Monday, July 27, 2015

When an author says, “the book wrote itself,” it’s one of those things that’s hard to believe, until it happens to you. At least I was always skeptical, until now. My latest project made a believer out of me.

While attending junior high and senior high in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I’d always heard bits and pieces of a story about the South High class of 1943 and the $375,000 they had raised selling War Bonds and War Loan Stamps to help support WWII, that bought a B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber they christened The Spirit of South High, but I never really thought much about it. When you’re a kid, if it doesn’t pertain to you and your friends or your immediate school or home life, it just isn’t important. 

Years later, correction, many years later, while putting together a history of my high school for a class reunion, the extraordinary story re-emerged. It wasn’t, however, the focal point of my presentation. There were many other notable accomplishments to speak about like the world’s biggest drum, that was made for the school after the band director won a challenge with the School Superintendent by bringing home the 1925 Class A State Band title or President Gerald R. Ford, the school’s most famous graduate. (The big bass drum, by the way, hangs in the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.)

The story of the bomber ended after the christening on April 6, 1943, when it flew off to war and was never heard from again, until one of my classmates took it upon himself to find the bomber and shared it with me.

When I discovered South High School’s bomber met its demise in the mountains of Virginia, a mere 3-hours away from where I live in North Carolina, I had to write the story; the complete and total story solving the mystery of what happened to The Spirit of South High. Once wheels were set in motion, the research I needed, the information and anecdotes fell into my lap.

From then on the story took over practically writing itself.

Since I already had information about the Grand Rapids side of the story, I decided to begin with the Virginia part. A call to the Patrick County Historical Society in Meadows of Dan, Virginia, revealed no information about the crash. Unbelievably, they had no knowledge of a crash of a WWII bomber in their community but the locals who were children at the time, remembered. They generously stepped forward to share their memories of the morning the ground shook and a great ball of fire rose into the sky. A couple even took me to the very spot where the B-17 bomber came down.

The bomber crashed on property now owned by the National Parks System on the Blue Ridge Parkway, behind the most photographed spot on the parkway, Mabry’s Mill. I called the Blue Ridge Parkway Historians and like the Patrick County historians, they knew nothing of the crash.

From there the momentum of my research took off. One-by-one facts I needed revealed themselves. Inch-by-inch the stack of sheet protectors holding tidbits of information grew, filling first one three inch binder, then two, then three.

As I started to pull the facts together in an organized fashion, the writing took off. It wasn’t smooth sailing all the way but with each frustration, each stop gap along the way, a new fact would emerge important to the telling of the tale. It was if I was stymied so that the new fact or idea or item could reveal itself. This pattern continued up until the very last day; the point where the book was ready to print, except for one photograph I had ordered. The photograph was delayed in the mail for five days. On the morning of the fourth day, I awoke with the idea of a critical piece of information that needed to be in the book. As soon as I added the information, the item I had been waiting for arrived in the mail.

This writing experience reminded me of something I had learned earlier in my writing career but had forgotten.

"Embrace Delays! They always serve a purpose, whether in a new fact revealed, a twist imagined, a problem fixed or the rearranging of what you've already written. Your story will be better for the delays." 

Through one revision after another, I felt as if someone else were writing this book. At the same time, nothing I've ever written has given me such pleasure. There were so many "aha" and "wow" moments. And now I get to share them with you. 

During WWII, to help fund the war effort, junior high and senior high students at South High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan took part in the “Buy a Bomber” program raising over $375,000 selling War Bonds and Defense Loan Stamps and bought a B-17 Bomber. They christened the bomber, The Spirit of South High, after which it flew off never to be heard from again, until now. 

Read the extraordinary tale of how students were able to raise so much money and the incredible “spirit” that led alumni, seventy-two years later, to solve the mystery of what happened to the bomber. 

This little book exemplifies home front support given to service men and women fighting in WWII.


Have you ever felt as if someone else was writing your story? Please share. 

Add a comment and I'll enter you in a drawing to WIN a copy of We Bought a WWII Bomber: The Untold Story of a Michigan High School, a B-17 Bomber & The Blue Ridge Parkway. Coming soon at Amazon.com. 

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About Me

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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