In this challenge, tell us how you fell in love with books and writing.
I’m 10 years old and on another dreaded trip to the library. I’m nervous and annoyed. Why do I get over-heated every time we go there? Maybe I’ll wear shorts and a tank-top this time.
“Alexia! It’s 40 degrees outside! Change into something warmer! What’s wrong with you? Go get your library books”, yelled Mom.
“You’re so weird,” says Ivy.
Crap! Where are those two books? I only read the first page of each. Ugh, everyone else has a stack to bring back. We pile into the station wagon and head for the library. I turn in my two books and head to the kids section to find two more books that I won’t read. I have to pick different ones, so they won’t pick on me. I’d rather them think that I don’t lie to read or am to slow, than what is really happening. I have to reread every paragraph multiple times to understand it, even in a Ramona book. I know that I’m not stupid, but why don’t the words make any sense?
This was the same story every two weeks, when we lived somewhere with a free library. My Mom and siblings couldn’t get enough of books. My Dad hates to read and refuses to read anything besides the newspaper and his golf magazines. I know that I’m not like my Dad, but I’m embarrassed around the rest.
I did end up rechecking out Louisa May Alcott and Judy Blume through the years and did finish most of those eventually.
I’m terrified in school when they ask me to read or to answer any questions, like “What is the author trying to say here?” To which I think, “If he is trying to say something, why doesn’t he just f-ing say it?”
Why did Nathaniel Hawthorne need three pages to say someone closed the door? Why did Steinbeck have to write twice as many chapters in Grapes of Wrath? Did we really need the Dustbowler’s AND the turtle’s point of view? (Those of you who know these stories better than I, will probably try to go off about how I really didn’t understand anything about these writers and their books. Try to stop yourself, because you will only further prove my point.)
My point is that I have severely low reading comprehension. Why didn’t it get caught in school? Because I am clever and cheated myself out of getting help. I didn’t cheat. But I learned how to get the correct answers without understanding the readings. In all of those standardize tests that were meant to find our weaknesses without hurting our grades, I figured out how to keep a 97th percentile. On every section where you had to read something and then answer the questions, I wouldn’t read the passages at all. I would flip to the questions and find the answers in the reading. I also knew how to find the correct answer in a multiple guess test…no, do not just mark C.
A few times during my schooling I did get an inkling of a love for books and writing. These glimpses came during creative-writing classes. I had fun during parts of these classes, as long as they were not emphasizing the writing process. I couldn’t care less about word clusters, outlines, drafts, or stream of consciousness exercises. I bloomed when there were no directions for our process and just ‘prompts’.
My favorite bit of writing in a class was in my sophomore year with Mr. Hale. Mr. Hale would give us some topics, words, or themes to write about. The wilder your story the more plusses after your A you would get. His favorite topics were lobotomies, gangsters, aliens, and qwarks. I remember thinking his class was such a joke and that I was pulling one over on him. I would just keep writing weird stories about his favorite topics. I felt like I was just making up incredible lies. This didn’t really bother me because I had gotten really good at lying to my parents early in middle school, and if I could lie with the truth I gave myself extra points in my head. I learned so much about writing that year…too bad I didn’t realize that until 5 minutes ago!
Around this time, I discovered the Xanth series by Piers Anthony. I loved all the puns. It took me at least 6 months to read each book. I sped up a little as I got deeper into the series so I think I made it to the 13th book.
I still would pick up occasional books and was still embarrassed for anyone to know that I couldn’t read well.
Finally around age 21, I met a 50 year old man, Pat, who lives, eats, and breathes books. He could not understand anyone who ‘didn’t like to read’. I respected him so much that I confided more about my reading troubles. It was important for me that he not think that I was stupid. He knew the Xanth series a little, but wanted me to branch out a little, so he loaned me the first book of the Riverworld Series by Philip José Farmer. It took me a full year to read that book. Pat kept talking about the book with me and wanted to loan me the next three books in the series. I would talk to him about the book, we would analyze it, he would ask me questions about where I was in the book, and see if I caught some interesting part, but I refused to take the other books yet. If I took another book, then I would be back to my library days. I would feel like a failure by not moving on to the next book in a timely manner. I could be much prouder of my accomplishments by seeing how many pages were read in my current book.
After that book was done, I traded it for the second book which took about 9 months. I finally got through the 4 books and was hooked on reading. You see, I worked with Pat 2 -3 nights a week. I called these nights, “We Fixed the World”. We didn’t just talk books, we talked about food, religion, politics, and people. These were not often heated discussion, except when they were. Like the night that Pat said, “The world was ruined the day that a long-haired teenage boy sued the school board so he could stay on the football team with long hair.” I thought he was being old and oversimplifying things. He thought I was spoiled. I think we both were right.
In 2000, Pat gave me the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings box set…books. It was a coincidence that the first LOTR movie would come out the next year. Pat had read this series in its entirety every year since Tolkien published them In my humble opinion, there is no greater expert in LOTR than Pat. To this day, I still try to trip him up. I am a total failure in this trick, but it is fun trying.
I’ve read many books since and lean toward Urban Fantasy with strong female leads/heroes. My favorite authors now are Patricia Briggs, Gail Carriger, and Lindsey Buroker, There are many more on my top authors list like, Christopher Moore, Diana Gabaldon, Charlaine Harris (although she has slid pretty far down this list), Peter Mayle, J. R. Rain, J. K. Rowling, Matt Ruff, and Douglas Adams.
Wait! What about writing?
I didn’t start taking writing seriously until a year ago. Last year Mercy was in the ICU for a long time, so I chronicled her trials as well as I could.
I mean…I can’t write, but my friends and family needed updates and my asthma was so bad that I couldn’t talk. Besides, even if I could talk, I couldn’t tell the same things to 30 or more people every day. Also, a nurse told me that I needed to write everything down because I was Mercy’s advocate and memory. And finally, I needed some way to stay sane. The love of my life was dying before my eyes and I couldn’t eat, sleep, or work. I also was the only one who could/would stay positive, so I needed a release.
When Mercy started getting better she wanted to know the story, so I started reading it to her. Do you know what I found out? I AM a writer AND I’m funny too!
It took from 2/27/13 til 5/17/13 to get Mercy better enough to bring her home and even longer to not be in crisis mode. On 07/24/13, I opened a wordpress account and started writing. I’m still not frequent, but I’m trying. I eventually would lie to publish a story with Mercy about her “Birth in the Ashes”, since she is my phoenix. I would also like to start writing fiction. Maybe create my own urban fantasy or murder mystery…
The possibilities are endless!
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