Wednesday, May 3, 2017

May #IWSG: All in the Name of Research



First Wed of Every Month


May IWSG Day Question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?




I am privileged to live in Mark Twain's boyhood hometown, where I can spy on the tourists and stick my nose in the past any day I please.

My favorite activity besides spying or eavesdropping, of course, is taking photographs. I think the twelve-year-old me has yet to grow up.

Part of my recent research for my current MG mystery led me to the most obvious place, hospitals. Teenage boys and accidents go together like peanut butter and jelly. Trust me, I know. Built in 1915, St. Elizabeth's Hospital still stands after more than a century. The abandoned rooms swirl with paranormal activity and trash and broken windows. Ghost hunters are drawn by the dozens to this old relic. The icing on the cake, there's a morgue in the basement. I needed to research one (preferably an autopsy room.) Since I'm writing MG, I had to keep it PG and lighthearted. Humor is a great coping mechanism for dealing with the macabre. I chose to avoid the low budget horror flick and leave the sightseeing to Ghostbusters or vandals, the internet being a safe alternative. But the exterior!! fueled my creative process.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Quincy Herald Whig


On a lighter note, my research also took me to the Mississippi River. Nice excuse for an early morning excursion.




For future research and stories, the Mark Twain Hotel holds a special place in my heart. Take my word for it, the architecture in the foyer is to die for. I will visit again someday. I've since lost the photos from my first trip back in time. Because the building is no longer a hotel (apartments), they keep the security pretty tight.


I can't wait to read everyone's interesting stories today! Happy researching, exploring, and eavesdropping. 


29 comments:

  1. Ah, you turned down the your of the morgue and autopsy rooms? Where's your sense of adventure? :-P

    IWSG May

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    1. When it was a local community college a few years ago, it would have been pretty easy to sneak inside and explore. But now it's under surveillance and the cops enjoy hanging out there. So...to avoid getting arrested, I opted to lurk and stalk the outside of the premises. :)

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  2. Internet is probably the better bet haha At least you can keep your stalking skills up being a tourist peeper.

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  3. Hee, hee. It's my awesome secret. No one is safe;)

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  4. It sounds like you've had some fun snooping, I mean, researching. ;)

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  5. I like the twelve year old Jennifer a lot and I also like the way she researches. I am sure snooping must be throwing up a whole lot of information :)

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    1. She is, was, a troublemaker, for sure.

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  6. So if there were guided tours of the hospital, you still wouldn't want to go inside?

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    1. On the contrary. I'd go inside in a heartbeat. In fact, the other night I saw two cops out front. I reeeaally wanted to ask them if they needed back-up before they descended into the abyss. LOL. They've since boarded up the only entrance. Sad day.

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  7. Living in Mark Twain's hometown would surely be a place for inspiration, with many research opportunities.

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    1. Endless. In fact, the longer I live here, the less I feel like I've covered all of Twain's territory. I better get to it!

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  8. Abandoned buildings are great to research and explore, even if you don't have a story for an excuse. I wish there were more buildings like that around where I live.

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    1. I love abandoned buildings minus the random hobos or squatters.

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  9. The hospital sounds so creepy! Definitely too dark for PG and light-hearted but maybe not for the horror writers among us...oh, who am I kidding? I'd be terrified! :)

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  10. So you mean you didn't break into the old, abandoned hospital? In the dead of night? (Wow, that sounds like a great set up for a story...)

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    1. Yes, yes it does. *Gets out laptop. Types furiously*

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  11. Hi, Jenny! Just thinking about the morgue in that old hospital makes my palms sweat. I wouldn't go there for anything! It sounds like you live in a fascinating place. Happy writing in May!

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    1. I'm curious to know the state of its current condition. Palms sweating too!

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  12. Jennifer, isn't taking photographs eaves dropping or spying?

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    1. Secret spy missions. My second career.

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  13. I love those abandoned buildings. It's a pity so many of them are too dangerous to venture into.

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    1. Me too. Yes, I'd be the one to fall through the basement steps or off the roof.

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  14. I would love to explore that old hospital. Especially with a camera.

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  15. No thanks to spooky old hospitals and mental asylums. I'd much rather take a walk by a river.

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  16. Great to live in a place with so much literary history. Just the exterior of that hospital looks foreboding. I'd love a chance to snoop around inside, though!

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  17. I never thought about it, but people-watching must indeed inspire the birth of many a novel character. It sounds like a lot of fun and I have been known to enjoy just sitting on a bench and watch the world/people go by, inventing stories about their life and past.

    When you live on a sailboat and anchor in a busy harbor, it is easy to eavesdrop, by listening in on conversations on the VHF radio. Quite entertaining sometimes. You just have to realize that you might be the one creating laughter at times on a neighboring boat as well.
    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

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  18. Research at the edge: ‘fieldwork can take you over different sorts of boundaries,’ says Bradley Garrett

    “Security will be extremely tight, as the threat assessment for this controversial event is high,” the conference invitation read. “Various overlapping law-enforcement entities employ facial and gait-recognition software via the CCTV cameras in use throughout the St Hilda’s [College, Oxford] facilities,” it warned.

    Arriving at the college for the event, participants had to pass through a series of doors marked “Keep Out!” and “No Trespassing!” to reach the conference room, where they were scanned with metal detectors by one of the organisers.

    But the fact that the detectors appeared to be made of foam – and that the tea and coffee table was ringed with homemade police tape – gave the game away that the warnings might not have been serious.

    The event was on “trespassing in fieldwork”, a subject made especially pertinent by the experiences of Bradley Garrett, a researcher at the University of Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment, who was first to speak at the symposium.

    As he detailed in these pages last week, Dr Garrett was arrested in 2012 and charged, alongside eight others, with conspiracy to commit criminal damage for joining a group of “place-hackers” – who explore the parts of cities that are usually off-limits, such as scaling the Shard and exploring disused London Underground stations – as part of his research.

    All but two of the defendants had the conspiracy charges against them dropped after proceedings at Blackfriars Crown Court started in April. Dr Garrett and one other co-defendant were released at the end of May with a conditional discharge for criminal damage – he later labelled the prosecution an “attack on intellectual freedom”.

    The Oxford event sought to consider how free anthropologists, ethnographers and other academics are to conduct fieldwork that might be considered as straying close to legal boundaries.
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