Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Expertise Exchange

I don't know about you, but I often wish I could talk to an expert when my characters are involved with things I know nothing about. The last thing I want is for someone who actually knows what he's talking about to read my book and think, "Wow, it's clear this writer was making things up as she went."

To participate, just leave a comment with your name and e-mail address as well as a few words about what you're an expert in and what you need expert help with. (Even if you don't need help with anything at the moment, you can still share your areas of expertise with us!) Feel free to include fields you've worked in or studied, hobbies or activities you've participated in, places you've been, cultures you know. And anything else you consider yourself to be an expert in. I'll go first:

Name: Krista Van Dolzer
E-mail address: kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com

What I'm an expert in: Mathematics, education, economics (which is actually cooler than you think!). I was on my high school's speech and debate team, so I'm very familiar with those kinds of tournaments and events, especially policy and oratory. I also play the piano, so I have a working knowledge of piano techinique and music theory. I grew up along the Wasatch Front in northern Utah and still visit often, so I'm very familiar with the Salt Lake and Provo areas. And I live in southern Nevada now, so I'm pretty familiar with the desert. I also know a lot of Mormons (and happen to be one myself).

What I need expert help with: Karina, the main character in Bonnie, is a swimmer, and Matthew is a dancer, so I'd love to chat with someone who was on his or her high school swim team and/or someone who's studied contemporary ballet, just so I can get some of the jargon down and get a feel for what practices and meets are like.

If you find someone in the comments you think you could help--or someone you think could help you--definitely get in touch! (And if you're a swimmer and/or dancer, please, please e-mail me!)


Carla Luna Cullen said...

Hi Krista,

Name: Carla Cullen
Email: carlalunacullen(at)gmail(dot)com

What a great idea! I used to be an archaeologist, so I know what it's like to work on a real dig (hint, most of archaeology isn't as cool as Indiana Jones!). I also studied Islamic Art & Architecture in grad school, and I've been to a bunch of places - Turkey, Tunisia, Cyprus, India, Jordan, Spain. Right now, I live in Wisconsin, but I spent 10 years in L.A. and grew up on Vancouver Island, in Canada, so I have a good knowledge of those places.

I'd love to get the name of anyone who has spent a lot of time in Paris, because it might be a setting for my next book. Also, anyone with behind-the-scenes knowledge of circus life. Thanks!

Kathleen Basi said...

Name: Kathleen Basi
Email: kathleenbasi (at) gmail (dot) com

I have a daughter with Down syndrome, and I'm a classical flutist with two degrees in music. I grew up on a hog, cattle & crop farm in Missouri (give me pigs over cows any day!) and helped butcher chickens when I was a kid, so I've actually seen a chicken run around with its head off.

I'm a passionate Catholic, too, with a pretty good background in liturgy, and I worked in a parish for four years. Catholics are portrayed wrongly ALL.THE.TIME, so please take me up on any help on that score!

As for need...I need someone with background in wine country and winemaking--any experience, really, but particularly Napa. I have too many small kids to allow me to go take a proper trip out there to collect scenes, etc., and my memory of my honeymoon 13 years ago is not vivid enough for novelization.

Anonymous said...

Name: Michelle Mason
Email: mfaszold(at)hotmail(dot)com

What I'm an expert in: Public Relations. I worked at a PR agency for ten years and hold the Accredited in PR designation. Most of my clients were in commercial real estate, so I know a lot about how buildings are put together. I also managed an internship program. I've lived in St. Louis most of my life, except for four years in Waco, TX, for college. I'm Southern Baptist and a music minister's kid. I've played the violin for 25 years. I also have access to a composer (my dad), a fourth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do (my mom), and a stock analyst (my husband).

I don't have a particular need at the moment but thought I'd throw my expertise out there in case it matches what someone else needs. Such a great idea!

Liana said...

Name: Liana Brooks
Email: liana.brooks1 at gmail

I have a bachelors in marine biology where my focus of study was red tide and sharks (not related). I'm married to the army and can break down all the ranks and acronyms plus how army culture works. I've lived all over the US, with a lot of time spent in the Deep South. Culture, food, geography, edible plants, or poisonous critters? I've got ya covered!

In my free time I spelunk and SCUBA dive, I have four kids, two are special needs. One has an Audio Processing Disorder and the other has partial hearing loss. If you have a character dealing with that, speech therapy, raising a special needs child, IEPs or anything like that I can help. I also played drums and was in the marching band in high school. I don't think anyone writes books about band geeks, but if you want to I can tell you what it was like!

I was also a cub scout leader for several years, I teach summer science camps, and homeschool during the summer. On Sunday's I teach Sunday School and I'm LDS raised by a pagan and an atheist.

I would love to chat with someone who has a background in forensic science, astrobiology, or a Scottish accent.

Anonymous said...

I have a Ph.D. in German Literature and am married to a Spaniard. I've worked as a linguist at various software companies and pretty much love anything from other lands/cultures. Everything I've written so far has been set in a different country! As far as languages go, I'm fluent in German and Spanish and am happy to answer questions.

In high school, I danced ballet and had a cute, geeky boyfriend, but I married a cuter, geekier one many moons later. We have five-year-old twin girls so I know all about the twin scene now! :-)

Anonymous said...

Name: Dawn Allen
Email: dawnallen20(at)

I have 18 years of teaching experience in junior high and high school and now teach college students. My background includes debate and theatre. I directed and acted but the nerd in me liked writing better.

I'm Irish Italian so have knowledge of two interesting cultures. I also grew up in a city and now live on a ranch in the country so have experienced that. We have horses and cattle. I'm in Kansas which is NOT as flat as it's painted to be.

I raised sons who were into cars and running so I have no knowledge of ballet. Sorry cause I'd like to help you.

Kathleen said...

Kathleen S. Allen
gaelicfairie at gmail dot com
I've lived in Michigan, California and NYC. Theater major, teacher including college, play guitar, Irish background, did both ballet and tap as a child until teen years, also have twins.

LenaLothanas said...

Name: Lena
E-mail address: nirliq(at)gmx(dot)de

What I'm an expert in: Germany/German language. I'm a native speaker and would be happy to help with small translations, names, and any type of question about Germany. Cities I know best are Dresden and Hamburg. I generally know the east and north better than the south and west of the country.

I have graphemic and color-sound synesthesia - happy to help with that, too.

I have some first-hand and lots of second-hand knowledge of congenital amputation/limb differences (especially upper extremities)(and limited knowledge of artificial limbs).

I have a degree in both cultural anthropology and (English) linguistics - can't guarantee I'll know the answer to your question, but I'll do my best.

Various things I have some experience with: Geocaching, canoeing/kayaking, archery (limited knowledge), vegetarianism, traveling in Europe.

What I need expert help with: The MC in my YA novel is a (manual) wheelchair-user. I'd love to find someone who could help make sure I'm not making any embarrassing mistakes.

Nora Lester Murad said...

I'm Nora Lester Murad and you can reach me at

I live in Palestine and know a lot about Palestinian and Arabic culture and Middle East politics. I know a lot about nursing. I know a lot about international aid, and some issues of poverty.

One of my MCs is an artist and I'd love some help with styles of painting. By the way, there is sexual abuse in my book and I didn't know anything about it (thank goodness) so I contacted a professional therapist and she happily spent three different one-hour sessions with me on the phone at no charge. I didn't have as much luck finding a generous divorce lawyer, though, but it all worked out.

Mandy P. said...

Name: Mandy P.
Email: bittersweet(dot)fountain(at)gmail(dot)com

What I'm an expert in: Rocket Science. Seriously, I have a bachelors and masters in Aerospace Engineering. My specialty is satellites (design, space dynamics, etc), though I'm also very familiar with airplanes (design, aerodynamics, etc).

I also have a lot of experience as a military kid. One of my pet peeves in books/movies is the way military kids are portrayed. I moved sixteen times growing up and loved every moment of it.

I've worked at both Disney World (operated Space Mountain) and NASA (as a ground systems design engineer at Kennedy Space Center), and though "expert" might be a strong word, I'm very familiar with both places. (Basically it means I've been underground at Disney and I've sat inside the space shuttle.)

I'm also a Christian, generally of the Baptist flavor. I'm basically the sort of Christian that adjectives like "born-again", "evangelical" and "Bible-Thumping" get applied to (though as an engineer whose a huge geek, I meet almost none of the stereotypes), and would be delighted to help anyone make their Christian (of the described flavor) character seem more realistic.

Currently both of my WIPs are SF and fairly within my expertise, but I'm super happy to help anyone!

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

What a fab idea, Krista! I loved reading through all of these.

I'm a Baptist-flavored Christian, too. ha ha! (Loved Mandy P.'s description)

I've lived many years in both Hong Kong and mainland China (Tianjin - near Beijing). I have first-hand China-adoption experience and worked in an orphanage when I lived in Mainland China. One of my kids has cleft lip and palate, so I know a lot about that, too.

You can reach me at a2sonnichsen (at) gmail (dot) com if I can help with anything.

I have an idea for a future novel that involves a Chinese opera troupe in the 1930's. I know it's a long shot, but if anyone has expertise in the history of Cantonese opera (I've sung a little Yueju, but am definitely not an expert), let me know! :)

Amelia Loken said...

This is such a fabulous idea!
Name: Amelia
Email: amloken (at) gmail (dot) com

I love music and was a choir/drama geek in highschool. Thought I would become a world-famous opera singer until the middle of my first year of college. Then I decided I could be happy in my church choir and singing my future kiddos to sleep. But music is still a huge deal in my life.

I know ASL and quite a bit of deaf culture through deaf friends. I take fencing lessons through USA Fencing. Still a bit of a newbie, but quite passionate about it. Have studied quite a bit of medieval stuff for my historical novels. Love history and have an overall wide shallow knowledge with a few bits of deeper knowledge in specific areas.

Have lived all over US. Intermountain west, Midwest, Northern Virginia/DC area, and now in Little Rock, Arkansas.

I'm querying a medieval based fairy tale retelling. My needs are any info regarding Belgium/Luxemburg/Netherlands area in the Renaissance for my next novel that needs to emerge from the depths of the first draft. Also mountain climbing. I've done a bit of repelling (40 ft). But beyond that, I'm clueless.

Melissa Sarno said...

I am in love with this idea.

Name: Melissa Sarno
Email: thistooblog (at) gmail (dot) com

I live in New York City. I played piano and tennis for many years and have experience on track and tennis teams. I have lived in London and travelled through Europe (if you need basic impressions of certain European cities) I have experience working in reality television, film, and on a presidential campaign. And I know the ins and outs of working for a toy company.

I'm Italian-American. I was raised Catholic and know a bit about that experience (in terms of catechism and attending mass but limited knowledge of religion)

I am looking for someone who has experience (or knows someone who does) fishing, oyster farming, or clamming. And someone who has lived on a house boat!

Carrie-Anne said...

What a groovy idea!

(Pen) Name: Carrie-Anne
E-mail: CarrieAnne79 (at) yahoo (dot) com

My degree is in history and I've been writing historical fiction for probably 25 years now (since I was 8 years old). For about 20 years, I've exclusively written 20th century historical, though I have plans to someday return to the 19th and 18th centuries, and explore other eras. I'm glad to help anyone writing historical, particularly 20th century historical. My areas of expertise are Russian history (particularly late 19th century/all 20th century) and World War II (the Shoah and the American homefront, not so much actual battles). Though I haven't written on the Civil War, the American pioneers, or American Colonial life in ages, I'm still very in the know about those parts of history.

I'm a student of world religions, and think it's fair to say I know a good bit more about faiths like Hinduism, Jainism, and Islam than the average Westerner. I affiliate with an Orthodox synagogue (though personally I'm not 100% Orthodox yet), and can help you with avoiding misinformation and stereotypes about Orthodoxy. I'd love to provide opinions and advice if you're writing in particular about Ancient Indian mythohistory or Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Taoism, or Islam.

I'm an aspiring hyperpolyglot and have studied about 15 languages over the years. I'll try to help with translating or looking over words, phrases, and cultural flavor if your characters speak languages including Russian, Estonian, Georgian, Armenian, German, Dutch, Italian, French, Spanish, Hungarian, Hebrew, Japanese, Polish, Serbian, Bulgarian, Czech, and Swedish.

I'm also a numismatist (coin collector) and can help with American coinage. I'm not so much into foreign coins or paper money period. I'm also a longtime philatelist (stamp collector) and marble collector, and love antique cars. I don't have the money or land for collecting old cars, but I do know a fair bit about pre-1950 cars, esp. Brass Age. And if you're writing a left-handed character, I can help you with left-handed culture and the whole lefty experience. Finally, I'm a huge birth junkie, and have done a great deal of reading on natural childbirth and the history of hospital birth in America.

Right now I'd love to talk with someone who knows more about Iranian/Persian history (esp. 1930s-1940s) than I do. I'm particularly interested in the Armenian, Georgian, and Russian émigré communities that were established in the Isfahan region of Persia at this time.

Carrie Allen said...

Hi Krista,
I totally agree about needing experts! I worked in sports medicine for many years, including both high school and collegiate swim teams. I have spent many hours sweating on the pool decks during meets, traveling with the team for winter training trip and trying to keep them alive until taper. My chosen area of research during this time was on overuse shoulder injuries of swimmers, specifically screening for prevention. I'm happy to help with any swim questions you have (although I'm a dud with ballet!) Recently, I read a book with a lot of incorrect sport logistics and I was so disturbed by these details that I couldn't enjoy the story or the characters! So now I'm hyper-aware of making other "experts" cringe!

Anonymous said...

PM Kester
phalia at journalist dot com

I have a background in clinical research and medical sciences - cardiology, neurosurgery, dentistry, eye surgery.

So if anyone is doing something medical related - I could possibly be helpful:)

Kristin Lenz said...

Wow- what a great idea and such a talented group with so much experience to share! I'm a social worker and have worked in schools, hospitals, and mental health clinics with children and families.