An “Aha” Moment

Today, Gay Ingram gives us an interesting post on those little moments of joy that pop up ever so often for a writer.  Gay is a multi-published award-winning writer.  She writes both fiction and non-fiction for both adults and young adults.  She often publishes articles on the craft of writing.  Today, she tells us how a casual question from her husband over dinner one night led to her recent book.

Nothing gives me more satisfaction as a writer than to uncover some obscure bit of information that sheds light on the times I happen to be writing about. One of these aha moments occurred during a dinner conversation with my husband. Totally irrelevant to anything, he asked me the question, “Did you know George Washington was a surveyor?”

Now that bit of trivia had always eluded me but his question aroused my curiosity. So I did some research and found out after his father’s death, George came across the man’s surveying tools and notebook. Many of the genteel landowners had their own surveying tools for private use, such as confirming boundaries, determining  right-of-ways, laying out fields, and building sites.

George studied his father’s notes and with hands-on practice, taught himself a skill that led to a profitable occupation. There were books as John Gibson’s Treatise on Surveying or John Love’s Geodesia, but most learned their profession on the job, as George did.

Our first president heads the list of many familiar historical figures who were surveyors, Thomas Jefferson among them. His chairmanship of the committee that established the Land Ordinance Act of 1785 resulted in the establishment of our country’s General Land Office in 1812.

Henry Thoreau also did surveying and advertised his services widely in the Concord, Massachusetts area. A surveyor by the name of William Burt invented the solar compass in the mid 1800s. This ingenious invention greatly improved measurements as it was not affected by the magnetism from vast deposits of ore underground.

In case you’re wondering, all this fascinating information led to the writing of my recently released YR biography, George Washington, From Boy Surveyor To Soldier. All part of the interesting and challenging life of being a writer.

Thanks, Gay.

Of course, she did leave me out. My first job out of college was as a surveyor for the City of Dallas.  (Well, yes, I did have a degree in English. But then, Thoreau was a poet.)

If you’ve had one of those “Aha moments,” tell us about it in a comment.  We’d all like to hear.  Thanks, jim.


3 thoughts on “An “Aha” Moment

  1. Between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I was a stripper. Before you gasp, a stripper was someone who stripped the covers off paperback books that didn’t sell in retail stores and were sent back to the publisher for rebates. It was cheaper to send back the cover than the entire book. The stripped books were sent to the city dump or ended up on my bed stand for reading. Shocked you, didn’t I?

    • Not shocked, but surprised. Back then, I suspect you didn’t know you’d be publishing books and hoping that your publisher didn’t need a stripper. You always have something interesting to say (or reveal, maybe). And always a delight. Thanks for stopping by.

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