For many years I made my living as a nonfiction writer, striving to gather the essential facts and present material objectively.
Then, after traveling around the world, I came home and marveled at how life in rural Missouri had changed. My generation was the last to grow up in a nation made up of small, diversified, family farms, the ones growing most of their own food (vegetables, fruit, and meat) and a variety of crops to feed their animals and to sell for what they couldn’t produce.
I wanted to preserve the record of what life had been like in the mid 20th century, but what could I write that people would read? The topic exceeded the bounds of a feature article. I lacked both the expertise and the desire to write a socio-economic tome about the country’s transition. My childhood was too uneventful for a memoir in the mode of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.
That left fiction. I had vivid memories of edging from childhood toward adulthood in the 1950s, and I wanted to reach readers going through that mix of elation and misery. I read social histories of the period that brought home how much the whole nation changed after World War II.
On our farm, the big change came with the arrival of electricity in the late 1940s. I decided to focus on that period, a time of transition for our farm and for the nation. Then my story should feature a transition for the main character. The big one came when a g country kid finished the eighth grade at a one-room rural school and entered a much larger junior high in town.
The idea for The Feedsack Dress began to form. I began to make a slow transition from nonfiction to fiction.