Echoed my own family experiences. I find it serendipitous that the author’s family lived in Warren, Ohio. My grandfather’s name was Warren who served in WWII. The similarities didn’t stop there. A lot of family reactions and opinions mirrored what I experienced in my own family growing up. This family biography brings alive one families path through war. Only I think more people than the author realizes will connect and appreciate this story. Well written and adds a personal account to the pantheon of books concerning WWII.
There are no dragons in “I Pray Hardest When I’m Being Shot At.”
You only need to look at my book collection to see why it’s strange that I wrote an entire book of non-fiction. I subsist on a steady diet of Young Adult and comic books. Even when I’m not reading about the fantastical, I stick to fiction, be it novels or short stories. I would say that maybe – maybe – 1% of my book collection is non-fiction.
And yet I wrote a non-fiction book.
I went to graduate school at Ohio University. I studied Creative Writing Fiction, and the curriculum was heavily slanted towards short stories. Short stories are something of a rallying card for academics, so all of my eggs were placed in that particular basket. I never considered writing anything else; it just never came up.
So I went from writing short fiction to long non-fiction, and the transition was harder than I could have imagined. Writing longer works is tricky. The opening has to hook the reader, but also tell them all they need to know about what’s to come. Details can be kept a secret, but the big, overarching story needs to show up right away so that the reader can decide if they want to invest the time and energy in reading hundreds of pages. In a short story you can be more abstract. Short stories are tiny bites that readers are willing to commit to right away, simply because it won’t take them that long to read it.
Surprisingly, the fact that I read so much fiction actually made it easier to write non-fiction. The Young Adult and comic books that I spent so much time reading became a palette cleanser of sorts, clearing away all the imaginary worlds in my head so that I could concentrate on telling the story of my grandparents’ life together. I was able to exercise the part of my brain that enjoyed science fiction and fantasy enough to tire it out so I could write non-fiction.
It’s been hard to wrap my brain around the idea that I’m a non-fiction writer, and it’s been just as hard connecting “I Pray Hardest When I’m Being Shot At” to the rest of my work. For example, my eBook, “Unrequited,” is a love story that happens to have zombies in it. The question became, then, how do I relate the two to each other?
No matter the genre, everything I write has at least one, basic common characteristic: they’re created through the prism that is me. It was strange for me to go back and read “Unrequited” after reading the final draft of “Pray” because I noticed just how similar the style was, even if the content wasn’t. That was my unifier: my voice.
Besides, the core of pretty much anything I write is the same; I write love stories. Some of them happen to be true. Some of them happen to feature zombies.
The story in “I Pray Hardest When I’m Being Shot At” is an important one, and in the end a good story matters more than a genre. Stories like my grandparents’ don’t come along very often, so it’s important to take advantage of them when you can.