Chances are, if you’re reading this blog post, then you enjoy reading.
You probably devour book after book (and maybe you’re a writer too). You no doubt have a TBR (To Be Read) stack a mile high and your shelf space reached its limit long ago*. Maybe you’re a regular at your library/bookstore. Maybe you’re in a book club. Maybe your default birthday/holiday gift is a book.
But I wasn’t always that way. Sure, my parents read to me growing up, and the highlight of Saturdays was going to the bookstore. I had a library card, and my mother was kind enough to transport me regularly. My parents promoted reading my entire life, and they supported it with their wallets and their time.
But I can’t deny that my love for reading underwent a giant shift in 3rd grade. That was the year I met my best friend, Brenna. You see, Brenna’s mother was a librarian, so Brenna didn’t just like to read–she knew about reading. She knew titles and writer names and genres. Even cooler, her librarian mama was friends with authors. I very vividly recall the day Brenna flashed her signed edition of William Sleator’s Singularity like it was no biggie.
Brenna had grown up reading voraciously thanks to her mother. And Brenna, being a True Leader, took my literary education into her hands. She introduced me to books like Ender’s Game and Jurassic Park when I was a mere 10-year-old (thank goodness my mother never realized what sort of novels I was sneaking home. She would have been Very Horrified by the violence…and the swearing…and the occasional sex scene–not that I had any idea what I was reading when those scenes came along). Brenna was in the lucky type of home where reading mattered more than anything. The fact that 10-year-old Brenna could zoom through an adult thriller in a weekend was seen as an accomplishment by her parents, and there was no denying it: I was enormously impressed.
It was around this time–my formative 5th and 6th grade years–that another person with a literary mind stepped into my life. She was the school librarian, and like Brenna and Brenna’s mom, Mrs. Lunsford knew about books. Best of all, she knew WHICH books I would enjoy (“Oh? You liked Lloyd Alexander? Why don’t you try Tamora Pierce.”). I would burn through a book per day, and the 5 minute gap I had between school’s end and my mom’s arrival to pick me up was always a race to the library.
“I’m finished with Wild Magic,” I would say, panting. “What next?”
“Why there’s a whole series, Susan. I already went to the junior high and picked up book number 2 for you. Here.”
Needless to say, Mrs. Lunsford was a goddess in my eyes–as was Brenna’s mom. And Brenna too. How could they know so much about all these fantasy realms and characters? Every time I would finish a book, they would be there with a new one to recommend.
Reading became more than a fun escape–it became part of who I was. I was more comfortable in the library than I ever was on the playground. It’s no wonder that, by the time high school rolled around, I spent every lunch in the library where Brenna’s mom worked. It’s no wonder that my passion for fantasy and science fiction, for mystery and romance, finally turned into an attempt at crafting my own stories.**
I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today–a published author with an overflowing TBR pile–if not for Brenna, Brenna’s mother, and Mrs. Lunsford. There are no words to even express how much I owe these women.
Of course, in an odd twist of fate that only God will ever understand, almost all of the librarians from my home town have been stricken with cancer. Brenna’s mother passed away two weeks ago–after years and years of fighting the good fight. She was a warrior princess the likes of which we will never see again. My biggest regret is that I didn’t get to tell her how much she meant to me. (But Brenna, if you’re reading this, I want you to know how much YOU mean to me. To say your family changed my life doesn’t even come close to expressing how much I love you all.)
Mrs. Lunsford is also very ill. I was fortunate enough to see her last week. As her nurses have said, she is a miracle to have held on this long. And Mrs. Lunsford: you have been a miracle to me too. Without you, I never would have found Lloyd Alexander or Garth Nix or Philip Pullman or Tamora Pierce. I never would have learned that loving to read is okay. And–since I set off on this publishing journey–you have continued to teach me all that you know.
While I think it’s important for authors to remember–and thank–those who inspired us to write, I think it’s just as (if not more) important to thank the people who inspired us to read.
So thank you.
You tell me: Who inspired YOU to start reading? To keep reading?
*I have resorted to stacking books horizontally. It is a temporary fix, at best…
**Though I never would have had the courage to even try writing if not for the fiery, unsurpassed Mrs. Chesser. She introduced her students to Shakespeare in 5th grade, and in 6th grade, we each had to write short stories–good short stories, I might add.