Books and me.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with a group of women in the local college. (Hello girls!) I gave a “Readers’ Digest” version of my life and also talked about being a writer. I organized my thoughts around something the children’s writer – Christobel Mattingley – once told me: It takes all our lives to write books. To write well requires a lot of living, and our feelings and experiences are the wellspring from which our stories flow.

It was interesting to rediscover how I’ve had a lifelong love affair with words, stories and books. Of course, I’ve always known that but, yesterday, as I recounted important moments in my life, I was surprised how often my life and books intersected. I wrote plays, poems and stories even in my early primary school days. I co-authored/published a monthly magazine for two years in my senior high school years. I worked in the Library and Resource Centre at the Teachers’ College I attended. I was the librarian in the theological college that my husband attended. I used to dream about owning my own bookshop/coffee shop.

Books have comforted me in my loneliness, my poverty, my illnesses and my grief. Books have taken me on journeys to magical kingdoms where dragons fly, anything is possible and good finally (always) wins. Books have taken me into the heart of damaged people and helped me see why they do the things they do. Books have introduced me to other countries, other cultures and other ways of understanding the world. Books have made me cry. Books have made me laugh. Books have even, occasionally, made me angry.

Our cultures are shaped by the stories we tell about ourselves, our history and the world around us. Stories, told well, are powerful things. I want to write the sort that make people escape for a while from the reality they inhabit; the sort of story that makes a person think, question and wonder; the sort of tale that brings love, hope and laughter to the reader (with an occasional shiver, of course!). Whether I’m speaking to an audience of two or two hundred, or whether I’m writing a 100 word review or an 80,000 word novel, I want to weave the sort of magic that a good story can bring.

Thanks, ladies, for a lovely afternoon. Thanks for re-inspiring me; for reminding me why I do what I do and why I shouldn’t give up.

2 Comments

  1. Wendy Noble
    Nov 21, 2011

    Beautifully put, Ken: a conversation between people who can’t be all together… I shall store that gem away for the next speaking gig. Also, as you say, it’s a good thing to keep in mind while in the writing process. I’ve read a few books which have made me feel less like a participant and more like a voyeur.

  2. Ken Rolph
    Nov 21, 2011

    Writing is a way of inviting a reader to go on a shared journey together. I was thinking about the saying that culture is a kind of conversation among friends. I used to explain my work with magazines as a way of having a conversation between people who just can’t be all together in the room at the same time.

    Something to remember when you are pecking away at the keyboard all alone in your study.

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