Monday, September 26, 2011

Reading and Writing are Woven Through My Life

When I try to recall the various times and places and people who were important to me, I find that they are often linked in my mind to the books we shared, or the ones that I was reading while I was there.  Even times when I was completely tunes in to the "real world" were often more real in my mind, thanks to being able to compare and contrast them to the stories of other times and places.

My first memories are of sitting on my Mom or Grandma's lap and begging for "Chicken Little" again and again, or reaching out to poke the newspaper while balanced on one of Dad's knees at the breakfast table.
Reading to my guys began when they were born and a dozen years later they still love a good story
 I remember first Grade with books written in the strange phonics of ITA, where my Clifford, The Big Red Dog had Book spelled bwk and school was skwl.
I did not have social skills for dealing with people my own age.  Until I started school, I was surrounded with great grandparents and Great aunts and uncles and could easily talk to people in their 80's and 90's - but 5 or 6!!! No.

So reading became my refuge, hiding behind a book allowed me to escape eye contact and gave me experience and "friends" and practice at the things kids did and thought until I could finally leave Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden on the shelf and talk to flesh and blood friends too.
Hooked my son on Star Wars Novels and his first poem was about Star Wars

This freckle faced "Me" loved books

May be why glasses became essential in 4th grade and by this 10th grade shot no-one could imagine me without them
Even when I came out from behind the book, I used books as a way to connect to people.  I wrote my own stories and gained in confidence as people asked to see what I was writing and actually asked for more.  ARound 8th and 9th grade I discovered the other readers in my school, and we shared our passion for the best books by adding our name to the library waiting list.  I remember some of the most popular books were scary. I was thinking that Hunger Games was too twisted for Jr. High kids until I remembered that, that is when we were devouring, Flowers In the Attic, Carrie, Jaws, and The Exorcist.  Of course we also loved less scary books and The Outsiders and The  Once and Future King were big too.
I think I loved this dress due to Laura Ingalls
Freshman year of college, I really began writing poetry and met my husband.  He loved reading too, and we share a literature book from that year with several favorites, including, "A Rose For Miss Emily" and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"  We wrote a lot that year but looking at my poems I see that they are less poetry and more a journal of the hormonal teenager who has found her "soul mate."
and my husband loved Dr. Doolittle so the animals also came thanks to books

We ended up having a house full of books, two sons, and at one time, a dozen parrots, 2 cats and 2 greyhounds.  The craziness often drove us to taking long road trips, where, instead of reading, we would listen to books on tape, and that is how I shared the first 4 Harry Potter books with boys who were too young to read them themselves.  Later the books were devoured by the boys on their own, but I miss those family drives with the story shared between us.
Going to See Writer, Timothy Zahn was a family Treat
Finally I got brave enough to publish my own fantasy novels, and they have slowly been making their way into the wider world, but not even the thrill of holding my first printed book can equal the feeling of having my family hanging on as I read aloud from 280 typewritten pages, and they were just as involved as when I was reading, "a real book" to them.
Thrilled to hold my first book in proof

Still Thrilled with two novels in print
 Still, I wondered, what leads from reading other peoples stories to needing to create my own?  My first "job" was helping my Grandpa, tan rabbit hides and mount them on fiberglass forms, with glass eyes and deer antlers.  I sold those, "Jack-a-lopes" to the tourists along with richly detailed stories of the life and habits of the critters.  I think that is when I became hooked on having an audience and knowing that my words had the power to make someone wait for the next one, or pull out their money, or laugh, just laugh.
Posing my Anne Geddes Sunflower baby in my Yard

Judy, my first and most faithful best friend

Oh Give Me a Home
Every game I made up for my dolls and my 2 younger brothers, every story I acted out to my classroom or told to my sons, drew me deeper into the part of me that finds reality best felt against the backdrop of creative storytelling.  I can feel pain and sorrow when a friend dies, but survive it a little easier because I've experienced it in a slightly more removed manner first, when reading Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows.


  1. Wow, I liked all the same books as you--THE EXORCIST, FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC, also THE OMEN, AUDREY ROSE--and you're right, they were scary! The more things change, right?

    I relate to the respite you found in books, and loved the photo memory tour. Congrats on becoming an author yourself!

  2. Oh, I loved AUDREY ROSE. That one I kept and would love to reread. Plus there was a sequel that I have but wasn't as good. I also loved Firestarter but that may have been a bit later than High School. Thanks for stopping by and commenting jennymilch

  3. Very inspiring article, thank you very much :)