The first word I remember reading was “the”. Over the years I may have projected the following memory onto a Norman Rockwell painting, but here goes: I was curled up in my mother’s arms as we read through Andersen’s Fairy Tales, which was a dog-eared blue hardcover book of impossible length, or so it seemed to me at the time. We started with “The Ugly Duckling”, and she got me to read that one special word every time it came up in a sentence. I’m sure by the time we finished that story I had progressed to longer words, but I don’t remember that. I know we finished the book at some point because I remember rereading it on my own. Some stories, like “The Little Match Girl”, have stuck with me all these years because they were so sad. Actually a lot of them were sad, like the “The Little Mermaid” before Disney Corporation got hold of it.
Fast forward a few years. My best friend and I spent Saturdays at the local library, which we could bike to in summer and walk to in winter, all by ourselves. In the mornings they had readings in the Children’s Library, which was a wing dedicated to books for kids. We thought those books were too young for us, thus after the reading, we would walk among the stacks in the big-person library in awe, picking books at random to read or take home. Nowadays I see kids spending Saturdays in the library, but they play Flash games on the computers while their parents browse. I don’t think that’s the same.
At some point I started working my way through The Hardy Boys Mysteries. This endeavor was interrupted by a move to a new town. Fortunately this town also had a library within biking / walking distance. Within a few months I had nearly conquered the entire Hardy Boys series — a significant achievement for a twelve-year-old, considering there were over a score of titles by then — when I started reading my first Stephen King novel. It was The Stand.
I don’t remember if I got the book from the library or if I bought it. I may have gotten it from a friend. At any rate, I never got back to The Hardy Boys Mysteries.
Seriously, if you thought Andersen’s Fairy Tales was a big book, you should see The Stand. I read much of it past my official bed time, under the covers with a flashlight. There were a few scenes (you know the ones I mean) that particularly appealed to a young man going through puberty. Mostly, though, I was captured by the concept of “what if” stories, and by characters so full and real I felt I knew them personally. From then on, I was hooked on big-person books.
As I entered my teens, I was reading King’s books as fast as they came out. That wasn’t fast enough, so I branched out to include fantasy and science fiction. I remember reading Heinlein, Card, Niven, Harry Harrison, Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, and of course Tolkien. I read The Lord of the Rings, then The Hobbit, then went back and read The Lord of the Rings again.
Like many kids who read a lot, I also wrote. I aced all my high school English papers, by not-so-unconsciously aping King’s style. I hated requirements such as “write a 2000 word essay” because I could never keep it under 2000 words. One year for a science fair I got special permission to write a science fiction story instead of creating a volcano with vinegar and baking soda, or growing a lima bean in a coffee cup, or buying an ant farm, or any of the usual things kids did for science fairs. My booth was rather plain, I admit, having just a table and a stack of papers with my hand written story on it. Still, some parents stopped to read it, and said it was good. I don’t think they were simply sparing my feelings because my teacher gave me some kind of award for my “display”. I don’t remember what it was, though. Maybe she was simply sparing my feelings too.
Fast forward a few more years. Writing took a back seat to a university degree followed by a real career, i.e. one that pays real money. Still, I always had that itch. I spent a ridiculous amount of time polishing work emails and embellishing internet forum posts.
Eventually I started writing fiction again. Over the years I have collected a slug of short stories, and even written a couple of novels. So I decided, what the hey — it’s time to put them out there for people to read and enjoy. Or at least read.
So this web site is a place for my random thoughts, and will become a launch pad to my fiction. You will find links to it around here someplace someday sometime soon. Oh, that was an absolutely awful application of alliteration. Silly of me, so sorry.
Thanks for the recommendation. I also like Grisham. I thought Baldacci and Grippando were operas.
My business sense kicks in here. Be practical. Write things people will pay good money to read. Stephen King is an icon.
Don’t copy. Invent. But read Grisham, Baldacci, Grippando,
Coben. Learn their styles then create your own.
By the way, Peg and I are readers. The above are my favourite