N. Renee Brown

Part-time Author, Full-time Book Junkie

Book Research is FUN!

So a friend of mine, from the writing group, is working on a novel with a blacksmith as a main character.  She’d been doing book research and decided it was time to “invade” the Blacksmithing Guild of the Potomac. 

So we did.

I accompanied her and another member of the group to the meeting announcing itself as “Beginners Night”.  We arrived at a nature center and found men talking in the parking lot…they were members and told us where we needed to go…down an unlit path to a building illuminated by one lone light shining on its far end.  EEP?  No not really, it was a neat place (what little we could see of it) and with the moon half full it was more than light enough for J. and I .  S (the other friend) even had a flashlight with her, so if we needed it we could have called upon her.

We braved the “wilderness” and made it to a wonderful little wooden building…no windows, great big double doors, and metal hanging from every wall.   At one end the forge held court, men (already at work) paying it homage, their sweat scarce in the frigid winter night but the intensity of their eyes offering enough.  In the center, a potbellied stove tried to heat the far end of the room, men just coming in clustered around it trying to warm their hands and cheeks…but more importantly reconnecting with friends that gathered there as well.  Scrap of all shapes and sizes piled into the corners and spilled out to tug at your pant legs as if begging to be used once more, and turned into something beautiful and useful.  Reclaimed scrap, examples of how to makes leaves and twists, nails and hooks, and one impressive dragon head blowing smoke filled my eyes and fired my imagination with possibilities.  And over it all the smell of smoke that wasn’t really wood but had a sort of oily metal tang. 

It was a magical place, one that instantly fired my writers brain…too bad I wasn’t writing something including a blacksmith (must remedy that, ASAP!!!)…but even better were the men there.  Now, this is not the first “all male” enclave I have infiltrated, it’s not even the second, but on the whole my experiences with trespassing on the old grunt and spit club have not been very successful or fun.  (Astronomers are the worst!)  Yet, the blacksmiths…the blacksmiths were cool.  No better than cool, they were funny and welcoming and I had a terrific time. 

Normally, when you are new someone “adopts” you and shows you around, and introduces you to people…well, C was our adopter.  C started off our night with an off-color joke and the rest was one guffaw after the next.  S described him as puppy-like, but with a dirty streak a mile wide, and that sums it up.  He was sweet and funny and introduced us to everyone we knew.  The best thing though…he wasn’t the only one to adopt us.  A LOT of the men talked to us and gave us pointers and looked out for us, they were the most welcoming grunt and spit club I’ve ever encountered.  They sat with us and talked about blacksmithing and about the love of anvil and hammer…and by doing that infused all 3 of us with a desire to return again to laugh with them.

See, not all book research is dry reading and internet searches.  Sometimes it’s magical and creative and you walk away with a leaf that is a little bit deformed but all yours.


Find your peace and live it…even if it gives you a sore arm and hand,