By PD Martin
Sometimes when it’s my turn to blog I have to scramble for ideas. But today, I had three potential topics!
- Valentine’s Day. I lucked out and drew Valentine’s Day for my Wildcard Tuesday. So I should write a blog about that, right? You know, tracing the history, talking about what it means to me…yada, yada, yada. But forget it…I’ve got other things to write about today. And I’m sure there will be loads of blogs around on Valentine’s Day. And if not, just go to Wikipedia for your fix.
- Option 2 was relevant to the date, because tonight (Aussie time) I’m launching the National Year of Reading at one of my local libraries. I’m one of the ambassadors and this is my first duty of the year. In fact, when this goes live I will have just finished giving my speech.
- Option 3 came around on the weekend. While I believe writing is a craft more than an art, I still consider myself to be a creative, artistic person. And as a creative, artistic person I am upset, outraged and angry at the wasted talent of the one and only Whitney Houston. So much so, I considered writing a blog on it.
In the end, I’ve gone with option 2, the reading theme, because it seems so relevant to this forum, to Murderati.
For the launch I was asked to speak a little about reading and what reading and books meant to me. I’ve decided to write about some of these things today.
First off, I was lucky because I always loved reading. I didn’t need Harry Potter or fancy ebooks on iPads to engage me – I just needed a book. Sure, there were books I loved more than others, books that I read over and over again. Childhood greats like The Wishing Chair, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Famous Five and Nancy Drew come to mind. But pretty much any book would do me. I’d devour them, keen to move on to the next story, or the next book in a series.
So, what did I love about books and reading? Some people talk about the feel of a book, the feel of turning pages. But for me, although my childhood reading was solely hardcopy based, it was never about the feel of a book, it was about the words on the page, or more specifically about where the book would take me. You can pick up a book and be anywhere in the world, or not in this world at all. Whether it’s reading about a cop in the US, a bodyguard in England or reading about the hobbits travelling to Middle Earth, books take you somewhere else, give you another experience. Sometimes that experience can be grounded in reality or what might be possible, like crime fiction, drama or even romance stories (although many would argue they’re not based in any realism at all!). And at other times, the world you’re transported to is fictional, fantastical. Whether it’s travelling with Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter to Narnia or following the lives of Bella and Edward in Twilight, these books take you to another world, a world that is appealing, interesting or intriguing in some way.
Reading’s also about emotion, about how a story makes you feel. Reading has the ability, the power , to take you on emotional highs and lows. You can be inspired by triumph, moved or heartbroken by tragedy or drama, intrigued and challenged by a whodunit or you can simply get away from it all with an escapist read. These escapist reads could come in the form of classic fantasy novels, horror books, paranormal stories or even romance. And while some people like the more literary style of writing and others prefer a good vampire book, it’s all reading. And it’s all story telling. Sure, it’s changed a lot over the years. Originally it was people telling stories around campfires or ‘drawing’ stories. Then, as we evolved, stories became about the written word rather than the spoken word. They were about reading, not listening. And now, well in some ways we’ve come full circle with audio books that allow people to listen to stories, but they’ve also evolved to another level with ebooks. Our kids may read online, and via ereaders or i-Somethings, but they will still read. In fact, I think ebooks give these technology-savvy generations the ability to combine reading with gadgets and hopefully that will lead to an increase in the love of reading, and most importantly of literacy.
Reading is also ultimately why I became a writer – I think why anyone becomes a writer. Authors love hearing and reading stories, and most importantly we love telling our own stories.
However, I do have a confession to make. My reading is currently in a massive trough, which actually started when I got published. Like many authors, I found myself juggling tight deadlines and reading non-fiction research books instead of reading for pleasure. Plus I became a mother soon after I became published, which meant juggling the dual acts of motherhood and writing; and I’m also one of those authors who prefers not to read while writing. These things add up to not much reading.
However, I am inspired to read more this year. Inspired by the National Year of Reading, and by my role as an ambassador. What about you? What are your reading plans for the year? And what are your childhood memories of stories taking you to different worlds or on emotional highs and lows?