I am not certain whether nature or nurture has more influence in the development of literary tendencies. I am positive, however, that my mother played a pivotal role in my own emergence as both a bibliophile and a writer. By sharing her own love of the written word, she inspired me to explore the world of stories and the stories in the world from a very young age. And that, as they say, has made all the difference.
My mother read to me and my sister not just when we were little, but even as we were beginning to tread the dark and tangled edges of the teen years. As we grew older, bedtime stories evolved into dinnertime stories. My dad worked as a VP at a bank a few towns away and was often stuck late at the office. My mom would give my sister and I our dinner early, but wait until my dad got home to have her own evening meal. To keep from inadvertently eating two meals, she took to reading aloud while my sister and I dined.
In this way, we were gifted with dozens of wonderful stories, each of which still holds a special place in my heart. Mom read Little Women, Swiss Family Robinson, Mistress Masham’s Repose, all the Anne of Green Gables books, and many more. Her obvious love for the written word seemed to fill the room as she read those tales out loud over our kitchen table. Each novel also provided a rich opportunity for conversation, giving us all kinds of characters and situations to explore by asking the questions “Why?” and “What if?” over and over again.
Although she had little time for leisure while we were growing up, I do remember seeing my mom read for pleasure. My mom stayed home while we were young, but she always had part-time jobs, plenty of housework, and eventually worked side-by-side with my dad on their own businesses. There was not a lot of down time in the day, something I now relate to only too well as a single, self-employed mom trying to keep up with an active ten-year-old. Still, I saw my mom reading all the time. More importantly, I saw that reading was something she clearly loved, something that brought her joy and comfort. By watching her, I learned to find the same solace and adventure between the pages of a good book.
My mom is also a writer – always has been, always will be. When I was growing up, she kept journals and diaries. She often penned handwritten letters to me and my sister, even though we all lived in the same house. She wrote stories and a mystery novel. Today, she is a professional marcom writer and also a kick ass editor who can whip any manuscript – fiction or nonfiction – into shape with the loving but firm hand of someone who truly treasures the artistry and power of the written word.
And my mom is always my first reader. She’s the person I go to with any piece that is important enough to warrant a second set of eyes. Even as I write this post, she is editing a piece of copy I wrote for a client. Though we are years past the evenings when she read aloud to me over dinner, we still talk almost every day about writing and reading. We discuss books, the craft, stories, and life as a writer. It’s part of her DNA and now, largely because of her support and encouragement, my DNA as well. I have many writer friends who have struggled to pursue their craft while their parents tried to dissuade them from “wasting their lives” on such “frivolous pursuits.” I feel so lucky to have a mom who not only approves of my writing, but helps me to be a better writer.
So, thanks, Mom. Thanks for all those hours of reading aloud and teaching me by example about the beauty, power, and magic of the written word. Thanks for instilling in me a reverence and a hunger for good stories. Thanks for enlightening me on the comforts of solitude and the value of critical thinking. And thanks for patiently teaching me (again and again) when it’s proper to use a hyphen. The things you have taught me and the love you have inspired in me have changed the way I see the world and they way I live in the world. By generously sharing your love and knowledge with me, you really have made all the difference.
What I’m Writing:
Post-move life has been pretty hectic, but I’m happy to say that I am making progress on my goal of integrating more fiction and creative nonfiction writing into my routine. Though most of my writing time is still, by necessity, allocated to the marcom (marketing and communications) projects that pay my bills, I am stealing small pockets of time for other writing. The recent piece I did for the regional arts and culture magazine, Artscope, was a nice diversion and also garnered me a lovely email from one of the gallery owners I interviewed. She said that I was “helping to spread [the] joy” of art. That made me feel good.
I am also finding that my subconscious mind is tuning in more and more to the fiction vibe. Even while I’m working and running around taking care of the tasks of my daily rounds, my brain is processing and parsing ideas. There is a quiet debate going on in the back of my head about the merits of short stories vs. those of novels. I have begun to formulate a theme for a collection of short stories, and started to revive my exploration of the outline for a middle grade fantasy series that I began work on a couple of years ago.
The wheels are turning, and that’s an important part of the process.
What I’m Reading:
Seeking comfort as I continue putting my world back together now that we’re in our new space, I was delighted to stumble across a follow-up novel (perhaps the second in a developing series … oh, I hope so!) to Charles DeLint’s lovely, The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. In Seven Wild Sisters: A Modern Fairy Tale (affiliate link), DeLint continues the fairytale be began in the first Tanglewood book.
This is a tale of bee fairies and ‘sangmen (Ginseng root fairies), royal courts, herbal folklore, long lost loves, sisterhood, and the magic that lives in the old hills. I absolutely loved the narrative voice of Sarah Jane Dillard. My heart was warmed by the young girl’s close relationship with the elderly “Aunt” Lillian, and again by Aunt Lillian’s relationship with the reclusive Apple Tree Man.
Though this isn’t the kind of story my daughter goes in for, it would make a wonderful read aloud book if you have children who enjoy these kinds of tales. And, of course, the illustrations of Charles Vess are just beautiful.
Another book I read this week was one that did pass mustard with my daughter. We read Operation Bunny: Book One (Wings & Co.) (affiliate link) as a bedtime story. Though this was also a story about fairies, they weren’t the usual kind. These were witch-fighting, sass-talking fairies. There is also a huge, talking cat with an equally huge vocabulary of odd yet charming, fish-themed colloquialisms.
My daughter is already begging me to get the second book in this series by Sally Gardner. Though I did not love it quite as much as she did, it was a fun read that did – I’ll admit – leave us both giggling.
I also read (yet another) amazing essay on Full Grown People. Persuasion, by Nicole Walker blew me away with the content, the voice, and the structure. It’s a piece I will likely return to again. Lots to explore here.
And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:
- A Master’s in Chick Lit by Karen Gillespie via @nytimes
- World’s Best-Selling Author James Patterson On How To Write An Unputdownable Story by @JoeBerkowitz via @FastCoDesign
- How to Find the Best Places to Guest Blog by @neilpatel
- It is Insane to Write and Publish a Book. There, I Said It. by @DanBlank
Finally, a quote for the week:
Have a lovely Mother’s Day weekend, everyone. Enjoy your stories – the ones you read, the ones you write, and the ones you have created by living. xo
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.