Every fiction writer I know was inspired to begin their tumultuous journey of creating story by a writer that came before them. Words beget words, and worlds beget worlds. Readers are really story-tellers in training, learning the possibility of imagination.
Sky is the limit.
I was always an avid reader. From late middle school on, I never went anywhere without a book in my hand. I was the mousy girl in the corner, face obscured by my hair, eyes on a page, head in another world. I zipped through two books a day, on average. From Anne Rice to Robert McCammon to Ken Follett.
I attempted to write a novel in high school and failed epicly. But it wasn’t for nothing, I learned that I didn’t have the discipline or the follow-through I needed to be a writer. I was, and always would be, a reader. Or so I thought.
Fast forward more than a decade to my twenty-eighth year. I’d just given birth to my fourth munchkin, was a homeschool mom, had my own textile design business, and was a youth leader with my husband at our church. One of the kids in the youth group was reading the first Artemis Fowl book and wanted me to read it. I took it from him, not expecting to like it, then was blown away by how much fun I had reading that book. That began my journey into Middle Grade reading, and eventually young adult. In fact, it may have been the only middle grade or young adult book I’d read besides Baby-Sitter’s Club when I was ten (at the hight of literary prowess).
After reading the Artemis books, I read Holes and Harry Potter. I asked the youth for more suggestions, devouring the words, and talking avidly with them about what they thought. I can’t even remember all the middle-grade or YA books we all read that year. And then one day I picked up this thin, unassuming book off the library shelf. The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Most everyone has heard of that book now, especially since the movie came out. And I later discovered it’s required reading in our local High Schools. But I had no idea what to expect.
I opened that book, never guessing that it would change me forever. Because by the time I closed the cover, tears in my eyes, I wasn’t the same person I’d been only hours before. Somewhere in those pages I’d become a writer.
Some of you might be asking how Lois Lowry inspired me to such a level. Maybe you’ve read The Giver and don’t see the big deal.
But stories are a very personal thing, and there was something about Jonas’ journey that touched me deep in my core. As a girl who had never quite fit in this world, I saw a boy who hadn’t fit in either, but it had made him more than special, it had made him vital in a place where sameness was paramount. The tale brought humanity and all its good and bad into perspective, reminding us that we can’t truly feel joy without first experiencing pain. It was a beautiful truth, wrapped up in an adventure.
And I wanted with everything in me to tell a truth. My truth. I wanted to change another soul. Even just one. Show them a hope or a spark of revelation.
Lofty and a bit naive, but it needed to be a blazing furnace, not a small spark, that lit the way for the journey I was about to embark on. Because it would take me another five years to see one of my short stories published. And another five years to see a novel accepted by a publisher.
Through the endless hours I spent honing my craft, the countless writing challenges and contests I entered to push myself, the thousands of dollars invested in conferences and workshops, I would come to realize that it wasn’t about that one ground-breaking story I wanted to tell, but it was about the adventures I had doing what I so loved to do: create. It was about the amazing writers I met along the way, who were already creating stories that would change the world for the better, one soul at a time.
And now, as one of my character’s is about to make his debut, it’s about the readers out there, who might sit down with Aidan, follow his story, and hopefully see something vital in themselves, something that will set a spark under their dreams.
The world isn’t changed by people who sit by and watch life pass. It’s changed by those willing to walk into the fray, shine a light on the invisible, and peel back the skin to show their truth. What’s your dream as a reader, or a writer? And what might be holding you back right now from grabbing hold of it?