Person to Person

“Usually what happens in real life is that people ask you questions you can’t remember the answer to…When you do actually know a bit about something, it is such a pleasure to be asked a lot of questions about it.” -Anne Lamott

I hate small talk. Always have. I know it’s necessary – especially when you leave your house – but it’s tiresome, and doesn’t everyone really feel that way, at least a little? One of the unexpected benefits of working on a historical novel for the past eighteen months (and yes, I’m still being a little deliberately obscure about the topic), is that I’ve been required to schedule appointments or coffees or lunches with various experts in certain fields. To date, I’ve met with:

  • An EMT
  • Three high school juniors
  • A photography hobbyist
  • A physician’s assistant
  • My old neighbor from Darien (he’s 80 now and happens to live in the next town over; very lovely)

And while, yes, there’s always the requisite small talk at the beginning of our time together, eventually we get down to business. These various people have information in their heads that I cannot find in books. Anne Lamott talks about this idea in her chapter “Calling Around.” She also suggests that these calls can be a welcome break from the isolation of writing. So very true. And on more than one occasion, I didn’t actually walk away from the meeting with what I thought I was looking for, but these surprises are always welcome, especially when it comes to writing.

One of the more satisfying moments I’ve recently experienced is when a writer in my workshop commented that I must have spoken with an EMT because of something he read in one of my chapters (okay, if you’re wondering, I learned that EMTs are trained to walk, not run, on to a scene. They can not be out of breath when it’s time to help the patient. Isn’t this interesting?). People love to learn something when they read. While I know what it’s like to be a woman, a mom, a teacher, a little about publishing, to live in the northeast, be the youngest, left-handed, you get the idea – there is so much I don’t know related to the subjects I’m writing about. I am at the point in my writing process where I need to take breaks from the actual writing and add verisimilitude by grounding the fiction with subtle and actual truths. I still need to meet with:

  • Someone who has experienced PTSD
  • A professional photographer
  • Someone who is suffering from or has a family member with Parkinson’s
  • A male high school junior
  • And more that I don’t even know about yet


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