I was invited yesterday to meet with a group of about eighteen second cousins. We are all great-grandchildren of Joseph and Emaline (Powl) Burkholder. Ruth, who hosted the meeting at her home, had purchased a stack of the April issue of Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage magazine which contains my article on our Powl/Powell ancestors. She invited the ladies to come get their issue of the magazine and learn about this little-known branch of our family tree. All of the ladies who came are descendants of my great-aunt Ida and their names are included in the genealogy section of the article. I knew a few of them but others had only been names on a list to me. I enjoyed meeting them and putting faces to the names.
Since not everything I know about the Powells was included in the article, they asked me to tell them more Powell stories, which I did. (I'll just say here that they were a "colorful" family.) Then they told me a couple stories I had never heard before that were passed down in their family. One of these stories was how "the Powl children" (which must have been our great-grandmother and her siblings) took their pony upstairs one day when their parents were not home. The pony went up the stairs without much trouble but they had a problem getting him to do down the stairs before their parents came home.
Before I left, Ruth said she heard I am writing the story of a particular person's life and asked if that is true. She was relieved to know it was not true because it could have some negative effects. This is not the first time I have been reported to be writing a story I know nothing about. Since my last book was published in 2006, I have had about 20 requests to write stories about people's lives. I cannot write every story I am asked to do. Before I will even consider writing a story it must meet certain criteria. It must:
1. Interest me
2. Be something I am familiar with
3. Have a purpose or point
If the story does not meet all three of these requirements, I will not be able to it. Writing books is not something that happens magically. It is work. And it is hard work if I try to write about a person or place I know nothing about.
So don't believe everything you hear. I may not know anything about the book you hear I am writing. And just to clarify, at this point I have not written one word of a new book. I have ideas, yes, but I have not actually started writing anything. The only things I have written in the past year are some historical articles and short stories for children which are (or will be) published in periodicals. No new book is underway.