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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Welcome Wednesday Guest Blog by KB Inglee

Introduction: I first met KB in the Guppy chapters of Sisters In Crime. We were working on Fish Tales, an anthology that we are delighted to say has recently been awarded a publishing contract. Her volunteer work gives her a perspective most of us tied to electricity do not have. Read on, to see what I mean.

~ Jim

The lambs are full grown and lambing will begin again in the spring. Once the water freezes we will empty the millrace and the grist mill will be off line until March.

I am digging through the trunks to find my wool cape and tippet, but I probably won’t wear them much. The gift shop is over stocked with my hand knit caps and I am almost done with the shawl I am working now.

Things slow down in the winter. Good, more time to write.

I would never have been tending the sheep, or doing the farm chores, or grinding cornmeal with waterpower if it weren’t for some very good advice.

I have been writing historical mysteries for over fifteen years. When I started I was told by a friend and Civil War re-enactor that I should not be writing history unless I wore the clothes, walked the distances, and tended the garden and the sheep. I must know how my characters lived, and not just from reading but from doing. Little did either of us know that my passion for interpreting the history would become as strong as my passion for writing it. If I had to declare myself either a writer or an interpreter, I couldn’t. I am both with my whole heart.

This all seems so natural to me now, that I am surprised when people tell me what a great platform I have. When I dress in period clothing to demonstrate water powered milling, I am becoming a better writer. When I help a six year old boy write his name with a quill pen and liquid ink at a book signing I am demonstrating that I know what I am writing about.

Yes, I know the smell of black powder. I know the vibrations of the gears in the mill. I know how hard it is to keep a fire going, and what it is like to cook with smoke blowing in your face. I know how difficult it is to take a bath when you have to cut the wood, lug the water and heat it over an open fire. I spent a weekend in Maine in 1870 with chamber pots and a wood fired stove. I spent a day driving oxen in 1704 New York.

I know that news travels only as fast as a horse or a ship can carry it. In one of my short stories the farmer travels from one of my sites to another, a trip I make in half an hour by car but which took him half a day by wagon.

I once read a mystery story in which the protagonist refused to wear a cap, explaining it was just one more way to keep women in their place. The author must not have lived a day in a drafty house heated by fireplaces. My cap keeps my head warm, but it also keeps my hair out of the food, smoke out of my hair and the oil off my very expensive felt hat that I do not wish to replace soon. Men wore caps in the house for the same reasons.

Write what you know, and I am coming to know this time and place.

Write what you love, but I have come to love doing what I write.

KB Inglee writes historical short stories. She interprets at Greenbank Mills and Philps Farm in Delaware and Newlin Grist Mill in Pennsylvania where she introduces the public to farming, milling and daily life in the Colonial and New Republic periods. Her short stories appear in several anthologies including Chesapeake Crime 3.


Warren Bull said...

Hi, KB,
What a wonderful post! If you ever read that a man in the 1850's pulls something out of the back pocket of his pants, yo can tell that the author never dressed in period clothing or he/she would know men's pants did not have back pockets back then. No wonder Lincoln carried legal papers in his hat.

Ramona said...

KB, the love of what you do--both the writing and the interpreting-- bleeds through every word of this post. It is moving and thought-provoking.

I am a fan of your work. Now I am a fan of your process.

E. B. Davis said...

Welcome to WWK, KB. Every writer should know their subject. (Sampling all that champagne has been a real burden for me!)Your life explains it all. I didn't know you were a Chessie member, as I am. They are getting another anthology together for 2012 publication. The deadline is at the end of this month. Hope you submitted!

Pauline Alldred said...

KB, great to read about your life and work. I couldn't agree more about how much effort went into simple chores in the past. People were really in touch with their daily lives and their neighbors.

My grandmother had nine children and took in washing to make extra money. She washed everything in a tub and wrung out the clothes with an iron and wood mangle. Wet sheets and blankets weigh a ton when you're trying to hang them on a line to dry. She also sewed and knitted most of the clothes for the family.

Pamela DuMond, D.C. said...

Thanks for the inspiring post, KB. I'm writing a YA with a historical component, and the details are fascinating. I love that you are living those moments. xo,

Kaye George said...

You have a gift, even in this post, KB, for putting me right there. I'm missing my cap! Best of luck with both the sheep and the writing!

Anonymous said...

KB, I just read your blog and it was wonderful. You certainly captured the essence of being both a writer and an interpreter. I am blown away!!