One of the best things about writing, besides the writing itself, is hearing from people about something you've written. Readers comment on my columns most often, even if that meant nearly being strung up because I don't care for encyclopedias. And I heard from a couple of people who used to fly out of the old Manassas Airport, located where the Manaport Shopping Center is today. These people have talked to me in person, but I also have written comments here and on the FB link to the blog.
My advice to writers is to listen to your readers. More often than not, they will share part of their story, and that's a gift to you and to them.
I have told just a few people about my novel-in-progress, Wings of the Morning, which is about a boy growing up on a Wisconsin dairy farm in the 1930's who becomes a B-17 pilot stationed in England. One lady told me her father was a gunner on a B-17 which was shot down. He spent eighteen months in a POW camp. Another lady told me her father was a P-51 (fighter) pilot who was also shot down and spent the rest of the war in a prison camp.
When I happened to mention the novel to one of our Chorale sopranos, Kay Evans, she told me an incredible story about her father. He was born into a "railroad family" in Iowa and his father expected him to work for the railroad. Berle Robinson was one of the fastest telegraphers around and could have worked through the war for the railroad since it was considered a necessary part of the war effort. He wanted to fly, though, and joined the Army Air Force at 15, which was the only service young men could join without their parents' permission.
Berle's father was extremely upset at his son's decision, and before he left, told him that he would never come back and that he had to surrender his car, typewriter, and railroad watch.
Berle came back, married, and the couple had Kay. He and his wife hosted a reunion in 1981 of the crew. Below is a statement he made about the number of missions he and his crew flew It is an incredible document.
And so, listen to your readers. They can give you so much.
My thanks to Kay Evans for sharing her father's story with me and for giving me permission to share it here.