New Hampshire Autumn ©Author Adventures

The Root

We thank the Frost Place for being at the right place at the right time for us to notice, because that is where the seed of the idea for this site began. (For details on that moment, visit our New Hampshire page on Robert Frost.)

After the seed was planted, the project grew to a hobby. By 2011, it evolved into a full-on quest, at our personal expense, to discover authentic literary landmarks throughout the United States. Our website concept began soon after that. Research blossomed into the public launch of our services in 2014, and continues today through our in-person visits, conversations in the field, and ongoing studies of authentic landmarks nationwide.

Before 2014, we could not find any website or organization that covered as full a menu of tour-able US literary landmarks as we were sure existed, based on our own literary travels and reading. After launching Author Adventures, the field seems to have grown, giving us confidence that we are on to something special.

Since we have been at it for nearly 20 years, and especially since 2011, we believe that Author Adventures was the first to bring together in one place information about authentic US literary landmarks nationwide as fully as our dreams led us to do. Another distinction is that all expenses toward launching the website were covered 100% through the personal investment of its creators.

The Trunk

When working as a librarian, I noticed that people are more likely to check out a book if they know a back story on the author, something personal that makes the reading experience more real.

My excitement became contagious. When telling stories about authors, “Really?!” or “Seriously?!” became a frequent reaction. Just read about Jack London‘s search for gold or Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s international race against book pirates, tell someone else, and you will see what I mean.

Then it happened. That “a-ha” moment when you instantly realize why your idea strikes so many people the same way. When just trying to be good at what you do is not enough. Something bigger awaits. The main point, the one beyond you, shakes you to the core, driving you to take that little idea, that small piece of conversation, and make the world a better place with it.

The Pollen

Ideas popped up when, on vacation traveling through major cities, old battlegrounds, and small farm towns, and I observed two things:

1: The United States has a major treasure trove of forgotten wonders. Jewels from its past that you have to see, personally, for their priceless value to sink in. Homes, schools, and workplaces where ideas were born, where creativity was relied upon to put food on the table, and where smartly crafted writing changed the way the nation thought.

With so many places like this still around, why are they forgotten? Sometimes a high ticket price keeps people out. Sometimes donations aren’t enough to keep it going. And, sometimes, visitors don’t know what to look for, what makes these places so fascinating.

2: Many parts of America are not doing as well as they did. On the trip, poverty was visible, from train stations to mountain lands. Parents who struggle to feed their children, adults without work, and the elderly not getting quality care. It was everywhere.

Barefooted children were seen running in the shadows of an enormous prison. and adults of working age were seen standing in doorways of row-houses, looking worn and hopeless. We met families whose children were up before dawn to handle the chores for traveling strangers being accommodated in their homes. This sounds more like the 1930s than today, but some US towns are reliving those times right now, and many are within easy reach of the grounds that produced some of America’s finest thinkers.

The Branches

After these travels, I realized that Author Adventures might be a way to help. Awakening travelers to the heritage of US writers would not only enrich family journeys, but would benefit the small businesses near the author sites too, which would then help people who live or work in the area to keep their jobs going, set dinner on their tables, pay their house bills, and provide for their families.

That motivated me to work hard on the site, getting up early and staying up late to fill its pages. But, since I worked two jobs and had a busy home life, it did not take me long to realize the project was too ambitious to do alone. A team needed to be built. It now includes high school and college students, educators who contribute research, writing, and photography, and a maker of historic literary dolls.

Without the posse, along with ideas from our readers, this site would never have happened.

The Leaves

Over the past few years, we have heard some exciting success stories, such as:

  • A grandfather used it to explain to younger generations of his family the importance of an author who was their ancestor.
  • Fans of an author promoted the author’s Author Adventures page to raise awareness of their fundraising campaign to save the author’s home.
  • A teacher received a fellowship that enabled her to create her own national literary itinerary using Author Adventures as a guidebook.
  • Parents have commended us after taking their children on some of our trails.
  • A retired editor of a major newspaper donated weeks of professional research to ensure literary landmark coverage of her city.
  • College students from other nations were inspired by Author Adventures to ask how they could expand the idea to their home countries.
  • Our cartographer was awarded a prestigious scholarship from an institution that identified Author Adventures as one of the reasons for her award.

That is our story. Hope you enjoy Author Adventures as much as we enjoy bringing it to you!

Patricia Smart