Writing is often a solitary and lonely endeavor. Unlike music, which is commonly (though not always) a collaborative process, writing tends to be one writer, typing away at a word processor.
The internet, that whipping boy of modern civilization, is a terrific boon to the writer. Research is only ever a click away, and there are numerous internet based writing organizations and communities that help with the isolation.
I am a member of two of those: one for poetry and one for fiction.
This is the tale of making connections through those communities, as well as ones in real life, and what happens when you have questions that a quick net search won't answer.
As part of "Future Tense," I needed information on foster care. My main character is a teenage foster kid. What I know about the foster system is distorted through the lens of television police procedural and crime scene shows. I knew I needed some better source material to plase my character's actions and reactions in context. It also was critical to have the character's foster parents feel real and three dimensional. So I asked questions, both in my online communities and through real-life connections.
My online writer friends gave me links and information that helped me tremendously. But I needed more.
It just so happens, that I am the human half of a certified dog therapy team through a local therapy dog organization. Tigger and I have often done visits to an afterschool program organized for children who live in homeless shelters and transitional housing. I figured that the organization might know of a social worker who would be willing to let me pick his or her brain about the foster system.
One email, and voila. I have an appointment to have coffee with a lovely woman who was interested in the novel and wanted to help me get the details right.
The other issue that came up in working on the novel was reading tarot cards. I honestly didn't know at the start of this at the beginning of the month, that not only would I have a tarot card reading character, but that she would be critical to the plot!
I know almost nothing about tarot cards, other than what I have seen in other books and tv shows. So off I went to my writing networks, and lo and behold, not one, but two tarot card readers who have both been immensely helpful and generous with their time.
I can only hope to repay their generosity, both in kind and in paying it forward to a writer approaching me with questions.
To my angel helpers--thank you!