Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Magic of Reading and Writing

“Ah. I know. You’re wondering . . . what’s a place like me doing in a girl like this?”

I love that line from the movie, The Mummy (1999, with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz).

That’s the year I really got serious about writing. And that line sums up what goes on in a writer’s head like no other.

It’s absolutely awesome when an idea takes root and the fun begins. For a time, you have complete control. You can become anything and anyone. You can go anywhere.

But the journey to becoming a writer starts with reading. When asked, usually we can pinpoint a particular book we read in our youth that stood out – WAY out – with a story that transfixed us.

Don’t laugh, (because I was eleven and trying to impress my brother) but for me it was Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs. After reading Annie Oakley, Nancy Drew and Pippi Longstocking, this was a slight change. I think I was more surprised than anyone that I loved it.

I worked my way through the series, cursing the school hours that kept me from the next adventure. My daydreams were of deepest darkest Africa, of safaris and wild escapades where the hero always saves the day. (And yes, I wished my name was Jane.)

When I finished all 26 books, I learned that the author died in 1950. There were no more. This was a real problem.

I tried others but they never quite measured up.

So I started writing my own. I’d written little tales before, but now I wanted to do something real, something grand. Soon I was spinning epic adventures in exotic places with the perfect (for me anyway) heroes and heroines. The stories all stunk, but who cares? Writing them was heaven.

And whenever I was forced back into the normal world where normal kids go to normal schools—and have to pay attention—I’d slump in my desk and ask myself the proverbial question phrased so well in The Mummy: “What’s a place like me doing in a girl like this?”

And now, many years later, I know. It's simple. I love writing. I love reading. There's so many lovely books. Isn’t it awesome?

So how about you? Was there a particular book? A moment that changed everything? What was it that made you become a writer?


  1. The first book I ever read all by myself was "Puff the Magic Dragon." I remember it took me half an hour. I was so proud. I think I've been chasing dragons ever since.

    I decided I had to be a writer when I won a school district story writing contest in third grade. The floaty feeling I had that day comes back every time I sell a short story or someone tells me they loved my manuscript.

  2. I've always loved reading and even though it sounds cliche, it was Lord of the Rings for me. I stumbled on it in the library in sixth grade and it was so different from anything we had at my house. (My parents are very down to earth. No dragons or elves, or magic for them. *sigh*) Anywho, I loved the journey and the rest is saved on my hard drive in hundreds of word files.

    And, you'd make a great Jane. :)

  3. Rebecca, I loved "Puff the Magic Dragon!" And it's amazing the little things that shape our lives (although winning a writing contest in third grade is HUGE!)Congratulations!!!

    Leisha, my sixth grade teacher read "The Hobbit" to our class. It was awesome, but by then I was so hooked on "Tarzan," there was no going back.

    And my 11-year-old-Jane self thanks you!

  4. "The Hobbit." Oh, it was so much "The Hobbit." I mean, I'd been reading books since I was three, and writing Casper the Ghost rip-offs since I could form letters; I was obviously doomed to be a Word Nerd.
    But when I was eight, I got my hands on the world's most battered copy of There and Back Again, and that was it for me.
    As the immortal Terry Pratchett said of fantasists: "We are all standing on Mount Tolkien."

  5. I am so with you there, Tuima! I read "The Hobbit" the same year I won that third grade story writing contest. I decided I had to be a writer, and that I would to write "there and back again" adventures.


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