Friday, October 7, 2016

Watching for Matthew

by Liz Flaherty

Places like this one, the dining room in a Hampton Inn, have always been my favorite places to write and work on edits, and second only to airports for people-watching. But this morning, when Matthew is snapping angrily at Cape Canaveral and the TV in here is loud and threatening, I'm having trouble concentrating on writing. I'm thinking about the hurricane.

In my books, the black moment sometimes has to do with something elemental: a fire, a storm, or an avalanche. I've been in Florida when people calmly cover their windows, check their supply of bottled water, and prepare their generators in readiness. I've lived in a tornado-taunted area my whole life and watched more than one blizzard shut me in. I study how these disasters affect the communities that are touched and talk to people who've been through them. I try to capture the fear that goes with the experience.

I remember when my friend's house burned to the ground and she didn't know for a life-changing hour where her elder daughter was. We talked that night and her relief was massive, far greater than I could begin to relate with mere words, but already she was feeling the loss of her family's life-in-pictures--we didn't have cellphones then. I am still haunted years later by the sound of her voice when she said, "I don't have any shoes."

She did. She had the ones she was wearing. Shoes were symbolic, but I knew and understood what they were symbolic of. It is this that I'm wondering and praying about as I listen to CNN's reports on Matthew this morning. About people who will methodically do what they must do and only later, when things are quiet again, will they mourn their losses.

It reminds me, sitting here in this warm and safe place with my pumpkin-spice-flavored coffee at my elbow, of our responsibility as writers. We must research things we write about and make sure we get them right. And then we must show our readers how the people in our stories find a happily-ever-after even when they don't have any shoes.


  1. Some fascinating thoughts on human nature. The core of good writing, IMO.


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