First of all, let me say that looking stuff up on line is not “research.” Scientists developing a Covid vaccine takes research. Archeologists uncovering an ancient civilization takes research. Translating Egyptian hieroglyphics from a recently discovered tomb requires research. Building, launching, and landing a Mars rover takes research. When I research a topic for my stories, I look things up (mostly online) and investigate so I don’t sound like a complete idiot when I write my FICTION about it. It doesn’t make me an expert on the topic.
That being said, I learn quite a lot. And I estimate that a percentage of what I learn is actually based on research. So, here are some things I “researched” for my stories this week.
“What are the best and oldest ski resorts within driving distance of the locale I’ve chosen in New York for the setting of my new work in progress, A Place Among Peers?” Working assumption at this time is Bristol Mountain near Canandaigua.
“When were their ski lifts put in operation?” Working assumption is mid-70s.
“What are the best/raciest/most popular classic French authors?” List includes Flaubert, de Laclos, de Beauvoir, de Balzac, and Sand. I add to that the expatriate writers Anais Nin and Henry Miller.
“Where can I get a butcher’s certificate like Jett Blackburn’s in my new Devon Layne WIP Drawing on the Dark Side of the Brain 2?” Madison Area Technical College.
“What kind of paint is used for body painting?” A variety that includes makeup based paint, Kryolon Aquacolor, Ben Nye Magic Liquid Paint, airbrush paint, acrylic, and food dye and ivory soap.
“Is IGA (Independent Grocers Alliance) still active?” Very much so. With store franchises all over the world! Much bigger than I anticipated. Including Russia and China? And two within the market area I was searching. Wow!
“What are the duties of a high school athletics team manager that I’ll need to know to write the new Devon Layne WIP Team Manager?” Much like a theatre stage manager, a team manager is responsible for nearly everything but directly coaching the athletes. First aid, equipment, towels, warmups, schedule, scorers, parent volunteers, and everything else!
“How much do basketball uniforms cost?” About $110-125 for a full set of home and away uniforms, tear away warmup pants, shooting shirt, and 2 pairs of socks. Many toss in matching masks nowadays.
“Did you know a female wolverine is called an angeline?” No? Neither did I!
“How do you test for basketball tryouts?” That was as interesting as the duties of a manager. There is a speed, power, agility, reaction, and quickness test (SPARQ) with eight measurable exercises to determine how well prepared an athlete is to take the court. It ain’t easy!
“Is girls’ basketball in Iowa different than anywhere else?” I really got sucked into this one! Girls have been playing basketball in Iowa since the 1890s. But in 1925, the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) (all men), decided it wasn’t appropriate for girls to play competitive sports and refused to sanction the sport. A splinter group (still all men) formed their own association, the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) and immediately sanctioned teams in girls’ basketball. There are still two separate organizations over boys’ and girls’ sports in Iowa.
BUT… This is where it gets interesting. The men of the IGHSAU still felt girls were less athletic and needed special rules that included a smaller ball and six player teams (six-on-six basketball). The teams didn’t run up and down the court. They were divided into three guards and three forwards. The guards were responsible for guarding the goal against the other team scoring. They were completely defensive and could not cross the centerline! They had to pass the ball to a forward, who was the offensive player attempting to score. The forwards, too, were not allowed to cross the centerline from their end of the court.
This was girls’ basketball in Iowa until 1994 when the rules were rewritten to match the boys’ game. There is a great video produced by an eighth-grader at https://youtu.be/w2aPO7xZYbg that recaps the fascinating history of Girls’ Basketball in Iowa.
“Are there still different sizes of basketballs?” Yes! According to Spalding who makes the official tournament ball (TF-1000 Legacy), the basketballs come in several different sizes. Women’s basketball is played with a size 6 ball that is 28.5 inches in circumference. Even in the WNBA. Men’s basketball is played with a size 7 ball that is 29.5-30 inches in circumference. There are smaller sizes for junior high school and elementary school.
“Are teams divided up in 1A, 2A, 3A, and 4A classes?” Only if you add class 5A! Class 5A includes schools over ~840 students (and the largest is about 2200). Class 4A comprises schools with ~375-840 students. Class 3A is schools with ~210-375 students. Class 2A includes schools ~140-210 students. And the small school class, 1A includes 110 schools with ~25-140 students. In the 1990s, 75% of girls playing basketball in Iowa were from schools with fewer than 100 students. The FICTIONAL school I’ve chosen to write about is at the low end of Class 3A.
“Do I know any more about Iowa Girls Basketball?” You’ll have to read the book to find out. I certainly know more than I ever expected to know.
I also know the federal limits to the percentage of alcohol in moonshine, the Iowa State limits on distilling, bottling, and possessing distilled alcohol, and how to get hold of the DEA in Des Moines.
That’s a writer’s life for you. Absolutely nothing I’ve placed in this blog is factual based on real research. It’s only what I needed to know to write a convincing story. That allows me to create fanciful situations that we know would never happen, but they sound like they might actually happen. It looks real. And the more mundane the details are, the more reasonable the wild speculation seems.
Which is pretty much how we got QAnon, Proud Boys, Anti-vaxers, voter fraud, and all the other conspiracy theorists who almost sound like they know facts. In reality, they’re creating plotlines for stories that I could only dream about writing!