Marjorie Lewis is a writer, journalist and sports enthusiast. Her debut novel When The Men Were Gone is based on a true story set during World War II. Here's a story from her about how she discovered her new passion:
As a sportswriter, I knew what it was like to go after a story. What I did not know
was that by simply putting on a T-shirt, a story would come to me.
A powder blue, V-neck with two white stripes circling each of the short sleeves
and the words “Tulsa football” scribbled across the front changed my life one
“I love football, too,” my nurse told me as she stuck my shoulder blade with what
felt like a thousand needles, testing my resistance to food allergies. “All the
women in my family do. It started with my great aunt, who was a football coach
during World War II.”
I about fainted – not because of the needles, not when my nurse’s words packed a
much deeper punch.
I had been a sportswriter since 1979. In the years since, the Fort Worth and Dallas
dailies I’d worked for had sent me chasing stories from coast to coast and even
abroad. But in that instant, in a doctor’s office in July of ’11, I knew I was about
to embark on a journey of another kind.
I blasted my nurse with questions, but eventually, I just sat back and listened. By
the time she had completed her story, I knew it was a story I had to tell. She
agreed, and soon I began my research. I travelled to Brownwood, Texas, were
Tylene Wilson coached. I dug through yearbooks and newspapers. I spoke to local
historians and even to the preacher who presided over Tylene’s funeral in 1992.
He remembered her funeral so many years later simply because, as he said, “she
was a football coach.”
But digging up a story from the World War II-era was not easy. Many
publications had ceased to publish during the war, and, of course, more than 70
years later, many people had passed on. Eventually, I found myself at a crossroad.
I had discovered much about Tylene, but not enough for a book.
Instead of leaving the story untold, I chose to write a novel, a way to memorialize
what Tylene did during such a difficult time in our history, and by extension, to
memorialize what all women did during the war. Their stories may have been lost
to time, but not their impact.
So after a seven-year journey of discovery, Tylene’s story will rest in my hands
for the first time on Oct. 2, 2018, the day Morrow/HarperCollins will release the
book. I think before I open it, I’ll put on that T-shirt.