There is no comparison to the feeling of a newly purchased book, with its spine unbent, pages freshly pressed and a lingering scent of ink telling the story of a journey from publisher to bookstore. Inside awaits the sensation of falling into an imaginary world and walking side by side with the characters created — an experience like no other. The captivating stories bound within these tomes set many readers alight with the desire to emulate the authors who have drawn many into their fictional far off lands. These aspiring writers wish to shower an audience with the same splendor they experienced themselves.
I remember when my passion to be a writer was first sparked. I had just entered my teenage years. With my awkwardness and a new school, I found myself surrounded by loneliness. A kind English teacher I had befriended took pity on me and sometimes let me linger in his classroom during my lunch hour. I can still recall the room perfectly. It was neatly kept and held a set of well-worn chairs in the back corner of the room with brightly colored letters spelling out “The Reading Corner” dangling from the ceiling in a chaotic, twisting pattern. Along the walls of his classroom, in place of the usual academic paraphernalia, he kept shelves of various heights stuffed full of books he had accumulated. He had once explained to me that it was important to him that those books encourage young readers like me to pluck one up and dive in.
It was one afternoon while perusing his collection that I found it. I can still recall how the blueish-green spine of the thin book caught my eye. The title, while not phrased as a question, stirred my imagination into wondering what exactly was “In the Forests of the Night.” I began to read and found myself delving deeply into a new mysterious genre sprinkled with vampires, shapeshifters and heroines. I was absolutely enthralled. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes had hooked me into her world and I fell in head first.
It was not just the story that drew me to the idea of becoming a writer. It was the biography that I peered at when I finished. Here was a young woman, only a few years older than I, with a published set of books and a talent well beyond her years. Right then, as I comprehended the accomplishment of this author I had never met, I found myself believing that perhaps my own little, scribbled pieces of prose could be something more. My mind was flooded with ideas and a sudden desire to create that has never stopped its flow even to this day.
Jei’s story, not unlike mine, stemmed from a different instance of accidental enlightenment. In his youth, he had fallen into the usual type of trouble kids find — failing grades. His mother, unhappy with this development, devised a punishment that would encourage him to understand the consequences of his actions by forcing him to clean the cluttered garage.
While grumbling at the task, Jei began to dig through the multitude of boxes strewn about to find some kind of order, or distraction, that would save him from the dull assignment he had been given. It was through this happenstance that he stumbled upon a tucked away shelf lined with old books covered in dust. As he pulled down one after the other, he found himself intrigued by the images of fantastical creatures and the stories that laid within. The discovery of a small, hidden library brought his cleaning to a halt as he cracked open the first book.
Like me, he found himself falling into the world of another author. Jei’s first exposure was to Michael Moorcock and his well-known fantasy-based character Elric in his debut book Elric of Melniboné. Page after page, chapter after chapter, he found himself happily wasting the time he had been allotted to cleaning with this new found hobby.
When his mother came to check on his progress, she found him sitting in the midst of the chaos of a barely touched garage. To Jei’s luck, she hesitated in continuing the punishment. Not wanting to discourage his blossoming new interest, she decided to take a different approach. She offered him a deal. If he would do better in school, she would take him to the bookstore to pick up more books for his collection with each positive report card he received.
Almost immediately his grades began to improve. Alongside a happier life in academia, Jei soon found himself participating in the creation of his own characters and stories. He had found a home for his imaginative mind and a passion for storytelling that still drives him to this day.
While our stories are vastly different in origin, they are similar in their truth. The written word, published and put out for our consumption, touched our very lives and made us who we are today. It expanded our minds, opened our hearts and made us more accepting of the world around us. As Lloyd Alexander once said, “Keep reading. It’s one of the most marvelous adventures that anyone can have.”