Monday, September 30, 2019

Writing from Experience

By Siri Zwemke

I suspect I am not that unusual in that as a writer, I am more comfortable at home in front of my computer than I am socializing in a room full of people. My most successful relationships tend to be forged on paper. As authors, we work to establish a relationship with every person who picks up our book, and it goes without saying we want that experience to be a good one. And just like in any relationship, one must build trust with each other for there to be a successful outcome. 

“Write about what you know, infuse it with how you’ve felt.” Great advice from an English teacher early on; for my first book, it has certainly been the ticket. Whether you choose fiction or non-fiction, incorporating your experiences and knowledge into your written work may, for many of us, seem an obvious path to take. As a voracious reader, I have been disappointed on more than one occasion when an author has developed great characters and a fantastic story line, only to drop the reader over a cliff with a faux pas. (In my life, I call these faux paws, but that’s another story….)

Not long ago I was deeply entrenched in a wonderful book set in present day about animals (what else) and I came to a part where a dog escapes out of a car window and gets lost. The author went on to detail a conversation amongst the family members about how they could track the dog from location to location by the microchip, so not to worry.  Unfortunately, microchips are not GPS trackable. While not every reader would have noticed this inaccuracy, for every book there will be readers with the background experience to evaluate what you write. From that point forward, I lost interest in what would otherwise have been a well written book. While it was a very small thing in the scheme of the entire book, my trust in the author had been lost; they clearly hadn’t done their research.

For the book Rescue Meez, I chose to write about what I knew – I took my experiences and wrote a part memoir, part documentary, and part a ‘how to do this’ type book. Fortunately, I had great material to draw from and the only hiccups I ran into were discrepancies in how my husband and I remembered things. Whether you choose to write from personal experience, or you are researching the information necessary to create your work of art, be sure to do your homework. Even in genres such as science fiction, where all manners of things can happen, if you aren’t providing the reader with some background understanding as to why, for example, the laws of physics don’t apply in a particular situation, you may have a tough sell. Maybe we should all write fantasy, where just about anything goes!
Siri Zwemke is the founder and Director of the Siamese Cat Rescue Center, a 20-year-old internet-based non-profit that spans the Eastern third of the United States and has helped 13,000 cats to date. Zwemke switched careers mid-stream when her love of Siamese cats turned her into a crazy cat lady, rescuing one too many cats and finding herself trying to fill a need she didn’t realize was out there. When the shelters kept calling and she kept saying yes to Siamese cats that were needing help, Zwemke left her job as a teacher of the hearing impaired and took on building a non-profit that eventually spanned 20 states and had 900 volunteers.   Zwemke has recently put pen to paper to document some of the hilarious situations she found herself in as she learned about cat rescue the hard way.  In her first book, Rescue Meez, Zwemke pokes fun at herself in a lighthearted manner as she grows the Rescue from the ground up. From handling rifle-wielding hillbillies in the mountains of Virginia to doing the Dance of the Dead Mouse, Zwemke takes us on a journey through the last 20 years as she shares information on the trials and tribulations of building a cat rescue organization. Currently residing in Virginia with her husband, Darrell (whom she met through the Rescue), several cats and a dog, Zwemke enjoys gardening, reading, and is working towards her black belt in Martial Arts. Zwemke can be reached at, and Instagram @Siri_Zwemke_Author.