From November 2011-February 2012, we featured installments of a serialized novel called The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans, originally published online at the Mid-Continent Public Library’s Grandview Branch Blog.  The stories were penned by a library employee, Sally S, and were peppered with links to materials in the library’s catalog having to do with time travel, like a treasure hunt. Patrons and readers were encouraged to help direct the story by posting speculations and comments on each installment on the blog.

We were so delighted by this experiment, we wanted to know more– how did patrons react?  Will there be more interactive stories in Grandview’s future? This essay reveals the inspiration for the project and the writer’s artistic process, as well as the response from the community.  Enjoy!

Sally S, the genius behind "The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans", a serial novel published on the Grandview Blog

Engaging Online: Serial Fiction at Mid-Continent Library

by Sally S., Grandview Branch

The Grandview branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library has long been involved in artistic ventures. With regular events such as the Homeschool Art Fair, and monthly programs on photography, music, and history, Grandview endeavors to support the arts in all forms. With the start of The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans, a serialized novel telling the time-traveling escapades of Rachel and her best friend Leigh, the GV branch hopes to bring serialized fiction back into the public eye.

Our branch manager, Bob Miller (an avid Dickens fan) first came up with the idea for a serialized story as a way to get readers more involved in our branch blog. As Dickens released his early novels in serialized form, Bob thought a serial story would work well in today’s blogging universe. He discussed the idea with Jeff D, one of our clerks, and then came to me.

In all honesty, I’d never thought about writing a serialized story. I knew it was how Dickens had gotten his start and that the March girls put out their own serial newsletter (The Pickwick Papers, itself based off Dicken’s first novel) in Little Women for their personal amusement.  Apart from that, I didn’t know much about serial fiction and idea was daunting at first. Would such a story hold readers’ interest in this day and age? Would they get bored and go find something else to read?

History is rarely in ‘full color’ to me either! Lovely new section! – Reader comment, November 29th

Bob gave me free range to write whatever I wanted, which was both immensely encouraging and terrifying. Fortunately, when it comes to loving time travel, I’m not alone at Grandview. My fellow partner in crime, Jeff D, is also an enthusiast. Over the past four months, the ongoing process of putting the serial together has been an exciting challenge for the two of us. While I wrote the story and researched the historical aspects necessary for each plot development, Jeff was responsible for providing the links in each installment that lead back to our catalog, or out into the vast wilds of the internet. He also researched the artwork provided in the heading, and came up with the titles for each Timely Adventure.

I do want to know what library Leigh went to as a child! Is she from THE FUTURE? Can’t wait for the next installment! – December 8th

You couldn’t ask for a better team of researchers than a building full of librarians. All the clerks were involved and helpful during the story’s growth. Any time I had a question regarding New York, theater, the Fifties, etc, someone was always there with an answer or advice on where to find it.

I like the idea of freedom from technology and constant communication. I like the way we see Rachel’s earlier thoughts and feelings on time travel and aging – January 8th

Over the course of the serial we’ve had a host of interesting comments from readers regarding various parts of the story. It’s been enjoyable to see our readers getting engaged in the story’s progress, commenting on parts they liked, pondering where Rachel and Leigh would go next, and of course, the concern about the coffee cup. It’s brought readers to both our branch blog and the library website as well, which is very encouraging and satisfying.

Will Rachel and Leigh be able to find 1.21 gigawatts of energy to get BACK TO THE FUTURE? – February 16th

In the future, the Grandview Branch looks forward to sharing more adventures with its readers, both familiar and those yet to discover The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans.

~Sally S.

Want more? Check out all fifteen episodes of The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans on our blog: Parts 1 & 2Parts 3 & 4Parts 5 & 6Parts 7 & 8Parts 9 & 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14 and Part 15

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