Sunday, May 9, 2010

Late Blooming, But Present and Accounted For

I think I’m a late bloomer—you know, the kind of girl who stumbles through her early years lanky and boyish, whose body holds back until after all her friends develop from ugly ducklings into beautiful swans. Except my underdevelopment has nothing to do with looks but instead revolves around a fascination with books and reading them.

I’m confused about this enigma of my history, really. From an early age, my father collected books and couldn’t put his latest read down before he purchased another. Today his library holds over 5,000 volumes on various subjects and schools of thought. He also taught me to read before I attended kindergarten. I swelled with pride that I could read words my fellow classmates struggled to decipher. My teachers placed me in the advanced readers while the rest of my friends had to drudge through the regular curricula for our grade level. In other words, I had all the tools at hand, yet I lacked the one thing that would have aided my present hunger to write books: the desire to read.

I’m not saying I didn’t read at all. I had my favorites: Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby series, Caroline D. Emerson’s The Magic Tunnel, and later Daphne Dumaurier’s Rebecca. But as a young girl, I had much rather my parents find me skating around the block or winning at tetherball than find me cooped up in my room reading a book. I never read the classics; somehow my teachers hadn’t required such in-depth study. Nor did I care about Nancy Drew or any of the other popular fiction that other kids were reading.

I did, however, enjoy writing stories and poetry. My first poem appeared in a hometown newspaper in 1960, and I often submitted short stories for my elementary school’s student publication. Yet until I entered the eighth grade and won my first creative writing contest, becoming a writer hadn’t even occurred to me. Why would it? I still skewed my nose at the thought of diving into a book when there were so many more interesting things to do, like drooling over boys and listening to the latest Beetles tune. Reading back then made my head hurt and sent me running for open air.

I often wondered if my elementary school’s Nazi librarian had anything to do with my disenchantment. Well, she wasn’t exactly a Nazi, but her stern demeanor and maniacal penchant for embarrassing students who couldn’t answer her Spanish Inquisition about the Dewey Decimal system frightened me. Every time my class’s weekly required library sessions rolled around, my stomach balled into a knot, and I found any excuse I could to stay home from school that day. I have no doubt the school authorities were trying to expand our young minds, guiding us toward the realm of reading, but their well-intentions only invoked fear in my heart each time I stepped across the library’s threshold.

Today my world has blossomed because of books. I love to read, can’t find enough spare time to stick my nose into the latest novel. I struggle to balance my time between reading and writing and all the other billions of tasks I juggle in the air. I can hardly manage patience because I want an author to sweep me away to England to learn about Shakespeare’s missing manuscript, or fly me all over the world to discover and put into place the six missing pillars that will save the world. I feel like I’m in a race to catch up with all of you who have thousands more reading experiences tucked under your belts than I do. And that doesn’t even account for the umpteen research tomes I’m pouring through that will help me make my WIP more interesting. My current library is growing on a weekly basis, and I haven’t even scoured through the pile of books reaching to the ceiling on my bedside table yet. Time just isn’t cooperating.

I wonder if they have a book about resisting our urges to purchase new books before finishing the ones we already possess?

I bet they do. As a Mother's Day gift to myself, I’ll have to check that out on Amazon tomorrow.


Clementine said...

Your childhood sounds like mine. In all three of the schools that I attended, the librarians were cold and unapproachable. Why would children want to read with someone like that representing books? I've never thought about that before. Great post!

Mary Gray said...

Ooh, ooh!! I love Rebecca. That was a fantastic book.

christopher said...

Happy Mother's Day!

I can relate somewhat to your situation. I began college as an English major...then veered to psychology...have since spent 25+ years in a business environment. I am now enjoying a gradual move back into writing.

Good luck with your writing...I also like your blog design...and will enjoy being a new follower.

Peggy Shumway said...

Amy-the good news is we got past those librarians and found our love for great books.

M. Gray--DuMaurier is such a great writer!

Christopher--Thanks for the sentiment and for dropping by. I appreciate you becoming a follower.

Jody Hedlund said...

I have more books than I can possibly read too! Once I finish my current WIP, at least I'll have a stack to dive into! Is good motivation! :-)

Ann Best said...

I love DuMaurier, too. The books and the movies based on her books.

I found you from your following my blog. I just posted a quick comment on your Legacy Thumprints. I'll be back to that one and this one when I have time to really read through what look like very interesting posts.

Peggy Shumway said...

Jody - It is good motivation. I just wonder if I'll ever finish all of the books.

Ann - Welcome. Thanks for visiting.