Have you ever written about a place you’ve visited? I’m guessing that most authors have done this. How about writing about a place you’ve never visited? I’m sure a lot of us do that, too – springboarding off of our dreams and desires, we use our imagination to visit places we may never see in real life. Okay, how about this one: have you ever written about a place you haven’t been to, and then gone there?
I did that yesterday.
Our upcoming release in the José Picada, PI series (Act of Abduction) has multiple scenes that take place at the Lilac Festival in Rochester, NY. Until yesterday, I’d never been to this festival. I was curious to see how closely my imaginings of this annual event matched up with reality. Plus, it was a beautiful day out. So off we went.
I had envisioned a quaint festival with good food, arts and crafts for sale, a stage for live music, and tons of lilacs blooming everywhere.
What I actually saw: near chaos. Maybe it was the gorgeous weather. Maybe it was the fact that Rochesterians had survived the longest, coldest winter in recent history and were finally able to get out and celebrate spring. Or maybe the Lilac Festival is always a madhouse. Since I’d never been before, I don’t know the reason why; I just know that it was way bigger and busier than I’d expected. The paths between vendors were frequently bottlenecked, and my claustrophobic tendencies nearly kicked in.
That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves. We ate some yummy food, listened to a really good band, perused the art and craft items for sale, bought some delicious English toffee, gawked at the ridiculously long line of people waiting to purchase kettle corn, and strolled through the mostly-nonblooming lilac trees. That long, cold winter must have really pushed the growing season back; there were just a few blooms here and there.
We enjoyed our time at the Lilac Festival, but I’m in no hurry to go back. I prefer my fictional version. Have you ever had a similar experience?