All of these “Ten Things You Might Not Know About Me” posts have been so much fun, that I thought I would continue along that line with some posts about my writing journey. I’m calling these posts Fact and Fiction. Today is part 1.
Teach Me to Read
My love affair with books began before I could read.
I grew up in a household of readers. It seemed to me that everyone always had their noses in books. My grandma, who lived with us, often had her big old Bible open on her ample lap and other reading materials (magazines and books) open nearby. My grandma was also an actress and a wonderful storyteller. She did professional “readings.” She memorized things like “The Gift of the Magi” and performed them at churches and grange halls and many other places. (Somewhere in the house, I have some of her old books with the pencil markings of what to memorize.) My greatest regret is that she died before the ease of recording arrived on the scene. I remember sitting near her chair, listening to her stories with rapt attention. I just don’t remember the stories themselves.
Anyway, I wanted to learn to read too. I didn’t go to kindergarten, so my first chance to learn to read was first grade. I don’t know why my mom didn’t teach me before I started school. So on that momentous first day of school, I had one goal in mind: to learn to read. But something awful happened. They didn’t teach me to read on that very first day. I went home and told my mom I wasn’t going back. Why bother if they wouldn’t teach me to read?
Fortunately for me, quitting school at the age of six was not an option. I did go back and I did learn to read. See Spot Run.
And So I Read
Learning to read was the best thing that could happen to this girl’s wild imagination. Yes, I was great at making up stories on my own, but oh my. The places books could take me.
I still own some of the paperbacks of my youth. I’m surprised these things don’t just crumble in my hands when I pick them up. I lost my complete set of Trixie Belden books many years ago (I loved those books!!), but here are the ones that have managed to safely travel with me from childhood to teen years to married life to motherhood to career woman to grandmotherhood (and a total of 12 moves).
Irish Red by Jim Kjelgaard
National Velvet by Enid Bagnold
Hobby Horse Hill by Lavinia R. Davis
Old Bones, The Wonder Horse by Mildred Mastin Pace
Golden Cloud, Palomino of Sunset Hill by Leland Silliman
Champion Dog Prince Tom by Jean Fritz and Tom Clute
I also have some very old copies of Pride and Prejudice and Gone with the Wind and Count of Monte Cristo and The Red Badge of Courage, and a few others.
I have given away hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of books and my library is filled with hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of books today. Books are a part of the fabric of my life.
The Storyteller in Me
The designation “drama queen” wasn’t around in the ’50’s and ’60’s, but it would have been a good description of me as a kid. I had a vivid imagination in my childhood, and I loved to perform. I took ballet lessons for seven years, three of them as a soloist, and many years of piano lessons. I learned to play the flute (long forgotten). I was horse crazy and eventually saved up enough money to buy my first horse when I was 15. In Junior High, I got involved with drama club.
Back up a bit: I was ten, in the fifth grade, when the storyteller in me discovered the fun of entertaining others with words. I spun a tale about how my mom was born on a covered wagon coming west. Even in grade school I loved studying history, and here in southern Idaho a person can still see the ruts from the wagon wheels in the Oregon Trail. That made it easy to slip into that place in my imagination to weave my tale. I had no idea that down the road I would write many stories set in the Old West.
I became what I call a compulsive writer. I can’t recall ever thinking, “I want to be a writer when I grow up.” I just wrote. Wrote and wrote and wrote. On scraps of paper and on binder covers and in tiny diaries with those itsy-bitsy sized keys. When I wasn’t reading a book or pretending to be a horse or entertaining in one form or another or fantasizing in my head, I usually was writing something. It was part of my every day world.
Check my future posts for more of my Fact and Fiction story.