Monday, June 23, 2014

On Writing What I Know

With: Peggy Bird

Congratulations to "Maureen C." the winner of Peggy's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

Beginning writers are told to “write what you know.” If I followed that advice to the extreme I would only write about white, college-educated females of Scots/Irish/English/German heritage, who are of a certain age and who live in the Pacific Northwest. I’d only write about characters who’ve done what I’ve done and been where I’ve been. A bit limiting, wouldn’t you say? So, like every other writer I know, I draw on my relationships with other people—family, friends and colleagues—my ability to talk to the right people and do decent research to get into the heads of characters not like the one described above (which would be me) or to write about things I’ve only wished I had done.

That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy writing about what I do know. In several of my books I’ve been able to write about art glass. In addition to being a writer, I create kiln-formed, or fused, glass art. It is not only creatively satisfying in a way quite different from writing, it actually, wonder of wonders, uses the geometry I fought learning in high school because I was sure I’d never have a need for it.

In my latest book, “Sparked By Love,” my hero, glass blower Leo Wilson, is creating a display of glass fireworks for Independence Day in Vancouver, Washington. He has to get permits from the city but the woman in charge, Shannon Wilson, isn’t cooperating. He finally takes her to the site of the installation to show her what he wants to do. They connect on several different levels (or what kind of romance would it be!)

Here’s a bit of their conversation the first time they talk about his project:

Leo leaned against a post and rested one foot on the bottom rail of the fence. He dug out his smartphone and touched the screen. As he flipped through a file, he gestured to her. “Come take a look at these images. This’ll give you a visual of what I’m proposing.”
Shannon tried to see the screen without standing too close to him, but it wasn’t possible. To see what he wanted her to see, she had to be almost snuggled up to him, close enough to be warmed by the heat of his body. She could almost feel the rumble of his voice when he spoke. Could smell his aftershave or body wash or whatever it was that smelled spicy and male. Was close enough to see the details of his tattoo. Was close enough to be unnerved.
She gave herself a mental shake. This was work, not a meet-up from She better get her game face on and concentrate on the small screen in his hand, not on how he smelled or looked or sounded.
Once she saw what he wanted her to look at, however, how he smelled and sounded became secondary to what she was seeing on his phone. She was riveted. What he was showing her was stunning.
He flicked through image after image of what he said was a recent installation. From long, slender, curved cylinders of glass in shades of yellow and white, Leo had created the impression of a large, chrysanthemum-like flower. The petals started on the outside as large and loosely spaced. Gradually, the layers got smaller and tighter until the center was a completely enclosed round of glass rods. The flower sat on a nest of green glass leaves and appeared to float on the water in a formal garden.
 “My idea for the fireworks is to shape them somewhat like the flower except turn it upside down.”
“It’s beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it.” She looked up at him, probably looking like a grinning fool. 

Want to know what happens with Leo and Shannon? Enter your name and contact information and one lucky reader will win a digital copy of “Sparked By Love.”

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST June 24th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway. 


  1. It is so true that when writing a story, it is best to write what you know or do enough research to have the audience know that you know what you are talking about. This is something that I have always argued with certain people at work that I cannot write something that I don't know about without a background in the subject or not having done my research.

    I'm glad that you pointed this out. Thanks for the story. I would love to know what will happen next with Leo and Shannon.


    1. I agree, Kai, writing about something without some knowledge or research into the subject can result in a story that disappoints readers because it doesn't ring true. And sometimes the research is half the fun of writing the story!! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I always enjoy stories where the hero or heroine is an artist and this looks like an interesting story.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com

  3. Appreciate your stopping by, Maureen. Good luck in the drawing.

  4. Hi Peggy! I just wanted to drop by and say happy release day. I love the cover of Sparked By Love. I can't wait to set back on a warm summer evening and have a great read. One of the best parts of writing is research. To discover something new, then combined that new knowledge with my imagination, and to make it part of my WIP is so thrilling. Wishing you great sales!

  5. I love watching glass blowers work on TV. I also like that this is such an unusual occupation for your character, Peggy.

    Marcy Shuler

    1. I agree--glassblowers are fascinating to watch. It's almost like magic, isn't it?


Sign up for the JCR newsletter!