Write What You Know

to-kill-a-mockingbird[1]

To Kill a Mocking Bird, by Harper Lee, is said to be one of the most inspiring stories ever read, outside of the Bible. When Lee submitted the story to a publishing company, she was told that it was too much of a collection of short stories, so she spent three more years working on it until it became the best seller we know today. The next year, Harper received the Pulitzer Prize for her work, and the book was made into a major motion picture.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “Write what you know.” Sure, it seems logical that if you know a subject you will write accurate facts, and your research is mostly your life experience. Yet, never have the words seemed truer than they did today, as I sat working with a student on his To Kill a Mockingbird assignment. I stumbled upon the similarities between Harper Lee and the young girl, Scout, who lives and narrates the story in her book.

Harper Lee grew up in the 1930s in a rural southern Alabama town. Scout grew up in the 1930s in a rural southern Alabama town.

Lee’s father, Amasa Lee, is an attorney who served in the state legislature in Alabama. Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, is an attorney who served in the state legislature in Alabama.

Lee’s older brother and young neighbor (Truman Capote) are playmates. Scout’s old brother (Jem) and young neighbor (Dill) are playmates.

Lee was an avid reader as a child. Scout reads before she enters school and reads the Mobile Register newspaper in first grade.

Lee is six years old when the Scottsboro trials are widely covered in national, state and local newspapers. Scout is six years old when the trial of Tom Robinson takes place.

Harper Lee told the press that she had started another book when To Kill a Mockingbird came out, but to this date she hasn’t submitted any others. Some say she didn’t like the fame, others say it would be hard to beat the book she already wrote. Nevertheless, her work is still read in high schools today, teaching life lessons as students read about the life Lee actually lived.