Something strange and alchemical happens when I have an idea for a book and I start writing; it’s as if the universe gets behind me and wants me to keep writing. It puts things in my path that I can’t help but discover, and which never fail to make my books better. It makes magical moments of serendipity happen.
I have written about some of this before. Visiting a flower-work atelier in Paris and deciding that the main character in The Paris Seamstress, Estella, would not be an ordinary seamstress but would practice flower-work and then going to the Met museum in New York and finding a whole exhibition devoted to haute couture métiers, including an extensive collection of dresses featuring flower-work.
A similar thing happened to me this week, as I plunged into more research, this time for the manuscript I’m working on now, The Dior Bequest.
Let the World Know What You’re Doing
I’ve discovered, over the years, that even though I sometimes feel like my book ideas are badly formed and it might be a bit embarrassing to try to talk to others about them, if you don’t, the serendipity doesn’t happen. The main character in the contemporary thread of The Dior Bequest is a fashion conservator/textile scientist and I wanted to talk to someone who has this job to make my book more authentic.
I know that the Powerhouse Museum has one of Australia’s best collections of fashion so I hopped onto their website. There were no contact details for their conservators, but there were details for the archives. So I sent off an email to the archives, explaining who I was and what I was doing and that I was interested in talking to a conservator and, if possible, seeing what a fashion conservator does.
As I’m writing these emails, I always feel awkward because why would a conservator want to give up their work time to help me? And am I being too bold by asking to have a look behind the scenes at the museum? But I know that if I don’t ask, I definitely won’t get. If I do ask, I just might.
And so it proved to be. My email found its way from the archives to one of the fashion conservators and, of all the coincidences, she just happened to be reading The Paris Seamstress! So she knew who I was and was more than happy to help me. I couldn’t believe it. But what happened next just re-affirmed my belief in serendipity, the universe helping me, and why it’s always good to tell people what you’re doing.
What Happened Next
I posted about the wonderful coincidence I’ve just described above on Facebook. And more offers of help came flooding in – I think I have the nicest readers in the world!
It turned out that the wife of a person who’d been to one of my courses runs a facility that uses specialist equipment to help museums examine cultural artefacts – like historical fashion garments – to assist with dating and analysis of materials used etc. He offered to put me in touch with his wife and so now I’ll also be chatting to her and visiting her facility when I’m in Sydney.
And yet another lovely person contacted me to let me know they used to work at the Yves Saint Laurent museum in Paris (Yves Saint Laurent used to work for Christian Dior) and might be able to put me in touch with the museum when I’m going to be in Paris in December!
If you’re saying oh my goodness at this point you can only imagine what I was saying! Magnificent examples of serendipity at work and I’ve taken it as a clear sign that I should definitely write this book! I’ll be sure to post all about my trip to Sydney in August once it’s done.