Tag Archives: beanovelist

Books That Inform; Books That Transform

Did you ever have a book come into your life that transformed you?  Bible

Let me qualify at the outset that the Bible has far and away been the most transforming book in my life.  So, with that out of the way, let me clarify my point here.

Robert Benson’s Admonition

Years ago at one of the PIW (Professionalism in Writing) conferences (of which I was the coordinator), a fellow author on staff named Robert Benson gave a presentation regarding what we read and how we read.

“Some books we read informationally,” he told us. “We read the material to gain needed information.  Other books, we read formationally. These particular works,” Robert explained, “form us and transform us.”

As coordinator I was privileged to have a full set of tapes of every session of each cassette tapeconference.  (Yes, girls and boys – tapes – as in cassette tapes. Back in the old days.)  I was fascinated with this concept and played and replayed that tape of Robert’s message till I nearly wore out the tape.

Teachers Who Read Aloud

So at my having set that scene, you may already be far ahead of me thinking of the books that have formed you and even transformed you.  I could cite a number of them myself, but let me share one that came into my life when I was only in the sixth grade. (And yes I really can remember that far back – just in case you’re wondering.)

I grew up in a home sans books.  Can you believe that?  A budding writer in a house with no books.  Ghastly!  Fortunately, from my first grade year through my sixth grade year, all of my teachers used the first half hour of the day as the time to read aloud to us. (After pledge to the American flag and prayers.  I told you it was in the old days!)

Miss White’s Selection

My teacher in sixth grade was a spinster (better word than old maid, right?) lady named Pearl White.  I am not kidding.  That really was her name.  She was also my piano teacher, but that’s another story altogether.

Miss White in her selection of books to read aloud that year was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  It’s difficult to explain what happened as that story was read aloud to me, but as I look back today, I know it was an epiphany.

As Miss White read that book, I could smell the rich soil in the secret garden of Misselthwaite Manor. I inhaled the fragrance of the blossoms. I watched as Mary and Dickon worked to clear the garden, to nurture each tender plant and vine, and how they brought the neglected garden back to life.

Every detail of the book sprang into vivid images. Deep within me I suddenly realized the power of words on paper.  Of course I could never have expressed my feelings at the time, but it was an unforgettable experience.

Reunited with My Old Friend

Years later browsing in a public library with my two then-in-grade-school children, I came upon a copy of The Secret Garden.  My overwhelming excitement was no doubt embarrassing to the two of them.  We checked it out and I read The Secret Garden aloud to them as Miss White had done for me all those years before.

One of those read-aloud evenings – after the two had gone to bed — I sat up and finished the book on my own.  (I just couldn’t put it down.)  As I finished the book, I sat there all alone in the quiet of my living room and wept and wept.  And wept.

Why?  I don’t know.  Not really.  (Believe me, I’m not a person who cries easily.)  All I can say is that my “friend” that had transformed me as a small child was back in my life and the emotion of that moment of being reunited was overwhelming.  And reliving the experience of the book was overwhelming as well.

Savor the Experience; Let it Transform

Some of you reading this will closely relate.  It’s not because one book is so much better than another. (It’s obvious some are.)  It’s because it so deeply and personally resonates within YOU!  It is YOUR experience.  And no one can take that away from you.  But you can savor it.  And you can allow it to work to transform you into a more sensitive and perceptive and skilled craftsman in your art of writing.

Thank you Robert Benson for helping me to articulate this powerful experience!

I would love to hear what book(s) have affected you in your reading experience.  Leave a comment and let me know.

Clean Teen Reads

Want to listen to this post? Check out The Writing Life video.

Clean Teen Reads

I’ve launched a YouTube video series that I call (for obvious reasons!) The Writing Life These episodes reveal the ins and outs, and the ups and downs of a published author.

Be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss a single episode.

Clean Teen ReadsBe A Novelist

Tired of the struggle writing your book? Need a helping hand? Norma Jean’s Coaching Services may be the answer you’re looking for. Fill out the questionnaire on the page and let’s see if we’re a right fit. A FREE consultation gets the ball rolling. (Or the pen writing!) Click HERE!

Clean Teen Reads

Be A Novelist

Clean Teen Reads

 

“My Fiction Quill Lay Unused” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel HawthorneAt one time, I was commissioned by Chelsea House Publishing to write a series of what they referred to as bio-critiques.  I wrote the bio for a number of noted novelists, and another author wrote the critique section of the book.

One of the authors I was privileged to write about was Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Studying and researching about his life brought me to a deep appreciation of this man.

Addicted To Writing Novels

Nathaniel Hawthorne was addicted to writing novels in a day and age when novels weren’t that acceptable nor popular.  And all he ever wanted to do was spend time on his novels spinning stories.

I so related to his heart’s cry.

However, just like for all of us, life interrupted.  Hawthorne had to make a living for his family.  He worked at the Salem Custom-House – a job he despised.  During this time, he wrote in a letter to a friend,

“My fiction quill lay unused.”

Those words were so poignant and heart-wrenching to me, I scribbled them on a little post-it note and stuck it on my computer monitor.  Later, the sticky wore off, so I taped it.  There it remained for many years.  Because, like Hawthorne, my fiction quill lay unused.  And it broke my heart.

Earning a Living

Through the years, (as a single, self-supporting female) I tried a number of ways to earn a living without having to give up my entire being – so I could continue to write.

One such instance was selling insurance.  I thought perhaps I could earn a living and still have time and energy to write. (Not.)   I studied all the materials, took the test, passed the test, joined a small agency near where I lived and embarked on a rather lucrative adventure.

This particular type of sales involved travel.  We came to the office on Friday for a sales meeting and to receive our “leads” and to learn our “sales area” for the following week.  I left town early Tuesday morning.  I followed up on appointments Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, returning home on Thursday night.

Ironically, I was good at selling insurance; I was earning a good income; and yet I was miserable.  I quickly learned that this lifestyle left me totally void of time or energy to create fiction.  This income-producing endeavor lasted more than three years.

Like Hawthorne, My fiction quill lay unused. 

I Quit!

Finally I could bear it no longer. I began saving my money.  I had an amount in my mind that I would need to carry me over to complete a certain novel.  When that amount was in my savings, I quit and picked up my fiction quill and finished my novel. Oh the joy…!

As for Hawthorne, he was laid off.  That’s right, he lost his job.  What did he do?  Finished his novel!  Just like any dedicated novelist would do.

Nathaniel Hawthorne and I are many hundreds of years apart, cultures apart, and circumstances as different as night and day – and yet our hearts are so similar.

Your Fiction Quillquill-parchment

So where is your fiction quill?  Are you miserable because it’s been abandoned?  What can you do to allow you to pick it up again and put an end to your misery?

If Hawthorne did it; if I did it – so can you!

Clean Teen Reads

If you’d rather listen, here’s a YouTube version of this post in “The Writing Life” series.

Clean Teen Reads

I’ve launched a YouTube video series that I call (for obvious reasons!) The Writing Life These episodes reveal the ins and outs, and the ups and downs of a published author.

Be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss a single episode.

Clean Teen ReadsBe A Novelist

Tired of the struggle writing your book? Need a helping hand? Norma Jean’s Coaching Services may be the answer you’re looking for. Fill out the questionnaire on the page and let’s see if we’re a right fit. A FREE consultation gets the ball rolling. (Or the pen writing!) Click HERE!

Clean Teen Reads

Be A Novelist

Clean Teen Reads