That Unmistakable American Comfort

I played baseball for a bit when I was younger. I was pretty damn awful.

Writing an entire novel with a strong baseball element seemed daunting at first. Writers are told to write what they know and baseball was foreign in so many ways.

Then, I realized it wasn’t foreign at all. For what can be more American than baseball?

In my eyes, watching games on TV never did baseball justice. I was very lucky, because my dad took me to a professional game every summer when I was a kid.

Although I wasn’t a good player, I loved the intense magic of going to a game. The enticing smell of popcorn in the air, the perfection of the combed dirt and manicured grass, and the joyful innocence of every spectator regardless of age.

Even today, these memories with my dad are very dear to me. And it was not until writing this book that I found the right one to dedicate to him…

For My Dad…He taught me I was just as good as the boys.

Funny thing is, this story fell right into my lap.

I’ve always wondered what opening a treasure chest might feel like, and a couple of years ago I found out when I discovered clues from 1954 in this vintage handbag.

 Hidden deep inside the crevices of the musty lining were these…

And this…

On the back of the voting receipt was a shopping list written in a woman’s elegant handwriting…

vintage shopping list

CHOCOLATE

FLY SWATTER

SHOES 

FILM 

LOAN

Suddenly I was linked to the past, to a woman who carried this handbag sixty years ago. I pictured three different women who might have owned it and my imagination went wild.

So wild that I wrote my third book, NOLA FRAN EVIE, which will be out next week.

The baseball tickets were from 1954. Interestingly enough, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League folded that same year. I decided this was fate, so I brought these historic women back to life in my book.

The women who played in the league during WWII were considered unladylike and unusual. But during that time women filled in for men everywhere while they fought overseas, including the baseball field. The boys weren’t there to throw the ball around, since they were busy pitching grenades.

Though at first seen as a girly spectacle, according to aagpbl.org, during the league’s peak year in 1948 the teams attracted 910,000 paid fans. 

Photo Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory; 1948

Photo Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory; 1948

Before the movie “A League of Their Own” came out in 1992, the women’s league was hiding out in the dusty shadows of history. The film is actually done quite well, with a decent amount of historical accuracy.

Most importantly, the film brought these incredible women who changed history into our modern lives.

Besides the film and some non-fiction, my online search the other day did not provide any fiction books written about the All-American Girls Baseball League. To tell you the truth, I’m a bit shocked.

I hope this book will honor the female players in the smallest way that I am capable of. For they were brave women who forever deserve to be recognized and celebrated.

Photo Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory; 1948

Photo Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory; 1948

An excerpt from NOLA FRAN EVIE—from the first chapter we meet Nola in 1954, ten years after she has left the league…

Dark shades receded from her face. Nola soon became a welcoming victim to the cloudless skies and breathless majesty of the stadium. Brick red dirt intermingled with apple green grass, both pristinely groomed for the occasion. White bases littered the canvas sporadically, accenting the no man’s land like islands of security.

It smelled like her dreams.

Silently, Nola reached her son’s side and gave him the soda. He drank straight from the rim of the bottle while she applied more lipstick to her curvy straw.

They joined hands and slurped. Energy, awe-inspired energy, radiated through their palms. 

They descended the stairs—toe ball heel, toe ball heel—tiptoeing upon the unsuspecting field with care. Sunlight bounced off their shiny hair, illuminating them as they drank their pops.

At the railing they released hands and leaned forward to absorb every scent on the field. The earth, the sweat, the leather.

Grady spoke first, his voice clear over the murmuring crowd and the provoking announcer. “Can you imagine, Ma?”

Drunk with memories, Nola briefly touched the back of his head. “Imagine what, little sir?” 

He folded his lanky arms on the railing and rested his chin. “All of this.” His blue eyes devoured the field, admiring each player warming up. 

Nola followed his gaze and mirrored his love for all that was happening.

The ball shot through the air, a stitched bird gliding until it met the leathered hand of its receiver. Then it catapulted to another, simultaneously graceful and open-minded about its destiny. Tobacco spit shredded the clean air like tarred fireworks. Backsides were scratched with opulent vigor. Sneers and jeers traded seamlessly from one ace to another.

Like the thick noise of the stadium every part of the experience blanketed her, smothering everything Nola thought she needed, replacing it with what she really craved…baseball.

“Yes, I think I can imagine all of this.”

He squinted at her, confused by her unexpected response.

She cupped Grady’s chin with her quivering hand. “I think I can.”

Photo Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory; 1948

Photo Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory; 1948

If you missed meeting my characters, please check out “Meet the Dames” and “Meet the Fellows” for a little background.

NOLA FRAN EVIE is coming your way on Tuesday!!!

34 thoughts on “That Unmistakable American Comfort

  1. Browsing the Atlas says:

    I always love to hear what inspired authors to write what they write. It amazes me every time I hear someone ask, “where do you get your ideas?” They’re everywhere! As you experienced here. You just have to be be open to them when they fall into your lap— or out of a handbag in this case. 🙂

    Can’t wait to read the book!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      It is cool to hear about the inspiration, right? It always fascinates me. We know how much effort it takes to write a novel, so that inspiration has to really be something for us to stick with it. Being open to ideas is always a good thing!

  2. Letizia says:

    What a wonderful excerpt! I like that you brought in the sense of smell to help relate that to a memory. A smell can transport us so quickly back in time so that really made me connect with Nola’s experience here. I’m looking forward to the book’s release!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      As you said, a smell can TOTALLY transport us to another place and time. Sense of smell is so important to me. I have always joked that I have an “acute snout”, which is a gift and a curse. A gift with yummy smells, like food or nature. A curse when—ahem—yucky scents are around.

      Thanks for your sweet support, doll…as always.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Yay!!! It really is a fantastic shopping list. Think of how interesting it would be to see anybody’s shopping list for that matter. Such a random mixture that can tell so much about a person. Thanks for your enthusiasm for my little book, honey. I appreciate it. : )

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Luckily they had bloomers on underneath to cover up their lady bits. When I played baseball in my middle school PE class I slid into third base while wearing shorts. I was banged up for weeks after that. Yow!

  3. Andrea Stephenson says:

    You were fated to find that handbag and find the story that waited within it. It’s a great story behind what I’m sure will be another great story. Nearly the big day now, good luck and looking forward to it 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Agreed, it was fate. The daydreamer in me wonders if the real owner of the handbag will ever find this story. That would be so neat to learn what she was actually like! Thanks for your kind support, love.

  4. Karin Van den Bergh says:

    Wow! Like a timemachine! I get chills whenever I get my hands on something old like that, and then I start fantasizing about how life must have been. Nostalgia! So neat to have taken that as inspiration for a book – who knows maybe the first one on the market 😉
    As soon as I get settled in my new nest I’ll definitely gonna check our your repertoire.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Totally like a time machine…so amazing! It’s fun to imagine, isn’t it? That’s why I typically prefer historical museums over artistic versions. I like to fantasize about another time. Give me a big dose of nostalgia any day.

      Happy settling! If you ever have any questions about Dallas, just let me know. I’m happy to share some tips.

  5. Zen A. says:

    Ahhhhh. I admit your dedication gave me some goosebumps, and so did the story of how you got the idea for the story. It is extremely fascinating and just couldn’t be more perfect.

    And I just love the excerpt! 😀

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Aw, that’s so neat! The backstory of this whole project still leaves me in awe. Pretty cool stuff! Glad you enjoyed the excerpt. That’s one of my artsy fartsy sections. : )

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      It absolutely was fate. I couldn’t think about anything else for a good while. Pretty sure I was forgetting whether or not I had shampooed for a month. Thanks for your compliments, pretty thang! I hope you enjoy it. Definitely a more light-hearted story than my other two.

  6. jmmcdowell says:

    I love how creative the as-yet untold stories and characters can be when it comes to finding the right person to write their stories. I’m looking forward to reading this!

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