Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Writing About What You Know About - A Guest Post by Dorothy Francis


This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Dorothy Francis. Her works range from a series of animal stories for children to six cozy mystery novels set in Key West. Dorothy was our featured author on June 15, 2011.

Do you remember the first writing you had published?  Most writers do.
Mine went like this:

                          KNOCK KNOCK.

             Jumped  from the tub.  Grabbed for a towel.

             I  raced to the door on high.

             Looked high and low.  No one was seen.
             Least not by the naked I.

I was following the new writer’s rule—write about what you know about.  And it worked.  I knew a little about human nature. 

During the years, I’ve taught many writing classes.  One of my themes to my students has been “Write about what you know about." The rule worked for me again when I wrote a short piece of prose for a magazine. I followed my own advice in the following sketch which earned an editor’s acceptance and a small check.

                                                         YOU NEVER KNOW

            In the 1940s, our Methodist minister in Olathe, Kansas often spoke of the Second Coming.  One Sunday morning, I thought this had actually happened.  A tall man, dressed in spotless summer whites decorated with heavy gold braid on the sleeves and shoulders entered our church and seated himself front and center.  Adults looked at him from the corners of their eyes.  Kids stared openly.  Nothing like this had ever happened in our town.

            But no, it wasn’t the Second Coming.  The man was a lieutenant from the new naval air station the federal government had just opened a few miles outside our sleepy village in land-locked Kansas.  I almost burst with excitement .  His family was from Hastings-on-Hudson in New York, and they had moved next door to us.  They had two children, and they needed a babysitter.  Me?

            No. Cautious parents didn’t allow their daughters to babysit for strangers. You never knew what those men might do.
             Mom and I took Lt. Comfort and his family a heaping box of strawberries from our garden.  They acted as if they had never seen strawberries fresh from a patch before. I wondered where they got strawberries.  Were there no strawberry patches in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.?

             “Any special way you fix strawberries?” Lt. Comfort asked.

            “If we have sugar, we usually sugar them down and add cream,” Mom answered.  “But if you have no sugar, they’re delicious right from the box.”

            “We have sugar, but we don’t have cream,” Lt. Comfort said.

            “I’d lend you some,” Mom said, “but we’re out, too.”

            “I’ll go get us some,” Lt. Comfort said.

            Mom shook her head.  “No grocery stores are open on Sunday in Kansas.  It’s the law.”

            Lt. Comfort smiled.  “We’ll see.”

            We headed for home.  An hour or so later, Lt. Comfort appeared at our door carrying a cup of sugar and a pint jar of thick cream.  Nobody thought of fat or cholesterol in those days.

            “For your strawberries,” he said, offering the gifts to my mother.  “We can get sugar from the commissary on the base, and I found us some cream.”

            Mom looked at him wide-eyed.  “Where did you find cream on Sunday?”

            He grinned.  "Drove to the air base and revved up my trainer plane.  Just flew around the countryside until I spotted a pasture filled with cattle. I landed the plane, and a farmer came running out, sort of excited.”

            Mom’s eyes grew even wider and I could tell she was squelching laughter.

            “It was a smooth piece of land.  The farmer said something about scaring his cows, and I apologized.  When I asked for a quart of cream, he just shook his head.  By then his wife had joined us, and she invited us
into their home.  She went to her refrigerator and found some cream for me”
           “I don’t believe it!” Mom exclaimed.

            “I gave her a few dollars," Lt. Comfort said, “and she seemed real happy about the whole thing.  Farmer’s name is Hoff.”
           “I know her,” Mom said. “I’ll get her jars back to her.”

            Mom fixed the best strawberries I’ve ever tasted.’         

            “You just never know what those men will do,” Mom said.

            Later, we did know just what those men would do.  They’d win a war for us.

            Lt. Comfort, if you’re still around Hastings-on-Hudson—we’re forever grateful!

When my husband and I started spending winters in the Florida Keys, that writing rule worked again for me, and I wrote a series of six mystery novels set in Key West.  I thoroughly enjoyed writing what I was beginning to know about.

The good news for me this year is that those six Key West mysteries have been released as e-books, and they’ll be around for a long time to come.  You can look for them on Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Untreed Reads Books.  And the 16,000 libraries in the United States may be able to find them via Overdrive.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Dorothy. I enjoyed this article about your basic rule of writing and the early examples of your work. Best wishes to you for continued success.