Sarah J. Carlson

Contemporary Young Adult Author

(Not so) epic pilgramage for my WIP, part 1


So I was recently back home in the good ol’ US of A, which was very exciting because I hadn’t left the Asian continent in 8 months. I went back for a sad reason, a funeral in Maryland (and that road trip was a whole different pilgrimage) but while I was there I made the most of it!

So I’m co-authoring a book set in one of my hometowns; I say “one of” because I moved around growing up and as an adult, so I guess I don’t have like a hometown. This particular hometown is what I call my “high school” hometown. We moved to Sparta, Wisconsin when I was in 8th grade. I graduated high school Sparta High. My parents lived there until a few years ago. So Sparta has a population under 10,000; it’s just west of the Mississippi River, surrounded by coulees and ridges and corn fields and barns and cows. Self-proclaimed bicycling capitol of America.

So I had a free couple days while friends and family where at work, and access to a car, so I decided to go on a photographic journey. In my novels, I like to have a strong sense of place. I also wanted to get re-acquainted with the culture. I say “culture” because living abroad has definitely convinced me that A) the US has a culture B) Wisconsin has a culture C) rural v. urban Wisconsin have different cultures.

So in the title of this post, I said “not so epic” pilgrimage, but I guess really it was kind of epic because, to get back to Wisconsin, I did have to travel 21 hours on three planes. Don’t get me started about the way back to Singapore! To make the trip back to Sparta MORE epic, I decided to take back roads to get there. It helped me transition my brain back into a more rural place, plus it’s just a pretty drive. So here’s the photographic part one of my epic pilgrimage for Rafa & Rose, the drive back to Sparta. There are lots of barns and it’s also corn harvesting season (the corn used for animal feed, I believe). Not going to lie, I actually have a thing for barns. I enjoy photographing them, even though I never lived on a farm. A lot of the farm equipment photos are taken just outside Sparta.

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And just for fun, an Amish farm and Amish buggies hanging outside Aldi’s. I passed a few buggies as I was driving, too!


Stay tuned for (Not so) epic pilgramage for my WIP, part 2. Probably to be released tomorrow.

Writer friends, what do you do to get a sense of place in your own mind for your novels? How do you capture it on the page?

8 thoughts on “(Not so) epic pilgramage for my WIP, part 1

  1. Jennifer Austin - Author

    Looks a lot like where I live in the Thumb of Michigan. Amish buggies and all. My first two novels were set in places I had already lived, with a small part of the second placed in a location I had limited experience with. I used a lot of pictures and imagination to make that setting work for me. My soon-to-be-started WIP will be placed in the wilds of New England, a place I’ve never been. I’ve already told hubby we need to go hiking for our next vacation so I can do research. I think he’s onboard, now I just have to convince the kids!


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Haha oh Amish buggies…. When I worked at Wal-Mart, they’d come in and buy Fruity Pebbles and Mountain Dew sometimes. Cracked me up. Definitely easier to write setting/culture where you know, but the internet makes researching setting a piece of cake lol. And Google Maps streetview :P. Cool setting for your next novel! What’ll your characters be doing in the wilds of NE?


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Yeah, but not everyone can do what I did lol. My last book was set in Belfast, and I have been there, but not when I was writing the book, before. So that was setting discovery as I went, too. This way IS easier LOL.


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