Friday, March 21, 2014

These Are Your Kids On Books

By Art Taylor

When was the first moment you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Like everyone else this week—everyone but "Alan Come Lately," that is—I've thought about the possibility of being a writer for almost as long as I've been a reader, and probably even before that, when I was just being read to. I'm not sure there's a "moment" I could pinpoint, since all of it seems so tied up with all my childhood experiences.

Of all the little images that sometimes seem to be making the rounds on Facebook, my favorite may well be this one:

As a kid growing up in very rural North Carolina, my friends and I had our fair share of adventures:  building forts out in the woods behind our house and defending them against attacks by marauders or dragons or whatever; tromping through the fields beyond those woods on a quest for mysterious lands and magnificent treasure (we did find a washing machine once, plopped down in the middle of nowhere); setting the neighbor's yard on fire... twice, in fact (which was less adventure than misadventure, I guess).

But right alongside the memory of those real-life adventures stands my memory of the places I traveled in so many books and the people I traveled with and the things we did. I went with Sir Toby Jingle on his Beastly Journey. I won the services of Hawkins, "gentleman's gentleman," for a month. I had the weirdest girl in school, Clarissa Mae Bean, as my own friend, and then there were those fat men from space whose transmissions I picked up through that fresh filling filling in my tooth. With the Three Investigators, I got into and out of trouble, solved the mystery, reported back to Alfred Hitchcock himself. And as for Nancy Drew... well, I still think Miss Drew was likely my first love. After all, who could resist that feistiness and fearlessness, that titian hair (such an exotic word!), and that cool roadster?

It was a short step from reading such adventures to imagining more of them... and then to begin writing them down.

And maybe there's just something natural about that step from a love of reading to a desire to tell our own stories. Even at two, my son Dash easily gets wrapped up in the books we read to him... and we've found that if we start making up a tale, he'll join in himself with finishing the sentences we begin or providing the next step along the way. Of course, most of the stories these days involve a little boy going to the store in the car... to buy another car... and then drive that new car to a castle... where everyone has lunch....

And what's for lunch? Well, he just lets his imagination roam wild at that point—maybe a little writer in the making himself.

I'll be appearing at several events in Virginia and Washington, DC, in upcoming weeks. If you're in the area, please check out the events page at my website here for information on the Virginia Festival of the Book, the Books Alive! conference, the Conversations and Connections conference, the SmokeLong Quarterly 10th Anniversary Anthology book launch, and Malice Domestic, where my story "The Care and Feeding of Houseplants" is a finalist for this year's Agatha Award for Best Short Story. Hope to see folks at each of these events!


Meredith Cole said...

Dash is lucky to have two parents that are both writers! Lots of great stories in your house... See you at the Festival of the Book tonight!

RJ Harlick said...

Wow, you are a busy man. Wish I could join you at Malice, but not this year. Congratulations on your Agatha nomination.