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The Tin Hats Revisited. The Author’s Experience

Well, it has been almost a year since I finished the manuscript for my first book, “A Different Kind of Bombshell.” I now realize how much I have learned from this experience, about my father, myself, my writing, friendships and, of course, customer service in a lean environment.

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If you have read my book or if you haven’t yet, my father was a member of “The Tin Hats”, a second-world war era military entertainment group that entertained troops from 1939-1945. Through research and writing about my father’s experience as a female impersonator in an all-male vaudeville-style show, I learned not only about this portion of history, but I also learned a great deal about my father and his influence on me and others  A typical sixties child with a stay-at-home mom and a father who worked hard and was often away, I never realized how much my father had shaped my attitude to life. I learned something about the measure of a man through him. My father wasn’t a particularly manly man, but he had a steely determination and iron control over himself. Yet, having gone through a devastating war in an unconventional way, he was very accepting of difference.  He loved his friends unconditionally.  At the same time, he sought out new friends because of their difference, making friends with people of different cultures and orientations. My mother was a little more hesitant and critical, providing an important check. This was the atmosphere that I grew up in and one that has shaped my thinking and behaviour throughout my life. I hadn’t really understood this dynamic until I had finished writing my book.

“A Different Kind of Bombshell” was for me something that needed to be written. It mattered little to me if it hit the best sellers list or Good Reads. Read more on my book!

So, what have I learned about writing? Just do it. Once you start, the next piece of writing is easier. You are more confident because you know you can do it.  “A Different Kind of Bombshell” was for me something that needed to be written. It mattered little to me if it hit the best sellers list or Good Reads. This was a solitary writing experience.  I now definitely have the bug. I have jumped right away into the next book, but this time, a collaboration with four other authors. I am now taking more time to think about our audience and what they want or would get out of our new book.

I also learned that there are many layers to your experience as a writer. I wrote this first book as a beginner, just thinking about following the story. After it was published, I started to understand that the story of “The Tin Hats” could teach many lessons. There are many themes that I could have followed, had I understood their power at the time. 

For example, it wasn’t until after that I thought about how The Tin Hats’ brand of customer service was a precursor to the lean methodology for continual improvement.  My friend, Bella Englebach, interviewed me for her PodcastThe Edges of Lean”. Through this interview, I was able to really understand how “The Tin Hats” fit into Lean and continuous flow. “The Tin Hats” entertainment troupe practiced respect for people: respecting the different units, talents, and sexual orientations within the troupe; showing gratitude to all those soldiers that supported them; and tailoring their performance to each audience. They were lean problem solvers by necessity, driven to drive out waste in their operations and performances because of wartime shortages. They faced constant setbacks, continually changing circumstances and audience needs, adjusting their program to provide their best effort for the suffering soldiers.

Writing this book also taught me about friendship. I learned that true friendship is forged and that it can grow and change over time if it is nurtured. My father loved his wartime buddies, keeping up with them all of his life, staying up-to-date on how they changed overtime and their post-war experiences. I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who encouraged and supported me before, during and after publishing. These are friendships that I intend to keep and nurture.

Each new member of the “Tin Hats Next Generation” that has reached out to me has told me how happy they were to finally hear about their loved ones’ experiences during the war, and also what it has meant to them. Finding out about “The Tin Hats” has helped them to heal, erase doubts or confirm their identity.

A bit of a lone wolf, I noticed that my dad kept his friendships, but I hadn’t thought deeply about reaching out to the next generation. Since writing the story of “The Tin Hats”, I have met some of the family of the members of this extraordinary entertainment troupe. What I have come to appreciate is their thirst for knowledge about the part their fathers or uncles played in the history of the Tin Hats, each for different reasons and some of them painful. I have understood that relationships that end can cause pain to the next generation. Each new member of the “Tin Hats Next Generation” that has reached out to me has told me how happy they were to finally hear about their loved ones’ experiences during the war, and also what it has meant to them. Finding out about “The Tin Hats” has helped them to heal, erase doubts or confirm their identity.

So how has writing “A Different Kind of Bombshell” changed me? I have realized that I can continue to learn and grow even well into later life. I was ready to sit back and watch the world go by, but with this book, I learned that with more time and hopefully wisdom, creativity can grow at any age. Even an older seed just needs to be nurtured.  

Thank you to the story of “The Tin Hats” for revealing itself to me and for everything it has given me! My newfound friends have offered me a challenge. Write a play about “The Tin Hats”, a play within a play, they have said. I might just do that!

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