It isn't often that I have the chance to talk about two of my favorite topics, history and writing, at the same time. This past weekend I had a wonderful opportunity to do a presentation titled "The Devil is in the Details: Incorporating History into Your Novel." I couldn't resist.
On Thursday evening, armed with a PowerPoint presentation and a handful of novels from some of my favorite historical mystery writers, Sarah and I headed out to Illinois. It is good that we both write mysteries. Our deductive powers got their first workout when "Greta", our rented Garmin, quit working. It wasn't Greta's fault that the rental company neglected to recharge her and gave us a charger that was broken, but just when we had to detour from our planned route, she died. We had to rely on our powers of deductive reasoning to find our hotel.
The next morning, we drove about twenty miles out of our way to the Indianapolis Airport to get a replacement charger for Greta (we named her for the great Greta Garbo). Confident that once we got out of the airport parking garage there would be no further complaints from the Garmin, Sarah and I set off again for Schaumburg. It didn't take long to realize that we were right about getting no complaints... Greta was still dead.
We got a map. For the next fifty miles, we discussed the fact that in another generation knowing how to read a map will be as foreign to children as understanding the difference between clockwise and counter clockwise.
Despite resorting to archaic navigational techniques, the rest of the trip went as smoothly as it could in eight to twelve lanes of traffic on unfamiliar roads. We arrived safely in Schaumburg and headed to the mall. Yes, the mall. Schaumburg once hosted the largest mall in the United States until the title was stolen by the Mall of America. It is still the largest shopping mall in a five state area. Besides, we had some time to kill before checking into our hotel.
On Saturday, we were up early. The car rental company opened at 7:30 AM and we were finally able to get the Garmin a working charger.
By 10 AM we were at the library. I was amazed to discover that there was a line of people waiting for the doors to open. It was awesome. For a moment, I thought everyone was there to attend Authorfest. Then the first people I spoke to didn't even know there was an author's event. The crowd waiting was there for the library. My ego might have been wounded if the nice couple hadn't wanted to hear all about my book. It is impossible to feel bad when a little old lady is really interested in what you write and thinks your wife is beautiful. I think I could live in Schaumburg, if it weren't for those Chicago winters.
The second surprise of the day was learning that the library has funding to run a lot of programs. Having a dozen authors come in and speak on a Saturday was just a normal business day for them. At the same time we were talking, there were photography classes, children's reading times, and a host of other events. When I think of the little libraries in Kentucky and the struggle they have just to keep the doors open, I can't help wondering what those librarians would think if they had funds for even one of the programs going on regularly in Schaumburg. Even here in Lexington, where we have some of the best libraries in the state, there are no lines outside waiting for the doors to open.
This isn't a complaint. I love our libraries; I just got a look at how much more is possible.