My Writerly and Readerly Turning Points

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. 


12 thoughts on “My Writerly and Readerly Turning Points

  1. L.G.Smith says:

    I'd say it was an accumulation of low burning moments that created the spark in me too rather than a single match strike, though I could probably pick out a handful of books that have served as candles in my desire to write. << Ha! Did I burn that imagery to the ground or what? 🙂

  2. Neurotic Workaholic says:

    When I was a kid, authors like Roald Dahl and Beverly Cleary inspired me. I used to spend hours rereading their books because I loved them so much. When I was in junior high, Anne Frank's diary inspired me to write on a regular basis. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a great book, though the copy I read was used and filled with way too many student notations. Next time I'm going to get a clean copy so that I can get it without distractions. Today, writers like Steve Almond, Dave Barry, and Jen Lancaster inspire me to write. Their writing is funny and honest, and I wish I could take writing classes with them.

  3. Jess says:

    What wonderful books for inspiration! For me, it was Star Wars. I'm a Sci-Fi girl and Star Wars made me a writer!Awesome post!

  4. M Pax says:

    What wonderful moments.Yes, it was a process. I started writing many times. Only recently did I start finishing pieces. 🙂 Then it was actually my mother who lit this last spark.

  5. Crystal Cheverie says:

    I like that some people had many different sparks before they were officially bitten by the writing bug – it's like each author/book was a stepping stone on the road to their destiny. Nice entry! 🙂

  6. Laura Marcella says:

    Hi, Anna! I wrote about Anne of Green Gables, but you're right that there really isn't just one book or author that sparks you. I remembering studying some of Gray's poems in college. I'll have to get my poetry collections and look him up again!Have a great weekend. 🙂

  7. Sandwiched Writer says:

    Hello, Anna.Fellow campaigner stopping by to say hello. Funny, I just started reading Catch 22 last night … so the title "popped out" from your post. So strange and different, the way it begins (Catch 22).Look forward to seeing/reading you along the campaign trail!

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