Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Little Learning

Wow, I got a new-angle entry for my Win Two Pounds of Chicken-Themed Fabric Suitable for Quilting! And another very touching one. And a couple of enthusiastic ones. Anyone else want to try? Write in twenty-five words or less why you think I should send this fabric to you. Contest ends July 31. Contact me through my web site: Monica-Ferris.com.

Research can lead to some interesting places. One place it very often leads to is . . . more research. Just as I was thinking I had found the handle on making beer, I find I haven’t even scratched the surface. I connected with the owner of a microbrewery named Herkimer’s in Minneapolis. He is a young man with a work ethic bigger than Mount Everest. He barely has this place off the ground, paying for itself, when he goes and buys another building and is going to start a new brewery – brewing saki! Did you know saki was brewed? I always heard it defined as rice wine, but apparently it’s a beverage more like beer (without being beer) than like wine. But that isn’t the kicker from my angle. It seems Herkimer’s brews German beer. And from my descriptions given to him, my heroine is brewing English beer. I didn’t know that, I was just picking up recipes that sounded interesting. And there are other kinds of beer, too. Austrian monks invented their very own varieties, for example. And then there is Russian Beer . . .

Mr. Richardson let me enter the glassed-in room where the beer is brewed at Herkimer’s. (Every microbrewery has this glassed-in room for customers to admire.) It is full of round and tall and immense stainless steel tanks, and a control panel with red and green lights, and long, fat rubber hoses. I took lots of photographs. Then he told me what each stainless steel tank is for, and took lots of notes. But where, I wondered, is the beer when it’s finished? In more tanks in the basement. That’s also where things are drained into after being filtered. So what you see in the glassed-in room is not the whole operation. A grand metaphor for learning about this business – that there is a whole other set of learning yet to be discovered. in the basement!
On consideration, I have found this to be true of almost every subject I’ve gotten interested in, from horseback riding to medieval English history.

But I never consider this when I’m setting off, all excited, to learn a new thing. Wouldn’t it be interesting to find myself on my deathbed, excitedly reading all the literature I can find on it, looking forward to actually experiencing it – only to find that I’ll never get a chance to share what I’ve learned with my readers? Which is it I’m more interested in, learning it or using what I’ve learned in a story? Is that too macabre a thought?

I’ve got the galleys of Thai Die and am going through them making corrections to spelling and typographical errors. I have an enormously good and kind friend who came over today and is staying through tomorrow, who is sitting and letting me read the galleys aloud to him. He is blind and says I am doing him a favor, but he’s the one doing me the bigger favor. I am so used to the words of the story that reading them silently, I tend to skim. Reading them aloud I have to read every single word, and I catch many more errors that way. God bless John!

6 comments:

Sheila Connolly said...

Isn't research wonderful? You can get into all sorts of interesting places not just because you're curious, but because it's "research for your next book". People like to hear that.

Which is why I learned to kill and pluck a chicken this past weekend (for my Orchard Mystery series, which doesn't have chickens yet, but may because I'm putting a restaurant in the next book, which of course means a lot more research...)

Camille Minichino said...

Issac Asimov wanted it said that he never had an unpublished thought. I feel the same about research!

Monica Ferris said...

Sheila, contact me privately, okay? I can remember as a child watching my aunts kill and pluck chickens, but my memory of the process is thinned by time and edited by the fact that I was four and five years old. Thanks!

Betty Hechtman said...

Reseach is the best, especially when it involves travel.

Ellen said...

I enjoy research, but beg to differ with you, Betty. Travel is just okay. For good research, involve beer.

Kathryn Lilley said...

I remember my mother's description of her parent cutting off a chicken's head, and how it went running around the back yard, spurting blood all over the place. Talk about that old phrase, "running around like a chicken with its head cut off." That was enough research for me to last a lifetime!