When I was little, I dreamt of growing up to be a librarian.
To spend all my days in a building of books?! What could possibly be better?
I read my first real-live chapter book the summer after my second grade year. I had moved mid-year, and my second grade teacher had given me “Tee-bo the Talking Dog on the Trail of the Persnickety Prowler.” For real. That’s a real book.
And. It. Was. Awesome. It opened a whole new world to me, this idea that reading was so fun! I had been a very diligent “read to your parents for 15 minutes every week” kind of reader. But, those weren’t real books. Tee-bo the talking dog? Now that was a real book.
And so it started. I devoured all the books, as fast as I could. If it had one of those medals on the cover? Even. Better.
I read everything and anything through elementary, middle and high schools. Our house was always full of books. (Funny story: many of the books came from garage sales. We had a whole collection of sci-fi that must have come from one sale: Arthur C. Clark, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury. There was no Philip K. Dick. None. I had NO IDEA who Philip K. Dick was until like 3 years ago. All because that one guy either really hated Philip K. Dick, or else really loved him and wasn’t giving up the books.)
And then college hit. With so much reading of the not-fun kind, I lost my reading mojo. For years – it was probably like 5 years after graduation before I really started reading again. (I did pick up the Lord of the Rings books because, hello, movies, but that was probably about it.)
Grown up life doesn’t quite allow for all the reading, all the time that I would like, and as an obliger (got that from a book!) I found that joining book clubs is really the push I need to keep me reading. And a plus: you get to talk about books with other people that love books!!
But with the husband’s new writing career? Now I get to hang out with actual writers. And I get to read their stuff before it’s famous! Sometimes, even before it’s launched out into the world!
A year ago, I had the opportunity to crash a writing retreat the husband was on. An adorable little Texas town, impossibly far away (seriously, I live in Texas, how can I drive for 9 hours and still be in Texas??), and friend of the arts.
And it was awesome!! I didn’t attend classes, but I caught meals and evening keynotes with the attendees. I hung out with actual authors and publishers. (Seriously, they were so awesome, halfway through I realized I needed to stop monopolizing their time so that, uh, actual writers could get a minute of their attention. Oops, I just wanted to convince Jaye that she also needed purple hair. Which totally happened a few weeks later. Squee!)
And the attendees? All aspiring writers, some with books out. And so I bought all the books.
That conference is where I found my true reading passion: as a writer-groupie.
Writers have so much working against them. First of all, they have to, ya know, WRITE a BOOK. That’s hard, y’all. Takes a lot of dedication. A lot of practice and skill.
Then, they have to endure 53 people telling them that they do not want their book. I can barely handle a stranger on the sidewalk giving me side-eye, but to actually have someone tell you that your blood, sweat and tears aren’t worth their time? Beyond soul-crushing. That hurts. Every time.
And then! If you are so lucky as to find a publisher! Your editor tells you all the things that are wrong with your baby. All the ways in which you failed to produce a perfect manuscript. Ouch. A gut-punch after the high of landing a publisher.
And then! When the book comes out! A 1-star review on Amazon. That’s enough to ruin a day.
And I just … I love books. I love the windows into other worlds. I love the windows into others’ souls. I can only be me, living my life, but books … books let me get a peek into others’ lives.
And so by extension: I love writers. There was a world where their book did not exist, and then they willed it into existence. That’s magic.
I love this place I have arrived at, where I can rub shoulders with the magic-makers! Where I can beta-read things and be a tiny, tiny part of the magic. And where I can be a voice of encouragement, because the writer-life is hard enough, man. And the reader life … well, I for one, don’t ever want to run out of books.