But I think he’s figured both those things out now that many of his stories have found their way into my debut novel,When the Whistle Blows, which was just released last week.
I think those old stories meant so much to me because they connected me with family members who had died before or near the time that I was born. People like my grandfather, W.P. Cannon, who died when my dad was in his teens, and my uncle Bill, and aunts Patty, Betty and Mary.
Eventually, the stories had the effect of bringing me closer to relatives I did know, too – folks like my uncles Mike and Dick, who both worked on the B&O with my grandfather, and my cousin Roger, who also worked for the railroad. They, and many others, shared their stories with me, making my fathers tales grow richer. And as a result, I found myself feeling more connected to my entire family.
But I guess that’s what stories do: they connect us to each other. If you think about it, our entire lives are made up of a series of stories. When you ask someone “what did you do today?” you are, in effect, asking them to tell you a story. We live out these stories with each other every day, and by sharing them with each other – by living through them together – we become bonded as friends and as family.
One of the great things about life stories is that once you live through them together with someone, you only have to say a few words to the other person and you can re-live the whole adventure again. For example, I can say to my husband “no deep fat frying in the house” and he and I both instantly recall the time he nearly burned the house down!
By writing out just a few words, authors hope to bring their readers to a common life experience, something that connects them with the characters in the book, to themselves, and perhaps even to others. One of the things I tried to do in When the Whistle Blows is to have Jimmy Cannon, the protagonist, embrace his own life stories in a way that connects him with the important people in his past, even as he learns to embrace his future.
And that’s exactly what happened to me at my book launch party this past Saturday. So many friends and family from my entire past came to launch me into my future as an author. My best friend from second grade was there, as was my very first neighbor, who lived beside my parents when I was first born. Old friends from Manassas, friends from my prosecuting days, friends from church, my extended family, my critique group partners, and 2k9’s Edie Hemingway was there too, representing all my dear Class of 2k9 friends. It could not have been more lovely or more meaningful. There have been few times in my life when I felt more connected.
So thank you all for being here to help launch me into my future as an author! In gratitude, I’m having a contest for Class of 2k9 blog readers. Anyone who leaves a comment below by midnight on June 25, 2009 will be entered into a drawing to receive one of two free ARCS of When the Whistle Blows!
Thanks for being part of a great launch week!
Fran Cannon Slayton
When the Whistle Blows
“An unassuming masterpiece.” - Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Nostalgia done right.” - School Library Journal, starred review