Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Magical Doorway Opened...

Today I called my mom.  In passing, I told her about the progress of my novel that's set sort of near one of the towns where she grew up in the Appalachian Mountains.  She usually doesn't express much of an interest in my writing and doesn't even try to fake it.  It's just how our relationship is.  I knew I was kind of talking to myself and didn't expect much of a response.

But something I said about the research I was doing on two particular coal mining disasters had the effect of opening a magic doorway into the past. 

For forty-five minutes she shared with me her memories of living in a coal town.  I knew my dad had lived in a coal town but didn't know my mom had.  She even told me about the mining accident that her dad and grandfather were involved in.  Her descriptions made me feel like I was there and validated much of what I already had in my novel.  She also told me some things that went against the grain of what I've been reading in history books that generalize the region. 

I felt like a dwarf from The Hobbit sitting in a pile of gold treasure.

I did write down notes while I talked to her - I was on a corded phone, so I grabbed a black sharpie and scribbled on the back of grocery lists, my kids' homework, junk mail, anything I could reach.

I called her back a few hours later (after typing up the notes) to thank her for sharing with me and to assure her that nothing I'm writing is going to be even close to biographical.  I know that's something she would worry about.  What I'm writing is definitely fiction. 

Holy crap - she opened up again and gave me a fantastic idea for yet another novel.  She was every bit as excited about the writing I'm doing as I am.  How cool is that?!  She asked me to come over and talk with my step-dad, whose grandparents grew up in the same region. 

This is the best day ever.  I can't even express how happy I am - for one, I'm drowning in story ideas - I could spend the next twenty years writing about characters in this region.  And I've made an amazing connection with my mother that I never expected.

If I ever make money from this adventure, I'm going to buy something incredible for my mom just to thank her for the inspiration she gave me today.  That's some good motivation to strive to make lots of money.

32 comments:

  1. You hit her hot button! That is awesome, Tonja. Now you not only have a research source but a new cheerleader in your corner.

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  2. Just don't buy her a lump of coal.

    It's great when you can connect with someone...even better when it's family.

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  3. Awesome sauce, Tonja! It's so great when you can connect with a family member in that way :)

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    1. Hopefully this will be less rare now.

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  4. Congratulations on the progress with your mom and on getting so much great info.

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  5. Oh, how wonderful! It's the best feeling when someone is so excited about your writing, and even more so when it's a family member. I'm thrilled for both you AND your mom! :)

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    1. I think she was loving my reaction to her stories.

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  6. What a great day. I'm so happy for you and your mom.

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  7. This is a great post. She probably has a lot more ideas for you. :)

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    1. I hope so. She doesn't think of herself as someone who tells stories or that can write. I think it meant a lot that I was really listening and valued her memories.

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  8. Dang, that got me all teary-eyed. I'm so glad you and your mom had this wonderful opportunity to connect this way. :-)

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  9. How awesome! I know my parents are gold mines of knowledge too. My mother, I have to drag any info from her like extracting a tooth. My father, I just show up and he's off to races, telling everything that has ever happened.

    Either way, they're both great. I'm glad you had such a great day.

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    1. My dad drops little breadcrumbs here and there but won't give much detail. And he definitely doesn't get the need for anyone to write fiction. People should only write about politics and the 'liberal media' - he doesn't know I'm liberal. :)

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  10. Wow, that's great. Not only for the information but for the connection that opened up. Hope it leads to some great scenes in your novel.

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    1. I was already planning on writing about coal mining disasters. She told me how they alerted the families to trouble, a detail I hadn't read anywhere else.

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  11. It's great that you and your mom connected in such a special way. Awesome!

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  12. That is wonderful, Tonja. How's the college adventure going?

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

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    1. I'm drowning in really difficult to read literary theory. I think it would be easier to read some nerdy technical documentation...actually I'm longing for it.

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  13. It's fantastic that you triggered all those memories for your mum and that you came away with so many story ideas. I think talking to people from the place or time your novel is set in is one of the best things you can do to make the atmosphere of your novel feel authentic.

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    1. I think so too. We are planning on touring coal mines for spring break (my kids are lovers of history). I forgot my uncle runs a mine (the kind that destroys mountain tops - boo) - but I can probably get a VIP tour.

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  14. How awesome! That sharing is better than gold.

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  15. Lovely, lovely story. You know, our parents have so much to tell us and it would be great if we could all have moments like that :-) That's perfect research (and much food for thought, so what could be better?)

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  16. That is the coolest event EVER. I can see how it didn't really click with her until she could relate to your topic. I love this!

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