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?