester. You don’t want to hear me, but I loved it and wish I’d done it when I was in middle school or high school. I still get out the sticks and pad when I’m in a certain mood.

  8. I love your drum lessons story. That’s one of my favorite things about writing – it gives you a license to ask questions about anything and try so many things in the name of research.

  9. I think that last sign was a message, somehow, that you’re on the right track. And it sounds wonderful there. I visited Frost’s house in New Hampshire a few summers ago, and they have poems posted as well (“The Oven Bird” and others).

    I don’t think I’ve done the sorts of wonderful or painful things you and Lori have. I’ve driven three hours to read a book (closest library that had it to my house was in Baltimore). I’ve become Regional Coordinator for the local chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America. But I still haven’t sewn my shift or day dress. Must get busy . . .

  10. OH! I forgot! I talked to a wildlife specialist and pulled apart an owl pellet for my owl book! And I took gnome photos as research for my gnome MS.