Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guest Blog with Debby Mayne pt. 2

Most writers have a natural curiosity, and we gather information as we write our stories or articles. I used to spend entire days at the library to learn about an area, an occupation, and personality traits. Now I'm more likely to spend that time on the Internet, but I still like personal contact because I think it gives me a better idea of the depth of people's thoughts and feelings. Since my books are character driven, that is essential.

As I wrote each of my books set in West Virginia, I had to do quite a bit of phone research for specifics that add a touch of realism to the fictional stories. Everyone I spoke to on the telephone exuded warmth and kindness as they answered all my questions. I'm impressed with the spirit of West Virginians! Fortunately, I'm not shy about asking questions, so I spoke to dozens of people—from the person who answered the phone at a chamber of commerce to restaurant managers and bridal shop owners. Not a single person seemed to be bothered.

My family teases me about how I strike up conversations with people everywhere I go. While standing in line at a grocery store, I might notice a product I've never tried as a customer in front of me puts it on the conveyor belt, so I'll ask about it. Very rarely do I get a cold shoulder. Most people are willing to chat about what interests them, and I've learned quite a bit from simply asking questions. This helps in many areas of my life—not just learning about new food.

Many years ago, just a few months after I married my husband, we were standing in line for a popular restaurant that didn't take reservations. The woman in front of me had gorgeous hair, so I tapped her on the shoulder, told her I loved her hair, and asked who her hairdresser was. Not only did she tell me, her husband turn around, and the four of us (Connie, Mike, my husband Wally, and me) had a delightful conversation. When it was out turn to be seated, we asked for a table for four so we could continue chatting. Now, almost thirty years later, we're friends with this couple—all because of my big mouth.

My granddaughter Emma is a chatty little girl. She's only a year and a half old, but she has a broad vocabulary that she loves to use. Everywhere she goes, she finds people to say, "Hi!" to, then she babbles in her language that consists of words she's learned and some syllables we don't yet understand. Her mother, my daughter Alison, said Emma has helped her open up when strangers comment on Emma's vocabulary. I wonder if Emma will wind up like her Nana—chatting with people and making friends, while discovering new things.

Question of the day: Are you comfortable striking up conversations with strangers?


  1. No, not at all. I have no problem answering someone who's asked me a question, though.

  2. I am not at all comfortable striking up conversations with strangers, and I so admire people who are. People are so interesting with such amazing stories, it would be nice to feel that comfort with everyone I come in contact with.

  3. I'm better one on one than in a room full of people I don't know, probably because it's so easy to melt into the background and observe in the larger group.

    I heard it described not long ago that many writers are gregarious introverts...and this seems to fit me perfectly. :)

  4. Erica, I didn't know that about you. I think of you as a very outgoing person.

  5. Loved the story about the restaurant, Debby. I think I embarrass my son by how easily I'll start talking to people I don't know. Sometimes I even embarrass myself, LOL!