And This is Why We’re Writers

While most of the world looks around them, sees what is and accepts it, we ask ‘Why?’ or ‘What if…’.

For many of us it started at a young age.  An example, you ask?

Well, me – junior high school – science class.  They taught us about the discovery of pencillin when the guy was contemplating bread mold.  I forget the particulars now, but I’m sure he had some rational reason to equate moldy bread and the thought, “Wow – I bet I could make something from that to feed to or inject into people and help fight off illnesses!”

But, I digress.  He thought of it, it worked.  So far so good.

Even in those days, there was a writer lurking inside me.  Why?  What if?

So I went up to the teacher and posed what I thought was a completely reasonable question:  “If penicillin comes from bread mold, and you were sick and didn’t have any pencillin, could you eat moldy bread and have it help you?”

I suspect she still tells that story to anyone who will listen – this crazy kid in her 8th grade science class with the weird questions.  (Full disclosure:  this wasn’t the only question I’d asked…)

To her credit, she attempted an answer:  “I suppose it might help some, but I’m not sure you’d want to do that.”

Okay, thanks.

I wonder if she was glad when the school year ended and I moved to the next grade?

Why?  What if?  Maybe a story about a science teacher with a student who asks weird questions…


Actual History or Misremembrance?

I’ve mentioned a time or two that I do genealogy research.  One of the interesting things you find is that most families have various “family stories” that get passed along through the years.  Usually, there is at least some element of truth in them, but often they have veered from fact.  Sometimes that is due to someone purposely giving misleading information, but more often it seems to be the result of faulty memory.  Someone told me a story ten years ago.  I tell you about it, but some of the details are hazy so I just fill them in as best as I can remember them.  Then you do the same to someone else, and on and on it goes.

This can be useful in writing.  Perhaps the intent was never to mislead or lie, but maybe someone is acting based on misinformation that is imperfectly remembered.  Haven’t most of us recalled a shared event with someone else (friend or family) only to have them remember the details differently than you do?

In genealogy, while the stories are interesting, they can also be a hindrance to finding out the truth that you seek.  Sometimes, you never do find out all the true details, and the best you can manage is a “guess” as to how the story got started.

Just a thought, when you want to add an element of surprise to a story line.


When I moved to California years ago, someone suggested I should write home and tell the family that I was at the beach and had been ‘discovered’.  Fame, fortune, the whole nine yards.

Only trouble with that is, I know my mother.  Her response would have been, “Discovered doing what?”

How Ogden Nash saved my bacon!

When I was in junior high school, they began a test program called Phase Elective English.  It consisted of modules of varying difficulty.  Depending on how good of a student you were, you weren’t allowed to just take the easier classes (ranked 1 to 5, with 5 being most difficult – if your English skills were lacking you couldn’t take those as they felt it would be above your ability).

One of those classes was called American Humor, and we were encouraged to bring in outside items, and “tests” and “homework” were a little free-form.  In one instance, we were supposed to bring in a humorous poem as the homework assignment, but I had forgotten to do it.  Thinking quickly, I asked the teacher if I would still get credit for it if I turned it in before class ended.  She looked skeptical that I could pull that off, but said yes that would be fine.

I quickly jotted down this poem by Ogden Nash (a favorite poet at that time) and submitted that as the homework assignment – and got the grade for the day!

Today, all these many years later, I can still recite this poem from memory.  Silly, nonsensical – yes.  But just a feel-good poem that brings a smile to my face every time.

The Duck

Behold the duck.
It does not cluck.
A cluck it lacks.
It quacks.
It is specially fond
Of a puddle or pond.
When it dines or sups,
It bottoms ups.

Funny the things we remember through the course of our lives.


Ogden Nash [1902-1971] an amazing humourist whose short pithy poems entered the realm as an American Literature treasure . With more than twenty books to his credit he is a versatile writer for children of all ages.

[source:   (though search the first line and you will find it elsewhere also)]