We’re All Going To Die (Writing With History)

We’re all going to die someday.

This is why I woke up rage-inducingly early on my day off – a SATURDAY, and also SAINT PATRICK’S DAY. Why I defrosted my car and drove an hour through the dark from New Kensington to Ligonier today.

Today I attended “Writing With History,” presented jointly by Fort Ligonier and the Ligonier Valley Writers.

I woke up stupidly early and sat through this workshop because I am going to die someday.

You see, I grew up on stories from my dad about how the British army under General Braddock camped in 1755 near what became my great-grandparents’ and my grandparents’ house. About how Braddock died during the retreat and George Washington found himself in charge. How the British payroll got lost in this horror and the myth of Braddock’s Gold emerged.

I wrote historical fiction on my dad’s “work” computer when I was a teenager. Later, after I got married and moved to New Kensington, I wrote several chapters about a young girl abandoned on Braddock’s retreat who ends up living in Parnassus. Then I began a story about treasure hunters who search for Braddock’s Gold.

When my youngest sister, O. S. G., was about twelve years old, she found out about all of the historical fiction that I tried to write. So, O.S.G. handed me her binder of her completed history class assignments. Her portfolio of her own “historical ” writing. Twelve-year-old O.S.G. reasoned that her own writing would inspire me to keep at it.

O.S.G. turns 19 next week, and I still need to finish the tales that I started when she was 12.

We’re all going to die. First I need to finish all of these historical writing projects that I started.

So, I signed up for today’s writing workshop at Fort Ligonier.

First, here’s my prior experience with the two presenting organizations:

Fort Ligonier:

My fourth grade class travelled an hour and a half to Fort Ligonier for our spring field trip. We got to eat our packed lunches on the school bus because it had just rained and the picnic tables were wet or something. A bunch of the boys in our class made fun of our classmate “Dan” because he wore a pink polo shirt that day. Dan said, “Hey, my mom bought me that shirt!”

Then we got to tour the actual fort. This was the first fort that I ever toured, and I enjoyed it so much that I talked about it for years afterward. (We got to tour Fort Bedford in fifth grade.) I also bought a miniature teepee in the gift shop.

I frequently drive past Fort Ligonier on Route 30, and each time I think about how much fun I had there in the fourth grade. However, I haven’t stopped to visit since then.

Ligonier Valley Writers (LVW):

This was my first LVW workshop. I follow LVV on Facebook, but I don’t belong to LVW because I live too far away from their meeting place (in the Greater Ligonier Area) and my schedule prevents me from attending almost all of their events. Based on what I read online, though, they have some decent programming. LVW holds a Halloween flash fiction contest that I enter almost every year. Here’s their website.

(I recognized several of the faces at this LVV workshop from that time that I attended the 2013 In Your Write Mind Workshop at Seton Hill. Also, one of the LVW officers noted that some of the LVW members attended Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction MFA program.)

Writing With History:

The presenters were Audrey Iacone, Jim Busch, and Marge Burke. I will need to review my notes later when I am not tired in order to digest all of the useful tips that they provided.

We had a break for lunch. I packed my lunch, so I spent this time eating and socializing with several people that I just met. It’s always fun at these types of things to learn about and listen to strangers.  I meet so many people who are much further along on their writing journeys than I am on my own. However, I just keep reminding myself I am going to die someday regardless of what I accomplish, so I have nothing to lose by trying and failing.

Finally, the Fort Ligonier staff gave us a personal tour of the fort museum. Here are some of the items pointed out to us:

1.) George Washington’s handwritten “Remarks” to his biographer about the French and Indian War. So, in a way, I saw George Washington’s “memoirs.”

2.) The remains of a woman’s shoe. Since I previously started writing about a young woman traveling with the British army during the French and Indian War, I can imagine that this shoe belonged to this character that I previously created.

Thanks to Fort Ligonier and the Ligonier Valley Writers for the hard work that they put into today’s workshop! I will most likely attend future LVW workshops.