Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fight the Power!

From the files of the very, very strange...

I have a scene in my novel where the characters, who are fighting for a community garden, must state their case in front of a suburban zoning board. Where did I find myself last night? In front of a suburban zoning board, fighting to keep our village from paving a patch of land adjacent to my property. Life imitating art, right? When I wrote the zoning board scene, I figured I got the vibe mostly right because I've sat in tons of PTO & Town Hall meetings, and I watched a Village Board meeting on government access. Turns out nothing beats actually putting yourself in your character's shoes. I stood in front of the microphone, stating my reasons in a (surprising to me) calm manner, but a trickle of sweat ran down my back, even though the room was freezing, and I was keenly aware of the camera filming me--it made me self-conscious and put me at a disadvantage with the board, who, because our suburb televises board meetings, are so used to being filmed they hardly noticed. I was surprised at how cleanly some people fit into stereotypes--the glad-handing mayor, the smarmy rich guy who liked to hear himself talk, the no-nonsense son of immigrants capable of cutting through the BS.

In the end, the board voted against us, 3-2. I'm disappointed, but not ready to give up. The Village Manager told me, "It's not over until the shovel hits the dirt." And he's right. I can fight pretty darn hard, and I will.

But I also learned an important lesson about research. Internet research is great, but nothing beats the real deal. Don't you agree?


  1. Oh my gosh! This is crazy! You're totally channelling Fiona and I love it.

  2. I worry about this with my WIP which starts in LA. I was there once. I was nine! So I was writing one night and I had to post on facebook "What does LA Smell like at night, in the spring?"

    I am so glad someone answered me! But it would have been so much better if I knew about Jacaranda blossoms myself!

    Great post! I hope you win your fight.

  3. Thanks, Suzanne. And, guess what? I'm eating figs! Thanks for the suggestion.

  4. That's so funny that you found yourself in a similar position. And my days in court, with smarmy ambulance chasers and corrupt judges, further confirm how stereotypes exist for a reason.

  5. Alexa, I should hire you to represent me!

  6. So, so weird. So, were the Wondertwins the ones filming??