Sunday, March 8, 2009

Research Riches

DISCLAIMER: This is not an ad for nor endorsement of a certain on-line auction site. But I have to share.

Poet and fellow flaneur, Julie Larios, recently shared her passion for collecting old snapshots, especially those of families eating together. She purchases these photos off the afore-mentioned website, essentially giving them a new home and a new life as a muse for her poetic explorations of the temporal nature of life.

I loved this concept and have begun to use it, adding my own twist. While I do love old photos (and used them a lot in doing the research for Hattie Big Sky), it's people's words and stories that tug at my heart, pique my interest and get my creative juices flowing. I read dozens of personal diaries and journals during the 4 years I worked on HBS, but it wasn't until I chatted with Julie that I realized that the internet may provide another way to go about my research.

Here is my first successful purchase:
A collection of love letters to and from a nurse during WWII. It's sad that her family didn't want the letters, but I am pleased to rescue them and, in doing so, perhaps rescue a bit of her story. I don't have any idea how I'm going to use these yet but one thing I've learned from trying hard to be a flaneur is the importance of gathering observations about the world without being in such a hurry to categorize them, and put them to work.

Maybe there are offbeat ways you collect stuff for research and creative inspiration -- I'd love to know what they are!

In the meantime, I've got to go -- I'm about to be outbid on a Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. You'll know why I'm eager to get this item if you check back in tomorrow for my interview with the lovely and generous Susan Patron.


  1. what a fabulous idea. The sight of those letters strewn about in the photo evokes a reaction similar to seeing buried treasure? Such a find.

    Can't wait to read about Susan. Loved that Lucky book.

  2. I too love old photos, and have purchased a few for reasons I've never quite been able to explain. I've been wondering how to get my hands on (literally) personal writings as well. This is a treasure trove for the imagination. Thanks for the great tip! (Going shopping now...) :)

  3. Please don't anyone go into debt because of this suggestion!