Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Sometimes research just come together nicely and a story is easily and beautifully enhanced. Sometimes it won’t and it isn’t. And sometimes it gets stuck halfway.

For example, my needlework designer (for the patterns in back of my books) and I have been talking for months about what the pattern should look like in Thai Die. Denise took lots of photographs of the patterns on the silk panels I brought home from Thailand, and we sort of – kind of – thought she could work up one of those. I had finally acquired some gold-colored silk floss from Thailand, and the idea was that the pattern would include some gold color so we could give a length of the floss to everyone who came to a signing. But the patterns all mono-colored as well as simple, so that was merely acceptable.

The novel has shifted a bit as it has appeared on my computer (this happens). The silk in the story is no longer Thai but Chinese, ever since I found some marvelous books and Internet sites showing how there exists some beautiful and extremely old (BC!) Chinese silk. There were mentions, almost asides, of embroidered ancient silk, but no photographs. As I wrote last week, I found this marvelous book on Chinese art with a black and white photograph of a piece of ancient embroidered silk. It was beautiful, exotic, and exactly right to use as a pattern.

Excited, I brought Denise to the Institute to have a look at it. She loved it! She brought out her electronic camera and took pictures of it. I went home to see if I could find a color photograph of the entire piece. I did, but it was so tiny it was useless. And another detail photo of the phoenix wasn’t in color. I can’t find more photographs anywhere. I have put out feelers to museums with no reply so far, and it has ballooned into an obsession simply because it shouldn’t be as difficult as it’s proving to be. This is an important piece of embroidery; why aren’t there photographs of it somewhere? (Or are they out there, and I’m just not going to the right places to see them?) Arrrrggghhhh!

It’s raining outside. There’s something about a rainy day that makes me feel all cozy. Perhaps it’s from my camping days, often spent miserable in the rain. Such misery makes me grateful for modern conveniences: a sound roof, electric lighting, flush toilets, a comfortable bed, a way to cook that doesn’t send smoke into my nose and eyes. The older I get, the more grateful I am not to be living back in the olden days. Time travel – which I used to dream of before I reached middle age and got this thing about dry underwear – will have to be for the young.

One bad thing about a rainy day: It makes me want to curl up with a good book, and with that deadline looming over me, I can’t.

A note on last week’s squirrel: turned out she had also been shot in the head, and the lead pellet was leaching into her blood stream, so she had to be put down.


Linda O. Johnston said...

I agree that research is integral to our stories and can result in significant changes to where we think we are going. Your research into needlework designs sounds especially fun--like a detective, tracking down some new information.

Living in Southern California, which is especially dry these days, made it a little hard for me to relate to your description of a rainy day except to wish for more of those. At least our (sometimes) rainy season is on its way.

And I was particularly sad to hear about the squirrel...


Camille Minichino said...

It's not that different from when we did research in school, is it? Remember reading a 500-page book and getting maybe one line of info that could be used in your paper or thesis?

But it's worth it, as we know from Monica's stories which are always tied together with interesting threads (both literal and figurative!)

Monica Ferris said...

You're both right, research is fun as well as integral, and it can lead to major changes in the story. Yes, I was disappointed about the squirrel, too. And boy, are you right, Camille, about wading through reams of paper to come out with one small nugget -- but sometimes it's pure gold, right?