Jessie: Feeling pensive.
Recently, I attended the New England Crime Bake. Every time I am in the midst of a group of writers it, not surprisingly, makes me think about what started it all in the first place. I’m not sure if all writers can pinpoint when they decided that writing was something they wished to pursue but I know exactly when I realised that I wanted to create stories to share with others.
When I was six years old I needed an emergency appendectomy. It was touch and go for a while as the toxins had spread round my system a bit. The surgeon told my parents it would be at least five days before they’d be sure I would survive. My mother was worried enough about the outcome that she slept in the hospital with me every night. She always read to me at bedtime at home and the hospital stay was no exception.
I had received a boxed set of Roald Dahl books for Christmas only a few weeks before but had not yet started to read them. My mother brought Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the hospital and began to reading it to me. My mother is a delightful reader and snuggled up in a hopstical bed under a flickering, humming fluorescent light I was able to imagine myself swept away to a much more magical place. I was enchanted by the story and tickled pink by the humor.
By the time Violet Beauregarde was rolled off to the juicing room I laughed so hard I had ripped out most of my surgical staples. But somehow, it was worth it. Laughter really was the best medicine. By the fifth day I left the hospital, well on my way to a full recovery. I am convinced that the book and the pleasure it brought, the feeling it created that life was indeed magical, full of possibilities and not worth giving up helped move me out of the danger zone.
My health recovered but I never got over my attachment to Roald Dahl. Or books with humor and magic and well-deserved comeuppances. I knew from that point on that what I really wanted to do was to write stories of my own.
Readers, do you have a book that helped you through a difficult period? Writers, can you pinpoint when you decided on your life’s passion?
When I was younger and under stress, I would read Sherlock Holmes stories. Now I just read.
When I was a Junior in high school, I came down with rheumatic fever. Back in those days, the treatment included lots of bed rest. Months and months of bed rest. I’d always been a reader and a dreamer, but I was used to being pretty active too, with choir and marching band and church activities, so I was bored out of my skull. One day, my dad brought home a sack full of the Mr. and Mrs. North books by Richard and Frances Lockridge. I read my way straight thru the series, and it helped alleviate the boredom. I still go back and reread them sometimes, and I still laugh at Pam North’s antics and lose myself in a kinder, gentler time.
Oh, how I love the story! I do believe the magic in that book helped you. And your mom sounds fabulous. He is truly one of my favorite authors also. Have you ever read Lamb to the Slaughter? One of the stories that inspired me to want to write my own. I loved it for years before I figured out that he was the one who wrote it
I, too, was entranced with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Wikipedia tells me it came out in 1964, the year I moved my reading business from the children’s to the adult part of our library. YA wasn’t so much a thing then, and I remember feeling I was a tiny bit old for it–and not being deterred by that one bit.
This is such a wonderful post, and I know what you mean, too. I gained comfort from Nancy Drew books and then Victoria Holt and Dorothy Eden and later Jennie Melville when I was going through some emotional situations. Thank you so much for sharing; this brought up great memories of my mother.