The other day, Glen did a post on what started him writing all the wonderful stories he posts to his blog. He credits his father and his grandfather for reading him stories when he was a child. Glen then asked his readers what started them writing.
I had to think about this for a while. We didn’t have books in the house when I was a kid – aside from the family medical dictionary and a bible. I don’t remember owning any picture books or anyone ever reading stories to me.
Both my parents were pretty good storytellers, however. My mother’s stories were usually real life tales of woe and horror from her childhood during the war back in the old country or re-tellings of tales of woe and horror that she was told as a child. They were usually full of blood, gore, dismemberment, death, starvation, misery, pillaging, deprivation, superstition and dire warnings.
My dad’s stories on the other hand, were pure fantasy. We had a tapestry which travelled around various walls in the house, that depicted a farm somewhere in a lush valley. There was a farmhouse and a barn, a pair of horses, a well and a farmer with his plow. I don’t know where the tapestry came from or where it went (because I would LOVE to have that now) or whether it belonged to my mum or my dad, but this thing was the focus of all my dad’s dreams and therefore the setting of all my dad’s stories.
Many nights before bed he’d tell us kids stories about that farmer, who he called “Bauer Johann.” (Which cleverly translates into Farmer John. You’d have thought he’d have come up with a more imaginative name since he was going to all the trouble of inventing stories, wouldn’t you?). Anyway, I think Bauer Johann lived the life my dad wanted to live and I must say, it was a pretty darned good life. Bauer Johann frequently found casks of treasure whilst plowing his field. Bauer Johann’s horse sometimes talked and warned him about approaching storms and stuff so he could prepare. Bauer Johann’s fields always produced an overwhelming bounty of crops and his streams were always overloaded with fish.
Interestingly, Bauer Johann had no kids.
Anyway, when I finally went to school at the ripe old age of 7, I couldn’t speak more than maybe a dozen words of English. One of the first things they did at this school was hand out reading books (Sandy and Susan not Dick and Jane). I was really excited to have a book and even more excited to find out that I was going to learn to read the book’s stories for myself.
Not to brag or anything, but by Christmas I was the best reader in the class. I wish I still had that faculty for learning an entire new language in less than 4 months. And I wish that had made me a special child, but it didn’t. Most immigrant children then and now are able to become fluent in their new language in a matter of months. Isn’t it sad that our brains lose so much capacity over the years?
Anyway, once I knew how to read, I read everything I could get my hands on with complete indiscrimination. The public library became my second home and I made the poor librarian’s life hell by pestering her non-stop to get me books from the adult section once I’d finished all the stupid books in the kid’s section.
Somewhere along the line I guess I figured I could write stories as well as reading them and started churning out ridiculous educational tales for my siblings. One of my brothers kept most of them and has them somewhere in a trunk in his house. He brought some along to some family thing once and we all laughed our asses off.
So, reading and writing has occupied most of my time since then. Since I first learned to read, I don’t remember a day in my life when I didn’t have a book on the go. And while I’ve never written a blockbuster novel or even a lacklustre novel, I have managed to earn my living, off and on, by writing in some form or another for most of my adult life. I’ve been a copywriter for an ad agency; I’ve written newspaper and magazine articles on a freelance basis; I worked as a publicist for various arts organizations writing press releases and ad copy and program notes and such; and, I’ve written a lot of really boring stuff for the government for the last 18 years.
Oh ya, and I write a blog just for fun.
So, that’s my story, Glen. As you can see it would have been way too long to leave as a comment.
I reckon most bloggers have the same passion for reading and writing or they wouldn’t be able to do it day after day. Like Glen, I’d be interested to know what sparked that passion in your life?