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Ankeny Author Gets Inspiration from Her Grandparents’ Love Letters During WWI

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DES MOINES, IA -- Twenty years ago author, Patti Stockdale, was searching for inspiration for her first book when her family discovered old love letters her grandparents sent to each other while her granddad was in World War I. After reading those letters and doing research on that time period, Stockdale felt like this brought her closer to her ancestry.

“It strengthens my bond with my grandparents and it gives me a deeper appreciation of what it was like to live in 1917 and 1918,” Stockdale said. “How hard that was to leave home to go overseas to fight for your country and all the people at home waiting for their loved ones to return that just, it's hard to fathom.”

After taking a new job, Stockdale stopped writing. However, when her family moved back to Iowa a few years ago, she found the spark she needed to revisit her book, Three Little Things.

“I pulled out my letters, did my research pulled out the manuscript and did a couple of rewrites and that's the book I sold,” Stockdale said.

Stockdale said all good characters need flaws but it was hard for her to write anything bad about her grandparents. So she decided to write a fictional novel and honor her grandparents by giving the main characters their names, Arnold and Hattie.

In the process of writing this novel, Stockdale learned a lot about the early 20th century. Such things as the impact of the Spanish flu, the discrimination German Americans faced at the time, which her family identifies as, and what plight that soldiers faced. What she found interesting was that her grandparents didn't dwell on those things in their letters. Instead, they focused on the joy of everyday life and getting to know more about each other. They shared three things about themselves in each letter, which is where the novel’s name came from. Stockdale says she's grateful because, without these letters, she wouldn't know grandparents like she does now.

“I have gained a much greater appreciation for letter writing it's beautiful and, you know, we're not going to be saving texts and emails that these letters you know as long as a stationary holds out will treasure them forever,” Stockdale said.

Three Little Things is available for pre-order now on Amazon.  It will be on bookshelves at Beaverdale Books and both Barnes and Noble locations in West Des Moines on February 4th.

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