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Sage Advice #6: Worst Piece of Advice

Drum roll, please. Here it is...the last post in the Sage Advice series...the worst piece of advice I’ve ever received is...I’m sure you're holding your breath in utter anticipation...ta dah...Don't write about what you don't know.

I heard this quote at the very first conference I attended right after The Flood. Maybe not that long ago but you get my point. It’s been a while.

For a few years, I embraced the quote and refused to pen anything beyond what I knew. The problem was I had limited knowledge regarding, well, most things. Therefore, not much creativity took place.

I wrote a children's chapter book which took place in 1889 in northeast Iowa. Although my grandchildren think otherwise, I wasn't around in 1889 (Say what?) nor am I from northeast Iowa. I didn’t know much about my subject choice but I discovered I could learn about it.

To remedy my lack of knowledge, I studied historical and geographical books via numerous trips to the library. Books on immigrant migration and climate were helpful. I read personal diaries from folks who lived in northeast Iowa in 1889. I visited the location in person (it helps that my husband is from the area).

The internet was a valuable source of information. For example, what kind of hangers did they have in 1889? What did school desks look like then. Did two-three story schoolhouses exist yet? For my three main characters, what children’s names were common in 1889? The original names I chose weren’t used at that time. Since the story took place during the Christmas season, I had to locate an 1889 calendar so my dates and days lined up correctly. The internet provided many of the answers I needed.

As a result of doing my homework, my research notebook is thicker than the chapter book itself.

In summary, let me offer you a better piece of advice...drum roll, please...ta dah...don’t be afraid to write about what you don't know because you can learn what you don't know. Can I get a hearty Amen?

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