I am participating in the Spark Blogfest, hosted by Christine Tyler at the Writer Coaster.
The goal of the blogfest is to write about the books or authors who made you decide to be a writer.
As I was planning this post, I came to realize that there wasn’t just one moment when I thought, ok, this is it. There were several.
I read Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel for the first time when I was fourteen. I remember it was the summer before I started high school, and it was assigned as an optional summer book. It was the chapter titled “Richmond” that got me; I was sitting in the back of my parents’ car. We were driving to my grandparents’ house, which was on the other side of the state from us. If you haven’t driven through Texas, well, all I can say is, it was a really long trip. I’m sitting in the back, turning page after page, inhaling this wonderful, amazing story, and then my breath was taken away. I won’t ruin the scene for you, but if you’ve read the novel you know which one I’m talking about. I had to put the book down and stare out the window for a few moments to catch my breath. When I returned to the book, I didn’t return to civilization until I had finished the whole thing.
When I was 17, I was assigned Heller’s Catch-22 and Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. By the time I found these books, I was convinced that whatever direction my life took me, books would be in it. I found time here and there to dabble in writing (and drawing) at home, but I didn’t make a serious attempt to write anything complete, or to write anything like what I had read. At this point, reading and writing were two separate endeavors. I didn’t see the connection between them.
I was 20 and in college when I read Thomas Gray’s poem “Elegy in a Country Church-Yard.” It was the first poem I had read in a long time that I personally thought was “good.” Poetry was dead to me before I read Gray; it was the first thing assigned in my undergrad Romanticism class, and the literature just got better and better. I never lost my love for machismo male writers, but by this point, I decided that my intellectual passion tended more toward the 18th than the 20th century. I decided to go to grad school.
When I was 25, I read Lauren Groff’s Monsters of Templeton. Longtime readers of this blog may know that I’m a bit of an evangelist for Groff’s writing. Reading her book on the plane from Vancouver to Houston as I was returning from a NASSR conference is the closest I’ve had to a spark moment. When I read her work, I thought, you know, I could do this. I could be a writer. When I returned from that trip I became more serious about my work. I wrote more, and I tried to become a better writer. I read King’s On Writing and I started this blog.
I don’t think I could have gotten here without each of these moments. They weren’t obvious to me when I was experiencing them but looking back on them, I realize that they were all important in one way or another.
So now, it’s your turn. Sign up for the blogfest or let me know in the comments section which books inspired you to write.