On the twittersphere, a poster asks fellow writers to share what inspired them to begin writing. I’m not being flippant when I reply, I’m just constrained by 280 characters.
A lonely, wandering childhood as a navy brat made books the ever present and stable best friend. They spoke to me and kept me company. Eventually, I wanted to speak back.
Twitter won’t allow me to explain about my gateway drug, the Nancy Drew series. They’re the earliest literary obsession I can recall. Of course it didn’t end with the yellow, glossy, hard backed books that were sized so perfectly for a young child’s hands. There’s not enough space to launch an impassioned recitation of every single emotional need that Judy Blume’s characters would go on to meet. Margaret, of Are you there God, it’s me Margaret fame, would eventually be tossed aside for the likes of Ponyboy Curtis though. S.E. Hinton was feeding my need for golden-hearted bad boys, before I even knew it existed. Eventually my darker teen years quite predictably moved me toward authors like Stephen King, Anne Rice, Dean Koontz.
I was a pretty voracious reader, the kind who sat at the back of the classroom so I could sneak a novella behind my textbook (Sorry Mr. Liss!) and I wasn’t limited to just the above popular authors, but I did return to them again and again. They were ever present, they were my familiars. I distinctly remember going into a bookstore at some point in middle school and scouring the shelves. The proprietor asked if he could help and I explained in frustration I wanted a new Judy Blume book, but I’d read everything he had displayed. He said there simply weren’t any more titles, and that I should expand my horizons to other authors. He suggested Beat The Turtle Drum, by Constance Greene. Piqued about having to “settle” I brought it home and dug in. Despite my reluctance, I fell in love with the story and cried snotty, wet tears at the ending. It became another friend. I read it again, and again.
Of course there were flesh and blood friends as well. With each new duty station I’d find and gravitate toward some other lonely, awkward, day dreamy kid and always they’d be simpatico with the book love. In retrospect, I don’t think I was purposely seeking out fellow bookworms. I think I was seeking out other kids who needed friends… and in the days before social media, kids who needed friends just quite naturally found them between the bound covers of a book. It wasn’t just happy coincidence we found each other. It was the logical outcome of lonely kids meeting in the age of books.
Did you have a faithful book, series, or author that filled a lonely place in your heart as a child?
Today’s Book Mark mentions: