Tag Archives: Placing Literature

Rhode Island on Placing Literature

Rhode Islanders, where are you? It’s time to show off the literary places in your part of the world. That may be coming true after the Rhode Island Library Association featured Placing Literature in its latest newsletter.


Placing Literature

By Megan Black
Research and Education Librarian, Providence College

I read The Time Traveler’s Wife my senior year of college. I was living in Chicago at the time where parts of the book takes place. I have a distinct memory of reading a passage that takes place in a bar on Belmont Ave and freaking out, “OH MY GOD, I know that place!!!” Subsequent passages took place on the street where I worked or other stomping grounds, and I was equally excited. There are other books where I had similar reactions due shared experience in a story’s setting. Those feelings of excitement and connectedness stay with me, long after I’ve forgotten plot details and characters.

Several years later I met Andrew Williams at his book reading in New Haven, CT. I loved that his book,  Learning to Haight , took place in real-life San Francisco, and we shared our love reading novels that transport the reader to real settings because it add that extra layer of connectedness. He told me about a project he and two friends were working on to map scenes from novels that take place in the real world.

The idea had come to him after mapping scenes from his own book using Google maps, “I had more than 1,000 views in 24 hours.” To get the project going, Andrew and his sister-in-law, Kathleen Colin Williams who is a PhD candidate in in the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, applied for and received the Reintegrate Grant through the Arts Council of Greater New Haven in 2012. The funds are intended to encourage scientists and artists to collaborate on research projects. Andrew and Kathleen spent the next six months researching the role of place in novels that were set in New Haven, CT; San Francisco, CA; and Duluth, MN. Andrew’s friend Steven Young joined the group to create an online platform to map the books. They realized that they had created a unique project that was perfect for crowd-sourcing, and  Placing Literature was formally launched at New Haven, CT’s International Arts and Ideas Festival in 2013. Since then, more than 3,000 places have been mapped by readers, authors, and librarians.

The site has featured authors and allows users to explore the map by author, title, or place. It’s a great way to find literature that is set in a place you love or about to visit, or to map out travel destinations based on where your favorite author has set characters. Anyone with a Google login is able to add to the map.

There was only one place in Rhode Island mapped when I set out to write this article, which was the McFagan & McFagan Funeral Home from Waking the Merrow by Heather Rigney. There is a fair amount of literature that takes place in our beloved state, so I set out to add some additional places. I found two lists of books that take place in Rhode Island: Warwick Public Library’s “Fiction Set in RI”  list, and Quahog.org’s list of books.

I read  The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. aka Houdini by retired Providence College professor Peter Johnson (a delightful YA book if you’re interested). It takes place on the East Side, and while generic areas of Hope Street are mentioned, the zoo is the only specific place named that could be mapped.

It’s much easier to map locations after doing a location search from the “Explore” box at the top of the landing page. This way, you’re able to zoom in and move the pin if Google doesn’t originally place it in the right spot. Once you’re on the map page, click “Add Scene.” A pin will appear on the map, which you can drag to the exact location, and you’re prompted to fill out information about the scene: title; author; what happens in the scene; where the scene takes place; etc. Click submit, and your scene is added. If you make a mistake (like not moving the pin to the appropriate location, like I did…) you can send an email, and they respond fairly quickly.

Placing Literature also has various collections of mapped books that various groups have added (these can be found by clicking “Collections” (http://www.placingliterature.com/collections) at the bottom right portion of the page). My favorite is the collection curated by the Sherlock Holmes Society. The screenshot below is just a portion of everything mapped by the group.

Andrew, Kathleen, and Steven continue working to improve and promote Placing Literature. When I spoke to Andrew most recently, I asked him if he’d be interested in presenting on the project at libraries in Rhode Island. The short answer is yes, but the longer answer is much more interesting that a regular presentation. “I started an author speaking series at the New Haven Free Public Library called Get Lit in New Haven. A group of literary cartographers gets together to read and map a book set in New Haven. The author comes to do a reading and answer questions about setting a novel in the city. We had two events last year, and we are now going to do one per quarter,” and he said he’d love to work with RI librarians to help create similar programs here.

Placing Literature is an easy way to bring out the literary cartographer in all of us.

Placing Literature Adds Maine Locations

Maine collection includes works by Stephen King, E.B. White and Henry W. Longfellow as well as the 3,000th literary location mapped on the website by users around the world

NEW HAVEN, CONN., Feb. 2, 2016—Placing Literature (PlacingLiterature.com) today launched a literary map of Maine that allows readers to browse, visit and share the sites of famous (and not so famous) scenes from Maine literature. The data was sourced from the Maine Sunday Telegram (a part of MaineToday Media) and includes nearly 100 literary places from such authors as Henry W. Longfellow, Stephen King, E.B. White and Elizabeth Strout.

Placing Literature is the global clearinghouse for location-based literary information, collecting crowdsourced information about books and the locations where they take place—and displaying them all on an interactive world map. Since launching in June 2013, readers, educators, librarians and authors have mapped more than 3,000 places from novels, short stories, poems and plays ranging from Shakespeare to Kerouac.

Maine_070716“Maine is quintessentially American and has been the setting for some of the most-loved American novels,” said CEO and Co-Founder Andrew Bardin Williams. “The opportunity to virtually explore literary places gives readers a greater understanding of the books they are reading while enhancing people’s appreciation of the fabulous places in the great state of Maine.”

Each place card on Placing Literature provides rich content about the book, the scene and the place where each plot point occurs. For example, clicking on a marker near Penobscot reveals the farm where E.B. White set Charlotte’s Web. Across the state, you can explore the section of the Appalachian Trail where Red Sox fan Trisha McFarland gets lost in Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Along the eastern border with Canada lies a marker for the former Houlton Army Air Base where nine-year-old Clare works side-by-side with German prisoner-of-wars in the potato harvest in Ethel Pochoki’s A Penny for a Hundred.

On each card, visitors can view a photo of the location, search Google and Wikipedia for more information on the place, purchase the book from a local bookstore, write a review on Goodreads, share the place on social media, report an error and even check in, indicating that they’ve been to that particular location.

The Literary Map of Maine was originally compiled by the Maine Sunday Telegram in partnership with several libraries and cultural organizations throughout the state in 2008. Readers submitted entries and an eight-member committee narrowed the selection to 50 places—which has since grown to 100 places. The paper has given permission to republish the literary places on PlacingLiterature.com.

Placing Literature plans to launch additional collections of literary places and is putting out a request for data. Libraries, universities, cultural organizations and researchers should contact info@placingliterature.com if they have existing data or would like to work with Placing Literature to create content for local programming.


About Placing Literature

Placing Literature (PlacingLiterature.com) is a crowdsourcing website that maps literary scenes that take place in real locations. Map a scene from your favorite novel or explore the literature of a place at PlacingLiterature.com. Follow us at Facebook.com/PlacingLiterature and twitter.com/PlacingLit.

Tags: #PlacingLiterature, #literaryroadtrip, #maps, #literarymaps, #Maine, #literaryMaine, #MaineSundayTelegram, #MaineToday

Guest Blog: Mapping In Leah’s Wake

Week-with-Placing-Literature-bIt’s Placing Literature Week on best-selling author Terri Giuliano Long’s blog. Teri will be sharing her thoughts about how place shapes literature, will be asking her readers to share their favorite literary places and will be giving away a $25 gift card to Amazon. Today, I authored a guest blog that talks about how Terri became involved with Placing Literature. Visit the site and check back throughout the week.




Placing Literature Passes 3,000 Literary Places Mapped

We passed an amazing milestone earlier this week with our 3,000th literary place mapped on PlacingLiterature.com. The place, Zuckerman’s barn from the children’s classic Charlotte’s Web, is part of our latest collection from the Maine Sunday Telegram. The collection of literary places from books set in Maine will be formally launched later this month.CharlottesWeb_060216

In the meantime, keep searching and mapping literary places around the world and share them on social media with your friends. Happy exploring!

New Dickens Collection in Progress

ds-logoWe’ve recently partnered up with the Dickens Society–an international organization dedicated to conduct, further, and support research, publication, instruction, and general interest in the life, times, and literature of Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870)–to create a Charles Dickens Collection on PlacingLiterature.com. An on-going and continually growing project, the collection is being mapped by volunteer members of the society who would like to (re)read works written by Dickens and dive deeper into the places the author wrote about in his novels and short stories.

I guess you’d call the group effort a kind of crowdsourced, crowd-sourced project. Although, some contributors are sharing responsibility for mapping specific novels–which would be crowdsourcing a crowdsourcing of a crowd-sourced project. Ok, my head hurts. Check out more information on the Dickens Blog and contact emily.bowles [at]york.ac.uk to get involved with the project.

Top 10 Places in Western Literature

Definitive, relevant literature is able to capture the imagination of readers, take them to a place they’ve never been and enable them to empathize with characters they care about. Think about Charles Dickens’ London or Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco. Good authors use place as a character to provide physical and emotional context to their stories.

As a co-founder of PlacingLiterature.com I’m constantly wondering what makes a good literary place. In honor of our relaunch this month, I put together a list of the Top 10 Literary Places in Western Literature (in no particular order). It’s impossible and presumptuous to boil the entire Western Lit canon down to 10 places, but I gave it a try, knowing that there’d be universal disagreement. Make your own list. Map places that are missing on our site (it’s free and easy!). Join the Placing Literature community.
Twain1. Aunt Polly’s House – Hannibal, Missouri

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Mark Twain is the quintessential American writer, and nothing conjures up life on the Mississippi River more than the image of the scallywag Tom Sawyer tricking the neighborhood children into white washing his aunt’s fence for him. The straw hat, the overalls, the long piece of grass sticking out of his mouth, the white picket fence. You don’t get any more Twain than that.

NotreDame2. Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris – Paris, France

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

The disfigured Quasimodo is left for dead on the steps of the famous Parisian cathedral and is raised by the archdeacon who gets him to do his evil bidding. Vilified for his looks despite having a kind heart, Quasimodo is synonymous with Notre Dame’s chiming bells, at one point swinging down the ropes to save his beloved Esmeralda from a murderous mob.

Ducklings3. Public Garden – Boston, Massachusetts

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Children around the world have a place in their hearts for Mr. and Mrs. Mallard who decide to make a new home among Boston’s residents on an island in Boston Public Garden. There they brave speedy bicyclists, snapping turtles, the strange swan boats and a cadre of policemen. Today, a statue stands in the park memorializing the Mallards and their eight ducklings: Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack.

Dickens4. Fagin’s Den, London, England

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

No list of literary places could be complete without at least one Dickens’ reference, and here is his most vivid location. As the Artful Dodger leads Oliver to Fagin’s den in London’s Saffron Hill neighborhood, you can see, feel and smell the squalor and filth that line the street–a potent use of place in literature that eventually led to social change for the city’s poorest residents.

Kerouac5. Six Gallery – San Francisco, California

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

The reading that sparked the beginning of the Beat movement is memorialized in what many consider Kerouac’s best novel. Based on real events, Ray Smith (Kerouac) hypes the crowd by sharing a jug of wine and shouting “Go! Go!” as Alvah Goldbook (Allen Ginsberg) performs his poem Wail (Howl) for the first time at a small art gallery on Fillmore Street in San Francisco.


6. Central Park Carousel, New York, New York

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Tourists line up to sit on the exact bench where Holden Caulfield watches his sister ride the carousel while fruitlessly trying to grab the golden ring. Her dogged determination and childish innocence gives him joy but reminds him that his childhood is over and he will never have that feeling again.

Photo from Central Park Conservatory

Sherlock7. Reichenbach Falls, Shattenhalb, Switzerland

The Final Problem by Arthur Conan Doyle

Choosing 221B Baker Street would have been the obvious choice but our users are more clever than that. Reichenbach Falls lies on the Via Alpina, a backpacking trail that traverses the Alps, and is the scene of an epic battle between Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Professor Moriarty. As you crest the hill and catch a glimpse of the falls you can just imagine the two Victorians in hand-to-hand combat in a driving rainstorm, their silhouettes illuminated by periodic flashes of lightning. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at his best.

Gables8. Prince Edward Island, Canada

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Little girls beg their parents to take them on pilgrimages to the Canadian province so they can see where Anne’s imagination so often got the best of her. While the farm, Avonlea, the schoolhouse and the Lake of Shining Waters are fictional, Lucy based the book on places she knew well while growing up on PEI.

verona9. Verona, Italy

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Most playwrights leave stage setting to the director, but the greatest of them all was a master of creating place as a character. Who can forget the town of Verona in mid-July, hot and the mad blood stirring, the Montagues and Capulets out and about looking for trouble? Immediately, the reader is thrown into a dangerous place, great tragedy just a single misstep away.

10. Bonus: CAD-FACE/The Silo, Outside Atlanta, Georgia

Wool Part One (Silo series Book 1) by Hugh Howey

Given the state of publishing today–and the fact that this post is appearing on IndieReader–it’d be remiss not to mention at least one location from an independently-published novel.

Written by the high-profile and commercially successful indie author, Hugh Howey’s Silo series mainly takes place underground in a post-apocalypse world where humanity clings to survival in the Silo, a subterranean city extending 144 stories beneath the surface. The series jumps through time around the event that triggers man’s demise, but is centered at this secret location outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

So there you have it. PlacingLiterature.com’s Top 10 Literary Places in Western Literature. Discover more literary places from around the world at PlacingLiterature.com.

Andrew Bardin Williams is a co-founder of Placing Literature, a crowdsourced website that maps novels that take place in real locations. Map a scene from your favorite novel or explore the literature of a place at PlacingLiterature.com. Follow us at Facebook.com/PlacingLiterature and twitter.com/PlacingLit.

Unless otherwise stated, photos courtesy of Panaramio.com.

This article originally appeared on IndieReader.com and The Huffington Post.

IndieReader Author Spotlight: Samantha Towle

jan-1Sex, drugs, rock & roll and… literature? Yes! New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and international bestselling author Samantha Towle has combined them all in her romance series The Storm. In the books, Tru Bennet reconnects with old flame who just happens to be the lead singer in the world’s biggest rock band. Tru joins the tour as old feelings are rekindled.

Samantha will be mapping The Storm series (The Mighty Storm, Wethering the Storm and Taming the Storm) throughout the month as our IndieReader Author Spotlight for January. The books take place while The Mighty Storm is on world tour, bringing the characters around Europe and North America.

Rock music has also inspired Samantha’s other novels, most notably her Alexandra Jones paranormal romance series that she says were “all penned to tunes of The Killers, Kings of Leon, Adele, The Doors, Oasis, Fleetwood Mac, and more of her favorite musicians.”

Check out Samantha’s map throughout January on PlacingLiterature.com.

In the meantime, party on Samantha. Party on.