Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Research Trip, Part I

So I just got back from Alaska! What an adventure... If space is the final frontier, Alaska is the last true wild frontier. Wow, it's a different world up there. From the midnight sun to the hearty, friendly people, Alaska was truly like no place I've ever been. It would take me weeks to sum up our experiences in Anchorage and beyond, but I'm going to try to condense it all this week into a series of photos and tidbits of wisdom I gleaned. This was my first true research trip, and the learning curve was harsh. But also thoroughly enjoyable--I'm already looking forward to the next time my research takes me somewhere unexpected. (Aaron is hoping for Tahiti or the south of France. Think I could set a book there?)

Without further ado, research nuggets from the Last Frontier.

Soak it in.
Smell it, feel it, observe it, listen to it, drink it up. Aaron was so patient with me--even when I insisted we pull over every five minutes so I could get a feel for Alaska from a hundred different perspectives. I wanted to experience the wind and the rain, the sun and the dark (though dark is a relative term in Alaska in May), and everything in between. Believe it or not, I did not take pen and paper and try to capture these experiences. Instead, I engaged them fully, living in the moment, and later (when I had time to pop in a coffee shop or relax during some downtime in our hotel) I released everything I could on the page. It was interesting in retrospect to see how I remembered each event and what stuck out in my mind as important. I think I waded through a lot of the initial junk that would have cluttered up my mind if I wrote as I was "in it."

Meet the natives.
This is a photo of me, my pilot Blair, and the Cessna 172 that we took over Resurrection Bay surrounding Seward. Our good friends, Josh and Jessica, were gracious enough to introduce us to a host of amazing people that regaled us with stories of life in Alaska. Ken, Fred, and Blair are just a few of the people we met, but I cannot begin to tell you how much they influenced the trajectory of my book. The stories they told and the wisdom they shared will play a huge role in the unfolding of my tale. I hope that I can do justice to the tidbits of life that they so graciously blessed me with.

Have an open mind.
Before we went to Alaska, I thought I had a pretty good idea of where my story was going. I knew where my pilot would take-off from, and I knew how his tale would unfold. Several days in Alaska uprooted many of my well-laid plans! For example, the town of Seward wasn't even on my radar--until I went there and realized that it was the absolute perfect setting for part of my book. And who knew that Resurrection Bay, a deep bay on the Kenai Peninsula would play a significant role? Honestly, I didn't even know it existed. At first, it was a little unnerving to watch some of the details of my story unravel, but I'm glad that I was able to hold my intentions loosely--the book is going to be much, much stronger for it.

Stay tuned on Thursday for more research insights (and more of my Alaska photos)! :)

Your turn: What is something you've learned in researching for a book or story?


  1. How amazing!! I want to go on a research trip!

  2. Lovely pictures! I would love to go to Alaska someday. There's a TV show from the 90s called "Northern Exposure"--I would give anything to live in the town that it's set. Gorgeous and full of incredible characters. Sigh...Haha.