Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Just Catching Grasshoppers...

This story really is writing-related. I promise.

Years ago, on my first ever backpacking trip, my husband and I did a summer hike in Kings Canyon National Park, in the Sierras. We were green as the meadows (experience-wise). Not one lick of overnight backpacking experience. But off we went, ready for adventure. Well, our first night out, all of our food was stolen by a very dexterous raccoon (he managed to untie the straps on our backpacks). The real miracle was that a bear didn't get to it first, as we didn't even hang our food (I said we were green) and we were in the heart of black bear country.

So there we were, the big adventurers, with no food. My husband gave out a big sigh and said, "Well, we'll just have to catch some grasshoppers." I was taken back. "I am NOT going to eat grasshoppers!" I declared. I had my limits. After he stopped laughing, he explained that he needed grasshoppers as bait to catch trout. Oh. Heh, heh. Yeah, bait. Good idea. (can you see why I married this man?)

So there we were, in the middle of a meadow, lunging around attempting to catch the feisty little critters. And they're quick! After what seemed like hours (probably more like minutes), we caught plenty enough for my husband to catch a nice dinner's worth of trout. Okay, that was a stretch. I didn't catch any. My husband had all the success. I just wasn't quick enough. But I still got to eat that night (again, see why I married this guy?).

Okay, how does this relate to writing, you might wonder? Well, I've discovered during my brief experience with Vermont College, that researching is a lot like catching grasshoppers. VC has a fabulous library, the Gary Library, which gives students access to multiple research possibilities. But sorting through all that's out there is a lot like catching grasshoppers. At least for me. I find myself spending hours of time and energy sifting through information, getting close, almost there, that grasshopper is j-u-s-t within my r-e-a-c-h, only to let it get away because the data isn't quite what I needed. Sigh...onto the next big juicy victim. At the end of my time, I might only have one, two or even no bits of information to add to my project, but it's what I have to do in order to survive. Kinda like catching grasshoppers that summer afternoon so many years ago.

So, for those who do research with academic papers, articles or non-fiction work (like this picture book project I committed to then realized I probably have six months of research to do before I can even begin to write), happy researching!

And remember, sometimes all it takes is one grasshopper to eat well.

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