Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Hidden Stories

Research for my next book has me reading a lot about the early days of train travel in the United States. Of all the resource books I pour over, the ones I love the most are the personal accounts of people who worked on the railroad and stories shared by their families. It's these remembered moments that bring the rails to life, that give a face to such an iconic era and industry.

All those memoirs make me nostalgic for my own past and the stories passed down in my family. My grandfather worked on the railroad most of his life as a safety inspector. A taciturn, quiet man, he seldom spoke about his work. My mother and aunts can tell me very little about what he did day to day, or even how he first became involved with the railroad. Those are stories that are lost, hidden words I'll never know. My grandfather died close to twenty years ago and I've yet to find a time machine. His story will stay hidden, unfortunately.

But there are other stories, about my mother growing up in the fifties, about the time my aunts caught wild tortoises in the desert and brought them home, that aren't lost. It's my job now to write down those stories so I can share them with my own kids one day.

As authors, we write many things. Sometimes, the most important, aren't the ones that will be published and shelved in a library, but rather the personal stories of our families and friends. Simple things that capture a life, a time, a moment in history that will never be again. It's important to remember those stories as well and take time to listen to record them just as faithfully as we do the fantasy worlds living in our brains.

Of course, some of those personal stories would make fabulous fiction novels as well.... If you follow the stories and listen very carefully, sometimes they'll whisper a new tale right back.

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