I know a little bit about a lot of things, but I'm an expert on very few. And I use the term "expert" loosely, because there is always more that can be learned about almost everything. That's why research is such an important part of my writing process. My stories are set in an other time and an other place - a place that's definitely not as technologically advanced as 2017 Dallas, TX. The people in my stories have a very different day-to-day reality than mine.
Now, since I write fantasy, I have some creative leeway when it comes to my world building. Example: The people of Amrantir have developed faster when it comes to the physics of sound (again, with fantasy/magical leeway), yet indoor plumbing is still relatively new and not a guarantee once you get outside of major cities.
It's great to be able to bend the rules and create some aspects of a story's reality entirely from scratch, but there are also instances in which I want to be sure I'm treating certain subjects as realistically as possible. That's where other experts come in.
For Perception, I sought feedback from both a bee expert and a violin expert just before the manuscript headed off to the editor. While I researched as thoroughly as possible, I'm not an expert in either of those fields, and I wanted trained eyes to catch anything I might have gotten wrong. The last thing I want is for a reader to be pulled out of a story with an eye-roll and a "she doesn't know what she's talking about." In a perfect situation, the mountain of research blends so seamlessly into the story that it goes unnoticed.
Good things I love research.
Enter, "Writers in the Field," a weekend-long research event (hosted by Writers Organizations Round Dallas, aka W.O.R.D.) with wide-ranging topics, but definitely suited for fantasy and sci-fi writers. And, bonus, it's within driving distance.
The multipotentialite in me (see this post) happy-danced as I meticulously went through the list of class offerings, marking possibilities, then arranging them by category before finally narrowing them down to the final selections.
True to its name, the weekend took place in a field. Well, only the most outdoorsy classes. The others were held in the various stages and buildings that make up the rest of the Amber Inn Academy of Arts, a site that also hosts Steampunk November (which sounds sooo tempting!). Splitting my time between the sunny field and shady stages, I learned about weapons, fighting styles, herbalism, horses, court dances, writing fight scenes, world building, and the list goes on. I tried my hand at lock-picking and took advantage of questioning experts in all sorts of topics. And most of it was hands-on, which is a huge advantage for writers because it helps make us better able to bring the story to life for the readers when we've actually experienced aspects of it ourselves.
The classes, instructors, staff and venue were fantastic! If I was pressed to pick a top three, it would be Writing Fight Scenes That Kick Butt, Country Healing and Herbalism, and Neo-Bartitsu, the First Mixed Martial Art, but I thoroughly enjoyed every class. And I learned SO MUCH.
This was the very first "Writers in the Field," though you would never have guessed it based on the experience. I'm already making plans to attend next year. That's right, Chapter Two is scheduled for October 13-14, 2018. Can't wait to see what they'll come up with!