Friday, February 13, 2015

Write What You Know

I recently heard Dean Minnich speak about his life as a newspaper reporter, storyteller and author at the Carroll County Public Library. He also discussed his new book What Price Eden.

I am sure that through the years, he heard the writing advice, “write what you know.” However, Dean may have done that too well, as people keep telling him they know where his latest book takes place and recognize many of the people.

Although he protests that his book is fiction. It takes place in a fictional location with fictional people. But people identify with his characters, places and problems.

Dean wrote what he knew, but like most writers, he changed things. Buildings, businesses and people seem familiar because variations of them are here and in many American small towns. So are the problems. We can understand the problems and the emotions that surround them.

Dean was a journalist so it is not surprising that the town’s newspaper plays a large part in What Price Eden, as several people fight greed, corruption and murder to save unspoiled land and a family legacy.  

He worked for both the Hanover Evening Sun and the Carroll County Times, was a writer in the Navy and a freelance writer. He has published two books of his columns, three novels and a non-fiction book on the towns and villages of Carroll County, Maryland.

I worked with Dean many years ago at the Carroll County Edition of the Hanover Evening Sun. Then a daily community newspaper that had more than 80 percent of the county’s circulation.

Before becoming a reporter for the Hanover Evening Sun, I had written a “Man on the Street” column, a column about Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) and a few other articles for the Carroll County Times.

After moving to Mountain Maryland, I became a journalist again, writing for the area daily newspaper, the Cumberland Times-News, and winning several awards. I was thankful of the skills I had learned working with Dean, Al Starner, Gladys Wimert and Donna Boller.

Elizabeth Houck enjoying
What Price Eden
Dean mentioned that he received his education working on newspapers. I feel the same way. I loved learning new things, covering festivals, government, education, historic preservation, health initiatives, and even emergencies.

There was always something new to learn. I learned and I wanted to share that information with our readers. Having people tell me they enjoyed my article or learned about a program that helped them was rewarding. It was also wonderful to meet so many different people.

Recently, I have been experimenting with different types of writing. I finished a middle grade novel about several children trapped in a blizzard and am approximately two-thirds finished a novel about young people helping with historic preservation in their hometown.

As Dean said, It's fun to tell your own lies, to have things happen your way.

Let your imagination transform your ordinary world into an Eden or a moon base. I am still new at creating my own worlds and characters, but I find it fun and challenging.

I am writing what I know, but also changing it, making it exciting, and hopefully conveying information while telling an interesting story. I’ve even introduced a ghost into one story. Now I have never met a ghost; but “what if” I had a chance to meet an ancestor’s spirit.  How would I act? What would I do?  What would my characters do?

Writing what we know is important, but that doesn't mean we can't continue to learn more and have more information and experience to use in our stories.

Note to writers:

Dean Camlin as William Winchester and Dean Minnich
I was so excited after hearing Dean speak about his newest book, I went home, read it and started this blog. However, I knew he soon was to interview William Winchester, founder of Westminster, MD (portrayed by Dean Camlin) at another library presentation. So I decided to hold this and combine the two events. Then I let Christmas celebrations interfere and the urgency and enthusiasm for this blog dimmed slightly.

Although I decided to finish this blog, I am not conveying the enthusiasm I felt at these events. This is an example of why we need to write regularly, not put it off until we feel we will have more time or wait until inspiration strikes.

When we have a passion to communicate something, we need to go for it, right then, before much of what we want to say fades and may be lost forever.