Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How I Became an Avid Reader and an Aspiring Writer

My want/need/drive to write a novel largely stems from my love of reading.

I started out being a reader later in my life. No one in my house liked to read, my younger brother hardly did his homework, my older sister was studious but didn't enjoy reading, my mother and father never pushed me to read.

I didn't become addicted to the written word until I was a teenager. When I was younger, you couldn't get me near a book for fun. Pah-lease. I was strictly a TV/ movie person. Reading was for dorks and I was already too much as a dork to begin with. The last thing I needed was another arrow on my back.

That all changed when I joined a group called TAB or Teen Advisory Board at the library where a friend of mine's mother worked. We would spend one hour a month choosing new books to order for the teen section, discussing books we read and packing away old books for soldiers. I figured it would look decent on a resume and my friend's mom really liked that we were involved (it always good to make the friend's mom happy).

So we were talking about fantasy books at a TAB meeting one day when I decided I would try this whole "reading for fun" thing. There were those boys at the meeting who spoke about Lord of the Rings like they lived through it. At the time, I thought they were lame losers but something about their passion made me envious. It took me a long time to realize they were the brave ones for not caring what people thought of them. They liked what they liked and didn't make any excuses for that. I wasn't like that. I wanted desperately to be liked.

That day, instead of using my library card solely for school reports (and I didn't even end up reading those books most of the time), I got out some fantasy novels. I don't exactly remember what books I started with except that they were Young Adult novels. But, clearly, I got enthusiastic about them. Eventually I just kept getting out more and more books -- sometimes 20 at a time -- and I would read the 5 that intrigued me the most. The Young Adult fantasy section really hooked me and I would sometimes spend whole weekends immersed in a book.

I tend to be one of those people who can't take my mind off something so I'd stay up reading to 5 or 6 in the morning. I remember the day when I was 15 and I saw a book on the New Books self that looked interesting. I read the black book with an apple on it in one night, then waited in anticipation for the next ones to come out. That book was Twilight. Although my tastes have changed since then and I don't like the book so much anymore, I remember how I felt like I knew Bella and, maybe one day, could have a romance as great as hers. Isn't it amazing how some letters on a page can make you feel hopeful or happy or not alone? That the memory of finding a book that touches you is as vivid as an other important event in your life?

Anyway, I began to read and read all the time. It became something I wanted to do everyday, something just for me. One summer between Sophomore and Junior year, I would get up, walk to the YWCA a few miles away to workout and then to the library near that everyday. Who knows how many books I read that summer.

When college started and I moved away from home into a dorm, I wanted to change. I wanted to be social. So I stopped reading. I didn't want anyone to see me sitting there, alone, in my dorm room while everyone else was out having fun together. I started to pull away from reading because it made think of how sad I had been in high school. What I didn't realize then is that what I was really doing was pretending to be someone I'm not. I'm not the type to party or drink or hang out all the time. I like to sit alone and read. Only now have I accepted that. I know now that it was nothing to be shamed about or hidden from others. After I graduated college and moved back home, I didn't feel like I had to act a certain way to impress other people. And so I began to read again. I began to feel like myself again.

To me, books were always an escape, a dream, a want to be special, to be tested --- an adventure I could never experience in real life. A good book makes you friends with the characters, makes you care about what's going on with them, makes you invested. I want to write a book that makes someone feel that way. That for, a hour or a day, my reader could be transported and transformed. I know I can do it, if I set my mind to it.

Maybe finding a love in books by myself is what lead me to be so passionate about them. I wasn't forced or coerced into reading, it grew from somewhere inside me. I want to write Young Adult novels because of what they did for me. They gave me solace in the cruel social world of high school. They gave me comfort when I was lonely and feeling down on myself. I was a teenager who had low self-esteem, who didn't have many friends outside of school. Books gave me a world to escape to, a place where the characters had the chance to be something great, something beyond themselves. They gave me a hope that maybe I could too. And I will forever be grateful for that. I want to try to give a little of what I got from Young Adult novels to some other teenager who feels the way I felt back then.

I hope I can one day.