I attempted several years ago to write a non-fiction book. The true story centered around my son, who took a tumble some 40+ years ago, resulting in a long hospital stay at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville. It was an emotional roller coaster, with prayers from all over the country through the Upper Room ministry for my two-year-old. The gifted surgeon, Dr. Verne Allen, operated for seven long hours to save my son’s life. The memories brought tears and so much emotion that I couldn’t put down the words. I put it away, waiting for another day, opting to use my imagination – which my husband says scares him just a little – and make my own stories.
Two years ago, a girl (we might be in our 60s, but we’re still girls!) I went to high school with approached me about writing a book. Priscilla and I weren’t close in school; she was a year ahead of me; I played basketball and was one of the regular kids. She was a cheerleader and very popular, and although we didn’t know each other well, I always considered her to be one of the good ones, you know? Priscilla was always nice to everyone, and I never saw her angry. My first memory of Priscilla is watching her on stage at the DuPont Talent Show for the students – she performed Pink Shoelaces (a song by The Chordettes released in 1959) and did it excellently, receiving a standing ovation! I remember vividly watching her on that stage and thinking, ‘Wow, she’s so good and not scared at all. I wish I could do something like that and not be afraid.’ It made an impression; I remember it 53 years later!
It’s that memory and other memories that add up, that gave me the courage some forty-something years later, to put my name to a book and release to the world, unafraid (well, maybe a little) of the criticism that I was sure would come.
Love, Charles began its journey many years ago, at the hands of a young man writing home to his mother, and much later, the stories passed down to his daughters. Priscilla had read some of my work, and after some conversations, she became one of my beta-readers (readers before release). Then, two years ago, Priscilla asked me to look at the letters, wondering if I could tell the story written there. I, quite frankly, was frightened at the prospect. Writing stories from your imagination is different than writing non-fiction. Very different!
I began reading the letters, and the story was there. The life of a young man during the World War II era was inspiring. Along with the stories that Priscilla and Jennie, her sister, shared with me, the story became clear. I was merely the person holding the pen. (Actually, typing, but you get the drift.)
My books have come to life through the movie playing in my mind. Once the characters are set, the imagination takes over, and I put down on paper the scenes I see develop on my ‘brain screen.’ Having the pictures that Priscilla provided to be included in the book brought the true characters in the story to life. With Love, Charles, the scenes, the story, the events, all of it – was already there.
Of course, there were struggles – finding the right words for the time frame and researching what was happening both on the war front and the home front, but it was far from a worrisome struggle. There was a blessing and joy in finding the right words and taking in the fears and emotions of those waiting at home for news.
Experiencing history through textbooks and movies is what we are all comfortable with; experiencing it through the words of a man that lived it is quite another adventure. I invite you to read Love, Charles, and do a bit of reading ‘between the lines’ of the letters. Finding the courage and bravery of these young men remarkable and memorable was my takeaway, as well as a life well-lived. Charles Poag left a legacy his ancestors would be proud of, and his descendants are honored to share.