You Don’t Have to Write What You Know
Despite being raised in the South where the high priest of the Sports Church is football, Bailey Watkins loved baseball. She loved the order, the precision, and the pace. While other sports were slaves to the time clock, a baseball game took its fine sweet time but could still go from near defeat to sudden victory with a good crack of the bat.
Thus begins, “Slugger Gone South” from the baseball anthology, Take Me Out, which was released yesterday.
Stephanie and I are pretty proud of those words. They sound like they could have been written by someone who is not only a baseball fan but is also fully invested in the culture of the game.
When Crimson Romance executive editor Tara Gelsomino put out a call for stories for a sports anthology, we thought, Oh, yeah. Perfect. That’s us. We are football people. We knew we could write a football story that would make the poets cry. There would be goal line stands, defensive linemen with heart, inspiring halftime locker room speeches, and crying cheerleaders.
But then we found out it needed to be a baseball story, slated to come out in the middle of the World Series.
We had some work to do. Baseball doesn’t have halftime and cheerleaders.
It wasn’t that we didn’t know anything about baseball. I had spent plenty of time at the little league fields watching my nephew play and Stephanie's high school had a high achieving team. She had even been a bat girl for three years. So we knew the fundamentals of the game but, in all of our years as close friends, we had never had one single conversation about baseball. It’s fair to say we had no allegiance and little interest.
But we knew enough to know that America’s Pastime has a rich unique culture that we had to understand before we could hope to write a convincing hero who played the game or a heroine who loved it. So we set out to learn. We attended a Birmingham Barons game, watched countless baseball movies, and worried the stew out of everyone in our lives who had any love at all for the game.
We learned how the farm team system works, that bats don’t come cheap, what MBL wives wear to games, and that New York Yankees have to be clean shaven with short hair.
Before long, it all made sense. We understood that elusive thing that makes people love the game. We wrote a hero and heroine who loved and hurt so much that it might make at least one poet cry a little. And before we finished, I think we ended up loving baseball a little ourselves. At least I find myself pausing to see how it’s going with the Red Sox and the Cardinals instead of scrolling through the channels looking for a football game, any football game.
So you don’t have to write what you know. You just have to learn and—in some cases—have friends who are willing to let you worry the stew out of them.
Have you written something you didn’t know much about?