But seriously, you know I’m not a big product pusher on this site – but this one, I couldn’t resist because:
- It’s a NOOK, for Pete’s sake, and therefore, worthy of a giveaway.
- I get one too.
- I love you people and I’m happy to get you free stuff.
- It’s a great opportunity for me to make you do what I say (via my giveaway/contest rules)…and I simply love bossing people around.
If you don’t know, the nook is Barnes & Noble’s eBook reader. It’s pretty awesome:
- It’s not backlit, so it’s easy on the eyes
- Obviously, you can download books instantly (and I’ve been known not to order a book online purely because it was going to take 3 days to get to me – and for some reason I’d rather not have it at all than wait 3 days, I know, I know)
- It’s wifi-connected so you have access to newspapers and magazines (which could give me a reason to read them again!)
- You can share books with friends (and I love sharing books – and clothes)
- And, the coolest part, I think, is that you can make notes for yourself on whatever you’re reading (I’m guessing that I like this function so much because I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut, and the nook isn’t asking me to) right on the digital page…
- More coolness, features and functionality can be found here (including a comparison to the Kindle)
So here’s the deal:
I recently found my very favorite English teacher, Dr. Puhr, on Facebook. I’d been looking for awhile. She’s absolutely one of the reasons I’m here. She taught A.P. American Lit my junior year in high school…and we read the best books ever: The Color Purple, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Catch 22, Catcher in the Rye, Song of Solomon, Emerson & Thoreau…. And she did cool things, like having us listen to Billy Joel’s haunting Goodnigh Saigon when we were talking about Vietnam and the 60’s and reading Waiting for Godot.
I was already hooked on reading (via my grandparents huge library of fat books like The Thornbirds that I started reading when I was 9ish), analyzing the hell out of it…and, of course, writing. But Dr. Puhr came right at the moment that I started to really think about things – about life and how expansive it really was. It was during those prime teenager angst years, you know? And she fed my hunger for knowing. She encouraged my thinking, my learning, my writing. She opened my eyes.
She encouraged me to be me. And that has had an invaluable impact on my writing and my life.
So, do you want this NOOK or what? Tell me your story in the comments below: who influenced your writing, your obsession with words and/or your love of reading?
I’ve chosen three judges to pick the best story…which was hard, because everyone wants a Nook – but I did it anyway. So there. Because picking my favorite story would be like picking my favorite kid and you just aren’t supposed to do that – I love you all equally. (These judges aren’t even web savvy, so it’s not worth me telling you who they are or giving you their urls because they don’t have any…also, I promised to protect them from the masses). I’ll announce the winner on Friday (March 19th – the same day The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo opens. Go. See. It.)
Join the discussion 56 Comments
My junior English teacher was Mrs. Sharon Kingston (the same one praised by one of the astronauts who died after take-off a few years ago). Mrs. Kingston taught us to love the meaning of words. She captivated us with how she could tell a story. I once had a classmate smuggle in a taperecorder on a day I would be absent. But she caught us. What I would give for a recording of her! After school one day, in a moment of exhaustion, she snapped at me. That night, she called me at home to apologize, which told me that I meant something to her. In every paper I wrote, I tried to use the tools she’d given us. I tried to move her the way she moved me. I think I still do. I would go on to win a national award for writing. The subject, in part, was the difference it makes for students when an adult at the school connects with them. I will forever be grateful to this wonderful soul who showed us that storytelling is an adventure.
Wow this is going to be a hard answer but ill start with my English teachers in high school. They said I wrote hilarious stories and interesting. I’ve always wrote stories though but it wasn’t until one of my teachers told me I should become a writer that I started thinking about it. Anne Rice and Tolkien are also reasons why I’m writing still. I want to create worlds . Magical worlds like they have and have people so into the book that you just can’t put it down, not even for eating.
.-= pamela´s last blog ..For my Birthday… =-.
I am lucky to have parents who are huge readers! My earliest memories are of curling up in my daddy’s lap with a book. The routine of reading before lights out at night is one that I keep with. There’s always at least one book in my bag (you never know when you’ll have time for a page or two) and these are some of the best habits my parents taught me. Ever since then, any time life gets a little rough, I turn to books for comfort. A shared love of reading has made my mum and I best friends – mailing books trans-Atlantic so we can compare notes. Ever since then, any time life gets a little rough, I turn to books for comfort. I live by the motto that there’s nothing so bad that a good book and a cup of tea can’t make a little better!
.-= Joanne Sardini´s last blog ..Haiti – The Martha’s Vineyard Connection =-.
My 5th Grade teacher. We always used to have homework assignments where she would give us a broad topic of some sort, and would have to write a short story based off of that. We were practicing for the 5th grade writing exam and helped us with our stories, the proper structure and characters so we could do well. The stories were usually supposed to be 300-500 words, but she encouraged me to take off and would write 1500 word stories (which is a lot for a 5th grader). Then she chose a few people to read them in class, and chose me one day to read. The kids in the class liked my story so much that they actually asked me to read it again the next day. She continued to help me with the practice stories and when the time came for the NYS Writing Exam, I got a perfect 16/16 and was one of 3 kids in the entire 5th grade to do so and was so happy. I was so glad she pushed me then, and it helped me continue to enjoy writing as a hobby now.
I believe writing and a love of words was always within me – essay questions never got to me the way they did to all of my friends. When my English teachers tried to teach me the “proper” way to write a term paper, I just wanted to skip ahead to the actual writing part. But oh, how I loved the reading. Canterbury Tales, For Whom The Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea. Whitman, Thoreau, Steinbeck. The list goes on.
But I also believe that, like a love between two people, a love of words has to be renewed as it matures. For a while, I satisfied that urge by writing print ads, TV scripts, radio scripts, websites and the like. I simply considered myself lucky to be doing what I was doing and collecting a paycheck for it.
These days, I still do all that. But it’s the payoff from fueling my passion by writing short stories and the beginnings (no endings yet) of one novel after another.
My children are now providing me with a fresh set of eyes to rediscover an innocent love of words as playthings, too. Just last night I found myself slightly jealous of my son that he has the freedom to be so engrossed in a book titled, The Day My Butt Went Psycho, whereas I would just look ridiculous reading that book. Then again, it’s probably pretty good, so maybe I’ll risk it.
Reading? I was a reading fiend long before I remember having any influences. I was the kid whose mom had to say “Get your nose out of that book!” and I would sneak books under the covers long after I was supposed to be asleep.
As for writing, my biggest influence would have to be Mrs. P, my sophomore and senior AP English teacher (yes, I was lucky enough to have her twice in high school!). She was about the same height as me (we measured one day in class; she was an inch taller than me) and full of spunk. Her greatest gift to us was independence – we each chose a book that we’d be responsible for (I chose James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) and we decided what the assignments would be for the class, leading the discussion, and taking charge of our own education. Later, upon hearing our frustration at never getting a chance to do what *we* wanted, she gave us 2 weeks with no homework – during that time we could pursue our own interests or research our own project and present something to the class: one student researched her family’s Russian roots. She, above any other teacher, made me want to push for more from myself. Not just absorbing the information, but chewing it up, digesting it, and then hunting for the next meal. At a time when young adults are torn between youth and adulthood, she gave us a voice, respect, and best of all, a thirst for more.
One afternoon during my high school years, just as the bell rang at the end of lunch, I made a poor choice. I walked right past the door to my Trigonometry class, then across the soccer fields and down the road to my house. I didn’t want to be at school, I didn’t want to deal with tangents, and I had a big pile of books on my desk at home that were all far more interesting than any of my textbooks.
I got in trouble. My dad got a call, and he came home to find me sitting on my bed, breaking into The Chronicles of Amber for the very first time. He sank down on the edge of the bed for one of those Dad Talks, and asked me what I was doing. I told him, same as I said above, and he nodded along while I talked, but then he said, “I know this doesn’t feel important to you right now, but if you mess up in high school, you’re going to have a lot of trouble getting into a good college–”
And I cut him off, explaining that I was going to be a writer. I didn’t need college. I was working on the last chapter of my first novel already, and I knew what I needed to know. His wisdom (and, eventually, parental authority) prevailed. I went back to school in time for History, and barely skipped classes at all after that.
I did get into a good college — one with a fantastic Writing degree — and one of my very first major classes was Creative Writing I. I showed up, grabbed a seat in the back, and started scribbling in my scribblebook, waiting for class to start.
Then Dr. Peggy Gipson slipped quietly into class. She looked around the room, cleared her throat, and said with a dread certainty, “You are all writers.”
That was her message, from day one, and she made sure we learned it. We weren’t just kids taking a writing class. We weren’t people who hoped to be writers one day. Writing wasn’t a hobby or a passtime or an interest for us. She told us — and we came to believe it — that writing was part of who we were.
In that first class period I knew I’d been wrong when I told my dad I didn’t need classes. I needed what Dr. Gipson had to offer. Not just the experience and wisdom, but the attitude. The confidence. The certain knowledge that I am a writer.
She became my mentor, and in four short years she taught me how to write better. More than that, she taught me how to teach writing, how to share this incredibly lonely profession with others, how to take (and give) feedback, and how to stretch, practicing new things without sacrificing my own special voice. Before I met her, I wanted to be a writer.
Once I knew her, though, I was a writer.
.-= Aaron Pogue´s last blog ..The Point of Punctuation =-.
As long as I can remember, I’ve walked around with a notebook and a pen, mimicking my mother who taught me to read by sitting on her lap at age 4 and who slaved tirelessly by candle light over her own hand-written journal for years. She was published by age 17, but thought she wasn’t a good enough writer, because she only won 2nd place in the nationwide contest she had entered. She was a journalist for several years and now she writes for her own pleasure again whenever she can. This woman gave me my jump start for a life-long love of writing by her very example.
As a teenager, she became the fuel for my tumultuous writing! It was my only outlet to express all of my teenage angst coupled with my imagination. Anytime we had a disagreement or a fight, I crafted a wild story out of it or poured all of my emotion into poetry. (Of course, she was not the reason for the angst.) I recently pulled out over 200+ writings and poetry from my teens and twenties. I was blown away by the quality of the pieces.
I did not, however, pursue writing as a career path in college. I studied music and international studies. My writing came in so handy and it became clear to me that I had a talent when I put off a research paper comparing U.S. foreign policies in 2 different countries all semester. I wrote it the day it was due and scored an A+. I was ashamed of myself and thrilled all at once.
Instances of managers and VP’s coming to me in the corporate world because I had a “way with words” began to inspire me recently. After I was downsized two years ago, I renewed a commitment to writing that I am still trying to work out. However, I began to read for pleasure again and have begun to carry that pad & paper everywhere again. I need to write more and think less about whether or not I think people will want to read what I have to say.
I find a sacred sense of knowledge and power in reading and writing. It’s the ultimate tool of expression for me when I am verbally at a loss for words. I thank my mom for giving this gift to me so freely.
I have been eying the Nook for months now. I just have not been able to justify the purchase for myself. I did purchase one as a Christmas gift for my father, who is an avid reader, and has had much influence on my reading as well as my siblings and children. He is one of the few people I know that can read a book, watch the ballgame on television and keep up with the conversation in the room. I’m not sure that he has taken to all of the features the nook offers but he is learning. More to the point for this contest, I would give Mr. Rideout, my 6th grade teacher, a great deal of credit for opening my door, eyes and confidence in reading. In second grade, I was put in a special program because of a slight case of dyslexia. This was in the mid seventies when you were separated out for specialized learning, it was not nearly as main stream as I see in our educational programs today. I was labeled a bad reader and considered a myself a bad reader until Mr. Rideout introduced me and my class to “A Wrinkle in Time” in the 6th grade. I could not put the book down and so enjoyed the class discussions reviewing the book. That was the first time I read a book and enjoyed it. It was the start of me having the confidence and appreciation to read and know that there was a whole lot more to be learned about life right at my fingertips.
I know that at some point there will be a nook in my hands and more books at my fingertips – I’d prefer sooner than later! Thanks for offering this great contest!
.-= Anne Mayhew´s last blog ..Martha’s Vineyard Vacation Rental: Adorable Aquinnah Retreat =-.
I came to writing in a different way than most. When I was young, I had a fairly severe dissociative disorder. I didn’t like my own reality, so I began creating alternate realities. I was from a very small town, graduating class of twelve, so my symptoms weren’t easily diagnosed. I was just an ‘oddball’ and other less savory words. I wrote in school, in class when I should have been paying attention. I wrote at home, hiding myself away on the top shelf of a closet with a flashlight so I wouldn’t be disturbed. I wrote in my head when I couldn’t get to a pen and paper. Writing was something I held on too for years, even after I was diagnosed. I still love writing fantasy and fiction, and now, my kids love reading it too. My daughter is my biggest fan. Given how much I love doing it, I actually wouldn’t change my past if it meant that I never started writing. Reading is my second passion, I hope to see my own novels in print some day!
Two people influenced my writing career ( Alice Walker and the guy who wrote the Alchemist.) Alice Walker’s rich use of language making it so powerful and so emotion-evoking that it made me wonder if I could ever have such a profound effect on humans–I found out I couldn’t even make Kool-Aid, so I had to choose another genre.
The Alchemist guy made me realize how NOT to write. I know, you’re saying–he’s sold a butt load of books–more than you’ll ever imagine selling, Nando (I have 2 books on their way to publishing). I just think he’s too romantic too “fake” with his words–so I make sure my writing isn’t like his. I know I sound weird and sacrilegious, but what do you expect from a Catholic Mexican? That’s how I roll.
But the man who allowed me to find my voice was none other than Davis Sedaris. With his ability to make you laugh out loud–no matter where you are, yes, even at your great aunt Martha’s funeral–that man is powerful. Never had I crushed another man–besides my 4 boyfriends, Bradly Cooper, and the butcher on Atlantic Ave like that. (Listen, what that man does with a butcher knife and a slab of pork roast–OY!) When a force (like David Sedaris) has that type of influence–you want to find your own voice, but add a touch of his in the mix–without being sued.
And there you have it–how and why I write for food. (Literally, I’m waiting for a paypal deposit to hit to rush out for some top ramen!)
God bless us all.
(did I win?)
.-= nandoism´s last blog ..The Right Time to Say I Love You =-.
What an awesome contest! Of course my earliest influence was my family, who were all frequent readers and really showed me the diversity of reading material available. My parents read the newspaper, non-fiction and spiritual literature; my sister read novels and poetry; my brothers read adventure stories and comics. I was almost a decade younger than my siblings and wanted to grow up just like them! A special treasure, though, was when I discovered books that my father had inherited from his uncle; adventure novels from the early 1900s – and I love them just as much (or more) than current fiction! I just fell in love with the idea that books transcend time & space and transport the reader to different worlds.
I also have to speak to my mother’s love of words. She sang traditional lullabyes and nursery rhymes and told and re-told fairy tales. She sang modern songs but never cared if she didn’t “know all the word” – she substituted whatever she felt like and showed me the potential playfulness in word use. She introduced me to the public library and let me read as much as I liked, and never complained when I thought that I should then “teach” her all that I was learning.
I think I was inspired to read before I was born! My mother was an English teacher, and her love of literature and reading must’ve reached me in the womb. I can’t confirm this, but I’ve heard she read aloud to me even then.
She didn’t choose typical children’s books either. My mom read Chaucer and “Tristan & Isolde” to my sister and I in the original language (no Modern English versions for my mom!) along with Shakespeare, Poe, “The Highwayman”, “My Antonia” (complete with accent), and just about anything else she could find in her college textbooks and teaching materials.
Every Saturday, our family would head to the library. Neither of my parents every censored our reading, and I admit, I probably read a few books before I should have, but in our house, books were the source of free expression. Living in Pittsburgh, we lost power more snowstorms than not, and I remember looking forward to the entire family gathering around the fireplace to read by candle- and firelight.
My mother is 70 now and still works 30 hours a week in the Dallas County Library System as a library page. My own children’s reading started with books she brought them, gifts from “Grandma Texas”. Without my mother’s unorthodox children’s lit as a child and her encouraging me to read whatever struck my fancy, I would never have majored in English myself or become, you guessed it, a teacher!
I just have to say that you are all amazing. My poor, poor judges! How will they ever choose. I wish I was Oprah or Ellen – because then, I could have you all do this and then yell, “Kidding! Nooks for everyone!” – I’ll work on that…
I refuse to pimp out the memories of either Mrs Johnston, my second grade teacher at Garden Villas Elementary who loved every word I wrote and gave them construction paper backed prominence each Wednesday morning on the story bulletin board or Mrs Pesceyne, my 12th grade English composition teacher who resisted my established rep as the star writer of any Houston school and certainly in the High School for Health Professions by giving me my very first C for being a lazy writer which kicked me in the ass toward beating Bellaire High School, the perennial winner of the district writing competition and giving Mrs Pesceyne her first victory of many to come over those Bellaire prep school wannabees for a free Nook.
When I cast my mind back as far as I possibly can (and yes, I have brain ache now – I’ll accept the Nook as compensation), I can’t remember a time when I did not love to read and write.
My own dear mother played a huge role in this by encouraging me to read even before I started school. She would read me such classics as The Hungry Caterpillar and then Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator when I was a little older.
At school, thanks to this head start, I was eons in front of the rest of the class when it came to immersing myself in the “tomes” of our little school library. My mother’s belief in the importance of reading also meant I’d absorbed so much at such a young age that I passed every spelling test with flying colors. (I know, I know – you’re just waiting for me to spell something wrong now. I’ll try not to disappoint.)
On my seventh birthday, my mum presented me with a birthday cake, which was essentially a giant green bookworm. I was thrilled.
Meanwhile, I became obsessed with reading as many books as possible. I went through phases: Enid Blyton (The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, among others) was one. I also recall my mother chastising me for not reading enough non-fiction stuff when she noticed how much I’d taken to reading Sweet Valley High books from our local library. I quickly dropped them and took her advice. I remember borrowing a friend’s copy of A Dawn of Time by Stephen Hawkins. I think I was only twelve. Watership Down was the first (but not the last) book to make me cry.
For me, writing went hand in hand with all this reading. My parents still affectionately tease me today about how they’d take me to visit a local farm as a kid and I’d come home and write a little tale all about the little pony and the pot-bellied pig. In my early teens, reading the work of others would spark ideas in me for my own novels. I had a jittery little typewriter and would start my own books all the time and then get bored (the storyline always suffered because I spent too much time with my characters) and stop half-way through.
I will never forget Mr Finch, my high school English teacher who actually – shock, horror – ENJOYED teaching us. His passion could not fail to rub off on us students. He had us read Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and then The Heart of Darkness by Conrad. Those books still shape how I think about life today. I remember us all pleading to him after The Heart of Darkness for something a little more lighthearted. It was thanks in large part to him that I studied English at university back home in the UK and even wrote my dissertation on the works of Hardy. I’ve actually never told him that and wish I could.
My ambition is one day to write my own novels. Oh, and my new Web 2.0 ambition is to write my own blog. Well, a girl’s gotta start somewherre.*
*Spelling error intentional
Lines from a book I’ve read to my kid many times come to mind. “Read to your bunny, it’s 20 minutes of fun. Read to your bunny often and your bunny will read to you!” Massive paraphrase going on there but it’s amazing when your kid develops, reads, and then writes to you, about you. Naked truth that maybe you don’t want to hear. That’ll influence you!
I had english teachers that meant a lot too. More than one for sure. There was one that encouraged me and had humor too. She’d get the misbehaving boys to settle down by saying what I hear in my head in her voice, “You two birds pipe down!” That’s pretty much what they were, chattering birds. ;-) Imagine my amusement at the social network – twitter!
We’d be here all day detailing all of the influences. This quote is on my facebook page and it pretty well sums it up. “How many, many friendships life’s path has let me see. I’ve kept a scrap of each of them to make the whole of me.” ~ J.M.Bacher
.-= Regina´s last blog ..Genetically Modified Organisms – Are we being nice to Mother Nature? =-.
This is crazy. Just the other week, I wrote a post on mentors, and gave a shout-out to two college professors, both of whom had taught me how to write kick-ass cover letters. Yet I neglected to acknowledge those who had actually shaped my reading and writing habits. Thank god for this comment thread.
Because my parents were the ones who started it all. They used to read to me all the time, before I was able to make my way through a book on my own. There are pictures of my father and me reading a book on farm animals. And Good Night Richard Rabbit still holds a place of honor on my bookcase.
Once I did get a handle on the whole reading thing, I couldn’t be stopped. I did it when I was supposed to be doing homework. I did it when I was supposed to be sleeping. I did it while walking through the halls at school. At one point, my sixth grade homeroom teacher actually told me I should read less and socialize more. Eff that!
When I grew tired of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, I moved on to the adult books lining the walls and the closet shelves in our rec room. As a result, the horror genre continues to be a guilty pleasure (much to the chagrin of almost every single one of my past English teachers).
My reading (and writing) habits shifted in college. The most dramatic shift came when I transferred to Emerson at the age of 21, and took my very first writing workshop with Kristin Lund. She taught us how to write by having us study the writings of others. She brought in tons of story excerpts each week, and this is how I learned about Lorrie Moore, Tim O’Brien, Tom Robbins, Bret Easton Ellis, and others. (In fact, once that class ended, I bemoaned the fact that I would no longer know which new authors to check out.)
I also learned, during the course of the semester, what my voice was. I learned that I could be funny, and honest, and write about things that other people were afraid to write about. I learned that I could do it in a way that made readers feel less alone.
I still write to make readers feel less alone. I suppose that class stayed with me more than I realized.
.-= Steph Auteri´s last blog ..Link Love: March 14, 2010 =-.
I was born with the gift of articulation. Really. Sounds and words came out of my mouth early. Because I had a love of them. Both music (my first real word apart from mama and dada was mickey and it meant music, specificaly “Givee mickey” which meant play it). As early as I could form sentences, I would sidle up to the nearest unsuspecting victim and demand that they “talk to me.” Once I learned to write, short illustrated books became de rigueur.
But then something happened. The reading requirements at my school from a very early age were overwhelming. I quickly became very well-read, and equally full of hatred for reading. Writing vanished along with it.
But still, I knew that I COULD write. I just didn’t want to. Mostly this was fear-driven. I was afraid to have people read my words. It made me feel exposed and vulnerable. it would have been like hailing a cab naked in the middle of Times Square, and I would never do that, so why on EARTH would I write?
There were countless teachers, professors and of course my Jewish mother along the way. Encouraging, pleading, pushing. To no avail.
Then one day I was having cocktails on the Lower East Side. And from across the bar I was spotted by a woman I’d gone to college with. I hadn’t known her very well in school, but I remembered that we’d shared some classes. She was warm and cheerful and friendly and eager to embark on a friendship with me. At first I found it off-putting and dodged her efforts, and then I realized that I was being awful. Here was a genuine and lovely person who wanted to be friends. So I sent her an e-mail. We met for dinner. Then drinks. And built a friendship that I came to treasure.
Kim was a creative person. She produced television. She wrote. Conceived. Created. And through the handful of e-mails that she and I had exchanged, she had seen something in my writing and made it her mission to encourage me to do so. She was relentless in her efforts. And I was muleheaded.
Some time afterwards, Kim died. She’d killed herself. To this day, I can’t begin to comprehend her pain. I didn’t know it had been there. No one did. She took all of her time and energy and threw it into everyone around her. She touched everyone she knew and made most of us better for it.
That was five years ago. I think of Kim almost every day. I miss her, despite the short time she was in my life. And I continued to hear her voice and feel her nudging me to write long after she was gone.
It wasn’t until November 2009 that I sat down, typed my feelings and set them free into the ether. And I found something. I LOVED writing. And I hated myself for not having listened to Kim all those years ago. I’d literally deprived myself of this glorious, wondrous thing. The ability to set my feelings and thoughts free and maybe even touch another person while doing it.
But more than writing, I love Kim for unleashing it. She is the reason I am writing today. Although she isn’t here on earth, she is my reminder and my guide. There is only one way now that I can thank her for that. And that is to keep on writing.
.-= Lucky Girl´s last blog ..but I love you? =-.
The feel of the pages, the smell of the paper, the heft of it in your hands. Oh, the joys of a book! I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t passionate about books, reading & authors. I was the middle school girl who sat with her nose in a book on the bus and nearly missed her stop. I was the girl who, in high school, would read all of the assigned books, cover-to-cover, before they were due (I know, you hated me). I’ve just always loved to transport myself to another time, place and culture through reading. I’m grateful to all of those authors who I’ve read over the years for giving me the opportunity to travel while curled up in my reading chair with my dog at my feet.
My parents were both voracious readers who provided the love of words to their daughters. Mom & Dad are still reading everything they can get their hands on and sending the good ones my way when possible. All three daughters duly reciprocate and there are many heated discussions that follow when we all read the same book.
My love of reading and books led me to an on-line discussion group over 10 years ago. This group has grown, changed and developed over the years with a core group of about 20 of us who are all passionate about sharing our love of books with one another. We get together a couple of times each year at different locations around the country. We are all very different (size, shape, age, color, background) but our love of reading brought us all together. We’ve shared hundreds of books and thousands of pages but we’ve also shared each others’ joys, sorrows, concerns and lives for over a decade. They are a truly special group.
As for writing, I can honestly thank Mr. Aiello, my freshman English teacher. He introduced me to authors who changed my life and then spent countless frustrating hours correcting our abysmal writing assignments. He made it his personal mission to make sure we knew the English language and how it was to be used — but he did it with love rather than than with outward anger as so many teachers are inclined to do.
With all this being said, I’d love a Nook! I’m a die-hard library user but, boy, wouldn’t it be nice to have one of those slick e-readers in my hands! I’m sure I could get used to a different smell, feel & heft. With the possibility of thousands of books at my fingertips, my family just may never see me again.
Writing has been an evolution for me. Like you, I had a teacher (5th grade, Mrs. Douglas) who first recognized the writing talent within me but there has been so many people and events in my life that have continued to motivate me.
In our 5th grade year book my teacher, Mrs. Douglas, commented on each student, picking out one trait she loved about them and predicting what they would grow up to be. I had written a few short stories for her, more-so because I liked to draw the pictures that went with the words, but it wasn’t until that year book came out that I realized how much my words had actually affected her. Beside my name, under the “future profession” category she wrote “author”. I was stunned.
Years and years went by without much in the way of writing. I read a lot but was mainly caught up in the life of a kid and teenager. I kept a diary and wrote some silly love letters but it wasn’t until I was preparing to get married that I truly started to write.
Something inside of me one day told me I needed to write. Raped when I was younger and molested by babysitters there were demons inside of me that I felt needed releasing. That is when I wrote Choosing Life. My friends gave me such great reviews that I kept writing until Choosing Life finally became my first novel. I felt renewed, felt like I finally found my true self.
I kept writing. Short stories, articles for friends and eventually started a little blog. I had no idea what to do with a blog but I was thrilled to have one.
Then my husband left.
Blind sided by the man I loved, I suddenly felt alone and useless. I didn’t know what to do. That’s when I found Twitter.
I needed a creative outlet for my frustrations and hurts and Twitter provided not only that but some great people to lift me up. This is when I found Nola Erus (@sensualstories)a beautiful, erotic author with a heart of gold.
Nola encouraged me to take part in her weekly journal game. The first one I took part in was a major hit that lead to my first publication credit in an erotic anthology! Needless to say I was empowered! I finally believed that my writing was worth reading…so off I went!
As the year has gone by I’ve drifted away from writing erotica and am focused more on life in general. I started to get lost and feel unworthy again as I really couldn’t box what it was I wrote about.Then came Julie Roads.
Julie’s blog about being Sports Center really hit home with me and encouraged me to see myself as unique and completely worthy. It was exactly what I needed to keep going.
Now, I blog every day (unless crisis hits) and work on short stories as well as finishing the follow up to Choosing Life.
One day I will be the author Mrs. Douglas predicted me to be and it is all thanks to the beautiful people I have met along my personal Writing Road ;)
.-= Farrah J Phoenix´s last blog ..Bright Side of Life =-.
I swear I knew how to read when I was born, and there was no one who ever had to influence me. Probably because no one I knew loved to read more than I did.
But writing? I loved it as a child. Two plays that I wrote were even performed at my elementary school. Seems weird to think of that now.
Like so many kids, I abandoned writing and grew to hate it. I did not learn to truly enjoy it and feel comfortable letting others see it until I went to grad school in my 30’s. That was when I finally learned how to just write what I was thinking and sound like myself. I think it was more the environment than one particular person.
I have taught reading and writing to struggling middle school students for years, and I hope to be THAT person for someone.
And I really, really want that Nook!
So many important people gave me the gift of reading. Mom signed me up for Headstart. Dad would hand me whatever he’d just finished reading. My teachers would give me time to pursue my own literary interests. But the most important character in my formative days was probably Batya, my childhood bestfriend. On any day she’d have some tome (or occasionally a paperback) tucked under her arm wherever she went. Recess, you’d find her behind the Big Toy. Lunch, you’d find her snuggled in a corner. Home, you’d find her buried beneath the leaves of some great classic. When I think joy and love of reading to this day I think of Batya and her books. Thanks to her I’ve never been ashamed of being seen reading wherever, whenever and whatever.
I have to say my mom was a big influence on my love for reading. I remember playing on the floor while she was laying on the couch reading a book when I was very little and hearing her giggle. Thinking what is so funny? I was dying to start to find my own laughter in books! She brought us to the library once a week and let us pick out whatever our hearts dreamed of and I loved it.
I also have to say though that I had an English Lit teacher who would read my papers and say honey you have a gift of the pen. I am really drawn into your papers. Doesn’t everyone need to hear something like this at least once in their lives? I still love this lady!
My parents encouraged my love of reading. My father read to my brothers and me every night until we were in junior high. I loved the time spent with my dad, and it turned me into a reader. It doesn’t matter how tired I am, I absolutely must read some of my book before going to sleep.
I am 14 years old, and before this year I had only read 3 books cover to cover! I walked into my ninth grade English room scared that this year would be just as miserable as the years before. I was determined to have a bad time. I watched a grown women make a fool of herself (in a 14 year old’s eyes) in front of 25 ninth graders for a full hour and a half! Believe it or not, this got me intrigued! I explain to everyone that she is the “Goddess of Reading.” The first thing she made us do at the beginning of the year was write her birthday in our planners so that we would remeber to buy her books. She comes in every morning, cheerful as ever, ready to tell us about the three or four books she has read since we last saw her. She animates every moment of every day. She opened my eyes to something I have never noticed before, yet it was staring me in the face the whole time. She showed me a world filled with excitement and curiosity: BOOKS! READING! For the first time I got it! It isn’t just about reading the words on the page! It is all about the story! I was flabbergasted when I read the first couple of books – they went by so fast! No looking at the amount of pages left in the chapter, just breezing through them like the wind through the trees. New doors are finally open for me to explore – all thanks to my crazy ninth grade teacher, the goddess of reading!
Honestly, my reason for reading, which eventually translated into my passion writing, was poverty. I grew up with my mom in Saipan, a small island in the Northern Mariana Islands (think Guam), where our entertainment consisted of a little pink radio, each other, running in circles, and books. At night, when everyone was sleeping, the majority of my forms of entertainment were eliminated, so I’d turn to books. Eventually I started reading all of the time, making up my own stories that I babbled on without verbal punctuation to anyone who’d listen (but mostly to those who wouldn’t).
Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by a father who loves reading and appreciated Stephen King’s genius long before I read On Writing and started to as well; high school teachers who would get red in the face with excitement over good writing; and peers at Emerson College and in Boston who appreciate short stories and cultivating a community of writers. But it started, frankly, out of boredom.
It was a substitute teacher who subbed for my junior high English teacher one day. I read a homework assignment aloud in my then-channeling Erma Bombeck style about living in a small town and leaving my bike out on the lawn without it getting stolen.
When I finished, she was staring at me, open mouthed. “Where do you get all those words?” she asked. “Do you use a thesaurus?”
“Nope,” I said. “They just fall out of my head onto the paper.”
“You sound like Erma Bombeck and Jean Kerr,” she said.
I was over the moon. Had never thought the ready access to words and stories was something not everyone had.
Even today, people will say, “How can you write like that? So fast, so funny?”
‘Cause I’m like Erma Bombeck. Wheeeeeeeeeeee!
.-= Kathleen, The What If Girl´s last blog ..To the Point: Suite 101 Pointers on Novel Points =-.
My parents, definitely. Neither of them went to college, but always (even more so now that my dad is retired!) had a book or seven started. We always saw them reading. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but my mom never said no to books; toys and other non-necessities we had to earn or work for, but books were a free for all and we had the bookcases in every room to prove it!
Add my parents love of reading, their drive for education and a lovely, lovely high school English teacher and I was able to complete my degree in Journalism and Public Relations. And now it would seem I’m doing the same thing with my son – he has to earn toys, but a book whenever we’re within breathing distance of a bookstore? Absolutely!
On the other hand, it may have been strictly up to my imagination, my girlhood crush on Tom Brokaw and my mad interviewing the flowers in our garden skills that fueled my passion for all things reading and writing. It’s at least a toss up.
Perhaps the question seems straight-forward, but for me, the answer is complicated. Many people influenced my writing, in fact, everyone I’ve ever met. My writing reflects a lifetime of interactions and experiences. Although many influenced my writing, very few encouraged it.
The biggest influences on my writing have been my children. Without motherhood and the myriad emotions that go along with it, I question whether I ever would have broken free from my mediocre existence.
Life before motherhood was uninspiring. I was happy enough, but never challenged or passionate in my work or interests. I attribute this passionless life to my parents, who expected their children to earn good grades, go to a good college and get a good job. I met those expectations of goodness, not greatness, and adulthood carried me through a similar existence. Things were good, but never great.
Having children forced me out of my comfort zone. For the first time in my life, I was challenged. (Motherhood is hard — Damn hard!) During a very dark year after my second child was born, I felt hopeless, weak and alone. I doubted my ability to parent, and as a result, wished I could turn back time. I now know I was suffering from post partum depression.
When the depression set in, I struggled to be heard. I could never speak up. And so, I wrote. I wrote to heal, and I wrote to be heard. And as I did, something awakened inside of me.
Suddenly remembering my childhood, I saw myself in junior high, wanting to be a writer. In high school, I wrote, and later served as Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper. I remembered something written on the bottom of my professional resume: “Winner of the Essay Prize for Excellence in Writing,” an award earned in college. It’s on there in black and white, for any potential employer to see, but for twelve years since, I’ve been blind to that accomplishment.
Writing always called to me, but no one ever encouraged me. I was missing that very critical support system, which so many other writers commenting on this blog have described. I did not have a special teacher, a friend or even parents who encouraged me to pursue my interest.
It took my own passage through life, becoming a mother, to realize my love for writing. Today, only 8 months after I started my blog, The PranaMama, I am the town correspondent for the region’s largest daily newspaper, The Portsmouth Herald, I am a paid blogger for The Kids Yoga Resource, and I have been published in Raising Maine and Breathe magazines.
I thank my children for bringing passion to my life!
.-= Amy Bevan´s last blog ..Celebrate National Nutrition Month! =-.
Outside of school growing up, there was a big age gap between the other children and me, so I spent the majority of my time playing alone. Reading wasn’t something that came easily, but for as long as I can remember, my imagination housed an endless cast of characters and stories. So many in fact, I’m told one Wednesday night when I was six, I wouldn’t let anyone sit at the Sunday school table because I’d brought enough imaginary friends to fill every seat.
When I finally mastered reading, I fell in love with it. Without the starts and stops of stumbling over words and letters, I could let the world fall away, meet new people, and have grand adventures. That’s when those words on a page stopped being torture and became a passion.
Our school’s music program was started in fifth grade. It was the first arts course we were taught, and it seemed to open a forgotten door in the back of my mind. Somewhere along the way, I’d shoved that out of control imagination in a wardrobe and locked the door so I could concentrate on letters and numbers. Once it was opened again, the cast of characters, older now and a thousand times more stubborn than they’d been before, clambered for my attention. In desperation to hush them up before math, I scribbled down a bit of what they were up to onto a piece of scrap paper.
The characters quieted, but when my classmates found that scrap, read what was on it, and wanted to know what came next, I was hooked. For years I carried a notebook with me constantly, scribbling down bits of story before classes, during breaks, and on the half hour bus trips to and from school.
My friends and classmates were my audience, and I thrilled to see the power my words could hold over them. Then junior year rolled around, and Mrs. Hastings, our English teacher, announced a contest for our class. We were each to write a poem and a short story. The best of each from our class would be entered in a contest for our school, and so on from there. My poem was chosen, and it made it as far as the county level, taking third place there. Between this minuscule victory and the notes Mrs. Hastings made on the short story, I began to dream of a career writing books like those I so loved as a child.
I came across many amazing teachers throughout college: Mrs. Turner, Mr. Calatrello, Dr. Smith, Dr. Elmore, and Dr. Shaw, who helped me land my first publications, helped me hone the craft, and sponsored my internship. But it was other writers who influenced me the most over the years. Ones whose work I read taught me more about characterization, plot development, and word choice than I ever learned through other means. I was able to chat with Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Kerner online a few times, and the advice given by them kept me from being scammed and soured on the publishing side of things in those naive years.
Yet I owe the biggest thanks to the other aspiring writers in the online writing groups I’ve participated in. In most cases, I only know their nicknames, but without them I wouldn’t stand a chance of seeing anything in print. The Snark Mamas group helped me discover I’d been writing for the wrong audience for years and guided me as I found my voice. Chris G. and Ian McLeod taught me to edit and rewrite more effectively. And they all aided in the development of the humility needed for professional acceptance of criticism, which was the greatest gift I could ask.
.-= A. B. England´s last blog ..Why I Love StumbleUpon =-.
Yeah, so I told you I was going to enter this contest, but having read the other entries I’ll just say one of them deserves it more than me…
I have always had books at my hands so reading was a given from the time I could put those letters together into words. But, the major inspiration for my writing was my father. I’m still known, in the newspaper circles around my home, as Jim’s daughter even though he passed away over a year ago. You see, my father was a newspaper reporter for a Gannett paper for 43 years. He would, as I got older, let me tag along on stories – which I guess is okay to let out of the bag now his editors can’t do anything about it. He took me to my first and only KKK rally. Those people can be a bit intimidating when you are a 16 year old girl. He took me to big fire scenes and political rallies. I guess I can blame my interest in politics on him, too. I would look, even as a teenager who was suppose to be indifferent to my parents, with interest for his column in the Sunday paper as I was growing up. I am sure he planted the first seeds.
The other huge influence, actually that should be influences, on my writing would be two – and it truly is hard to say just two – of my early English teachers. I loved school but in junior high, I had two wonderful English teachers who drew me into the world of reading and writing. First it was Miss Vianese. I hope I am spelling it right after all these years. She was so into teaching us all how to write better than we did when we first came to her. She made me realize the importance of grammar and the love of reading that I already had, she encouraged and nurtured it.
Then, in ninth grade but still in junior high – I am dating myself – I had Mr. Leverknight. The man tipped over desks and threw erasers but brought out a love of literature that I had not seen in myself previously. As we read How Green Was My Valley, he showed me how the words could transport me to faraway lands. As we discussed A Separate Peace, I was enthralled with life and its ultimate end.
.-= Nicki´s last blog ..My First =-.
When my Aunt Iris passed away after a fight against Brain Cancer a few years ago I sat in my bedroom holding my copy of “Where the Wild Things Are” and thought back on how lucky I was to have had such an amazing woman in my life.
Although both my parents are voracious readers, it was my Hippie Aunt who instilled in me a passion for reading. In teaching me to read before I began grade school she opened up the world to me, introduced me to characters that became friends, writers who opened my mind, and expanded my horizons.
I was a shy child, in Max and the Wild Things I found the courage to create rumpuses secure that dinner would always be waiting for me when I came back. As I grew up, Judy Blume, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and a host of other writers helped me to deal with the angst that I was certain was unique to me. I remember reading Daisy Miller and being irritated by the story, being creeped out by Wuthering Heights (I developed a dislike for looming, brooding men that has stuck with me to this day). Elizabeth Bennett was my first girl crush, and I wanted to be Dagny Taggart although my friends were convinced that I was more like Dominque Francon.
Throughout it all, I maintained a running conversation/correspondence with my beloved Aunt about what I was reading, sometimes we agreed most of the time we didn’t, I have a passion for Mathematical Theory, she preferred poetry.
Every single time I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to write, each time I leave the bookstore giddy with excitement with a stack of books I am reminded of sitting on her lap, enveloped by the scent of Patchouli listening to her soft Tarheel drawl… “The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play.”
I don’t remember anything before reading.
Well, only stories.
My whole childhood is a catalogue of memories tracked by the stories and the books I loved.
I remember “The Tiger Who Came To Tea”. Apparently I was about 18 months old when that became my bedtime favourite (and I still enjoy it now when I read it to my own son).
Then when my baby sister arrived, my parents had to read me “The Berenstein Bears’ New Baby”, for months.
And the satisfaction of reading simple old “Peter and Jane” books still sticks with me. I don’t know how I learned to read so well but I was reading these before I started school (age 5).
How could I not develop a love for words from these? From the magic of Enid Blyton’s “Faraway Tree” series, which carried me through our immigration to Australia when I was only 6, to the tears of “Little Women” when I was 8, and suddenly transplanted back to England and another new school in another new town.
Friends weren’t easy to make, being the strange kid with the funny accent. But books were always there… the perfect escape from everything else.
I still feel this sentimental wave of comfort and warmth when I get immersed in a really good one; one that lasts for days, like “The Time Traveller’s Wife” or “Shantaram”. And I still feel that wave of grief when I finish the final page. You just never learn to be prepared for that, with a good one.
So I became an English teacher, and worked hard to pass on my love of words to young people. Some of them caught the spark from me, and I was pleased with that.
More recently, I realized that all these years of reading have left me with a deep desire to write something myself that counts as a wonderful work of art, or at least will stand as the expression of my true creative self.
I’m working on it now, and loving this job, though it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But, as Julia Cameron says, in “The Artist’s Way”, being a blocked artist is harder.
Now, I keep reading, and keep showing up at the page to write. Until it’s done. Though I know it will never be done. That’s the nature of art. It grips your life. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.
Ain’t it great?
.-= Samantha Brightwell´s last blog ..Doing Nothing, or Taking A Meaningful Break =-.
…who influenced your writing, your obsession with words and/or your love of reading?…
My biggest influence are old time scifi writers – Heinlein, Azimov and the like. I started into science fiction in my preteen years and these two are two of writers that drew me in. Ever since I’ve wanted to write. I’ve spent endless hours daydreaming exotic stories with robots, aliens and more.
Beyond general sci-fi were the mens’ action adventure novels. Remember The Destroyer? Back when it was written by the original authors and wasn’t watered down. These novels showed me that writing doesn’t have to have big words or ray guns, it just has to be fun and engaging.
Lastly I’ve been influenced strongly by horror novelists. Ann Rice and nameless smaller time authors were my mentors here. They taught me not to be afraid of the dark, that protagonists aren’t necessarily white knights, but often all too human, even when they might be vampires, werewolves or faeries.
If you read some of my fiction, you’ll find it’s no stranger to death, heroes who kill, and people that aren’t afraid of sex, death and blowing things up. Ha.
All that said, one of my earliest writings for real people was my interpretation of Robin Hood for my 5th grade class. Still remember the strange looks casting the hero as a girl.
Cheers to asking us about this, nook or nookie aside.
Todd @tojosan Jordan
.-= Todd Jordan´s last blog ..Chat Roulette Explained =-.
Boring. Oppressive. Stressful. That’s how I’d describe the bulk of my academic career. School wasn’t something to be relished, it was to be endured. With a clenched jaw.
That feeling persisted until I got into college and met Sr. Gail Cabral. She wasn’t an English teacher; she taught freshman psychology and statistics courses. And she expected the absolute best from her students.
A far cry from the defeated and disinterested teachers who made elementary school and high school such a burden, Sr. Gail spoke with me as an adult. That was the first time a teacher had done that. We spoke outside of class, and she listened.
Most of all, she demanded excellent spelling, grammar, style and structure. Just months into my 1st semester with Sr. Gail, I wanted to get her approval. I wanted to deliver a flawlessly written paper to her desk. She made me want to work hard.
Years after graduation, I went back to visit her and she told me, “You were always a good writer,” and I was in the clouds.
So here’s a huge thank you to Sr. Gail. It’s because of you that I write for a living today. I hope you current students realize what a prize you are.
.-= Dave´s last blog ..Estimated 152,000 iPads sold in 3 days =-.
When I was 5 years old my family visited the science museum in Boston and for story hour they were reading Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” It had just come out and I was hooked. I have always been a very visual and imaginative learner and this story was so easy for me to recreate quite vividly. I went home that evening and reinvented all of the wild things as I saw them and wrote what I had remembered from the story underneath. 40 years later, I am an accomplished reading specialist in my field participating in research based reading research, helping young learners to read and write, and coaching teachers to inspire their students to read. I continue to write children’s books occasionally, So, thank you Mr. Maurice Sendak! ( Oh, I recently enjoyed the new release of the movie “Where the Wild Things Are” with my 10 year old son Max, I mean Timmy… and it was just as good as I remembered it when I was 5 years old)
I have two different answers for this question.
1- I had two great teachers who absolutely inspired me to write. One was Bill Stough and the other Art Houser. Fabulous educators who taught kids to believe in themselves and the entire creative process.
2- As of late though, my AQ (Agent Query) friends. They help teach me, inspire me, commiserate with me. They help me to understand that hearing your characters talk to you is not crazy, just the upside of being a writer. We celebrate each others victories and nurse each other through losses. They’re a great bunch! That’s my two-fold answer.
.-= Lisa Gibson´s last blog ..Sunshine Award =-.
I was always a reader, from the time I can remember. The person who most encouraged me to write was my high school English teacher – Ms. Gloria Estabrooks. She saw potential in me and nurtured that potential, pressing me to work past what I thought I could do, to stretch myself and my imagination. She gave ruthless feedback that was constructive and didn’t tear down, but built up the person she was giving it to.
I’ve had a never ending list of influences in my writing life. It started with Mr. Farmer in my grade 11 English class. He was getting ready to retire so he pretty much told us to go for it, do what we wanted to do and he’d tell us how it went. I needed that freedom to start. Good guy to have a beer with I learned after I graduated as well.
Then there was Ms. Carr who said I didn’t have the chops to write poetry and whose jaw I dropped when she challenged me to read my 12th grade prose on her and the class. I’ve since turned her into the awful teacher in a novel. Take that lady.
As I got older Kevin Smith (yes that Kevin Smith) started to influence me with the way he wrote dialogue and got to the point just like you would with a friend or enemy in real life. Even his comic books got me fired up and had my fingers looking for a keyboard to attack.
And now that I’m getting into the world of blogging and working on my footing I find myself being influenced by the truth and wisdom and thirst for knowledge of writers like Kelly Diels and Bambi Blue and Kevin Ross and many other people that nobody has ever heard of. These writers are my new heroes. And some of them are even my friends.
I’m not trying to say that I’m easily influenced. I’m just saying that if you look hard enough there’s always something inspiring right there for you to find.
“Hate is a strong word,” my mother’s friend said when I confessed to her a list of people I detested. My high school Language Arts teacher, Miss Mulligan was at the top of the list. I couldn’t seem to impress her no matter how hard I tried. Each assignment I gave in was returned covered with blood red marks for missing commas, poor spelling and grammar mistakes.
One day I just gave up and didn’t hand in a writing assignment. The following day, Miss Mulligan asked to see me after class. I knew she was going to question me about the assignment, so I practiced being aloof. After class, Ms. Mulligan didn’t ask me about the assignment, but rather told me that she was disappointed I didn’t hand in my story because I was one of her favorite writers and she looked forward to grading my paper. I left school that day feeling like I won the highest honor, the admiration of someone I respected. That night, I went back and looked at each of Miss Mulligan’s comments and understood that she needed to give me feedback to make me a better writer.
Tonight I sat back with a cup of tea and red lined some papers, as I am a middle school teacher. Each paper is given back gently as I know I have know I am fortunate to have future Hemingways sitting in my class. Like Ms. Mulligan, I learned to let the sensitive ones know that I am their biggest fan.
All of my middle school and high school angst led me to write. I went to a tiny Christian school during high school and writing was allowed. Thankfully, reading was allowed too…and I did a lot of it. Both reading and writing provided a wonderful world of escape and excitement.
As an adult, when I read Anne Lamott for the first time, I laughed and cried that someone could write in such an honest way. She continues to inspire me, along with any writer who is a mother. Writer mamas that can pull off writing AND staying sane are tops in my book.
My high school English teacher, Brother Carl Shonk C.S.C., was the best, and toughest, teacher I’ve ever had. He was the educator that challenged every student to think. He was the instructor that critiqued every word in every sentence. He was the literary disciplinarian that would return every term paper looking as if it had been trampled by a bleeding chicken. I was his student three of my four years in high school, and it wasn’t until much later in life that I realized his penchant for marking up my work in red ink was also his way of making me a better writer.
I took to writing nearly fifteen years after high school. Sure, I dabbled here and there with poems and Christmas cards, but it wasn’t until I was dealing with personal crisis and the loss of my father that I, very inadvertently I might add, got serious about writing. At first it was my way of coping. It was therapeutic to put down on paper the avalanche of feelings and emotions that were stirring in my head. From there, it grew into more. Yet through it all, I realized that with every blog entry or poem or short story, Bro. Carl’s red-inked notes were there.
I learned to develop a process for writing; draft, read, edit, re-read, re-edit, bang head, edit some more. It was a process rooted from those days of sitting in Bro. Carl’s class and being challenged to find balance with my sentence structure and paragraphs. Challenged to not be lazy with my writing. Challenged to think, because after all, as Bro. Carl would tell us, that was his job.
If not for Bro. Carl Shonk, I would not have the love for writing I currently do. I also would not have read such wonderful books as To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm and Brave New World. Although I admit to needing to read much more than I currently do, my desire to fill my brain with good reading – and hopefully as a result turn around and produce what others may consider good writing – is fueled by that one teacher from so long ago that refused to lower the bar and make it easy for me.
I have been reading since I was about two years old, at least according to my mom, as I can’t remember back over 50 years ago.
I do remember that on weekends during the summer my mom, grandfather and I would go to the small library, attached to the school, in Goshen, Connecticut, on the way to cabin on the lake. We would walk in with two shopping bags of books we had taken out the week before and refill them for the weekend. The librarians used to say we were responsible for most of their circulation, and the reason they could get more new books.
I still read two to three books each week, in addition to editing two monthly newsletters for computer user groups, working a full time job, blogging and experimenting with creative writing.
I only recently restarted with creative writing when I stumbled across Creative Copy Challenge at http://www.creativecopychallenge.com/, where you are provided with “10 random words below to create a cohesive, creative short story tying all the words together.”
.-= sefcug´s last blog ..Creative Copy Challenge 23 #amwriting =-.
My father was an avid reader and loved magazines. Every weekend he would go to the bookstore to check out the latest issues and newest books. When I was 9 he started to make these trips a family affair. I remember all the colored magazines and books lined up neatly. Each cover seemed to beckon to it’s passerby to sneak a peek to see what was inside. I became facsinated with the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy’s series. I just loved the idea that kids like me could be so smart and do so much. It was then that I bargained with my father to start giving me an allowance each week for chores so I could buy a new book with each weekend trip. I couldn’t wait for saturday to come! Some months later my father took us to the library for the first time. Absolute heaven! All those wonderful books that could be borrowed for free! I would spend an entire afternoon pouring over every shelf, looking for my next adventure. My parents would have to literally drag me out. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t read. Books are an amazing source of information, they fuel the imagination, and open up all sorts of possibilites.
It all started when I was four. ‘How to Be a Grouch’ was my favorite book, and I begged my mom to read it constantly to the point that the binding was loose, the pages falling out and poor Oscar was looking considerably tattered – even for him.
And then it happened.
I stopped ‘reciting’ the story and began ‘reading’ it! I was amazed, awed and, yes, proud. I couldn’t wait to start reading everything I could get my hands on. This love of the written word continued throughout gradeschool, and was spurred by Mrs. Nodeen, who was brave enough to hold story time for a bunch of ‘we’re-too-mature-to-be-read-to-like-preschoolers’ fourth graders! She read classics, such as ‘Tom Sawyer,’ ‘Huck Finn,’ ‘Pollyanna’ and ‘The Secret Garden,’ which many in the class would never have ‘read’ had it not been for her determination and passion for reading/writing.
By eighth grade, I was on to ‘Great Expectations,’ ‘The House of Seven Gables,’ ‘Jane Eyre’ and the like, and by high school my love for all things written was firmly entrenched. I excelled in English, and loved the nuances of this language and others, including French and Spanish.
Enter Mr. Bittle. Do you remember the movie ‘Dead Poets Society’? English teacher John Keating was the reincarnation of my own high school English teacher, Mr. Bittle, who died tragically in a car accident my senior year. He was the stand-on-your-desk-to-gain-a-fresh-perspective-on-life kinda guy, and encouraged us to read books that pushed the envelope in a small Midwestern town, including ‘Slaughter House V’ and ‘Catcher in the Rye.’
He encouraged us to try new things, understand our inner voice and not be afraid to express ourselves. To make a difference. To espouse a controversial opinion – if we believed in it. To embrace differences. To celebrate life. To read. To write. To live.
Through his teaching, encouragement and unique bent on life, we learned it was okay to offer unpopular ideas and express ourselves in words. I wanted to a make a difference as he continued to make a difference in the lives of his students.
Along the path to becoming a teacher, I took a Marketing course and changed my direction. I graduated college with a multidisciplinary degree in English, Business/Marketing and French/Spanish.
My first ‘real’ job was at a quaint bookstore in downtown Geneva, Ill. And from there, I jumped into advertising, quite literally falling into a writing gig. I was never one of those people who knew she wanted to write from day one. Read? Yes. Write? Not so much.
Of course, I’d silently breathe a sigh of relief each time a test was essay to which others would outwardly groan, received compliments on papers, and continually had teachers/professors encourage me to go into writing, which I’d quickly dismiss. I thought they were being overly kind, and didn’t see how I could possibly make a living writing.
Little did I know I’d have a career writing professionally for the past 15 years. With the change to my most recent role, the writing is more strategic, less creative. This has enabled me to return to my love of writing in my personal life, starting two new blogs and trying my hand at a cozy mystery.
I can’t wait to see what other Nooks and crannies are waiting around the corner.
I remeber the first time I heard his voice….It startled me. I was just entering 4th grade, and I had to go to a new building. I was not a brave soul back then and this man’s voice was loud but high pitched, nasally, if that would be a word. I was facinated, what does a grownup look like that sounds like this.
We were all standing in a corridor,and I couldn’t see over the other kids heads. I thought to myself, if he sounds like this and he is too short to see, what will my eyes discover? Is he a troll, does he have a long beard and curled up shoes? What kind of teacher would he be? Magical? Would we all be sitting on toad stools or maybe even crawl into a cavernous nooks? Needless to say I had a great imagination, and I was a bit intuitive too, because you see he was magical, for me.
Come to find out he was a very preppy looking man with round rim glasses much like my favorite singer at the time, John Denver. I like the way he looked, I felt comfortable with him.
As the school year went on he taught us…me, about the wonder of books, and writing. He would play pieces of music and we would have to write from our imagination what ever it was we thought was transpiring. This project alone got me in touch with a deep emotional connection with writing, and I never forgot it. I was also getting lost in books, and it saved me.
Mr Vaughn was the saving grace in a little girls world that was filled with an alchoholic father and a mother who was trying to do the best she could. Today the connection to reading and writing has healed wounds that would otherwise be left to fester. I have a connection to all the people in my life because of the richness it brings to me as a character myself.
No regrets, no resentments. Thank you Mr Vaughn
My mom inspired my love for reading. Mom believes to this day that she isn’t smart. She was an average student and was neglected due to the divorce of her parents. But she was determined to give her own children a better life.
We would visit the library often, and max out on picture books. At night she would read the Little House books to my sister and me. She helped me learn how to read at home, and I was reading “chapter books”, as I called them, by the time I was in first grade.
I loved reading so much that I could not go to bed without a book in hand. I would read by the moonlight, hiding my book under my pillow whenever I thought my parents were coming. Mom has always said that’s the reason I needed glasses by age eight.
Now I have passed a love for reading onto my own little boy. He is only 1 1/2, but we check out stacks of books from the library every month.
.-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Priorities =-.
My love of words is a gift from my mom. She has a passion for books and writing that started when she was a child, and she passed that passion on to me when I was a child. She used to read to me when I was in the womb (she also smoked while I was in there, but hey, I turned out okay) and she read to me or encouraged me to read every day of my childhood.
My earliest memories are of my mom reading to me (and eventually my brother) on the couch each morning after breakfast. When we were old enough to go to school, we’d rush to get out of bed in the morning, not because we were excited to get to school, but because we couldn’t wait for the next chapter in whichever book she happened to be reading to us at the time.
When I learned how to read I thought I’d discovered the best secret ever – reading opened my imagination and brought me to places I never knew existed. I begged to go to the library and get new books every week. I couldn’t get enough. We still had our morning reading time, but now I was the one reading to my mom (or the dog, who sometimes had the honor of being my loyal supporter when I wanted to practice reading out loud).
As I got older (you know, grade school), I found myself captivated by the stories of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I always had a book in my bag and would read every free minute I had, whether I was on the school bus or in study hall or during the few minutes before each class would start when most of my classmates were gossiping about each other. I moved on to Stephen King and Dean Koontz in junior high and I was teased by my classmates for liking books more than people. I didn’t care, I was a proud book nerd (still am).
I still have that passionate love affair with books all these years later. It’s like entering a new relationship every time I crack open the cover of a book. Will we get along? What interesting topics will we discuss and debate about? Will the relationship end with my heart getting broken or will I fall in love? It’s fantastic – I experience the rush and emotions of each new book, each character, and my husband doesn’t even have to worry (well, maybe a little, but only when I read about Jamie, my Scottish highlander in the Outlander series).
As I go through the journey of adopting a child, I find comfort in knowing that someday I will be sitting on my couch with my child, enjoying my coffee and sharing my passion for books and words and stories, just like my mom did for me.