Saturday, February 6, 2021

#ReadingMagic 30-day challenge, week 3


"Do you remember a story you wrote as a kid?"

I still have a story I wrote when I was a kid! Actually, I was 3 at the time and my motor skills were not conducive to writing, so I narrated it to my mom, who wrote it down. 

It was actually King Kong fanfiction, where Kong and Fay Wray hung out with their dinosaur buddies, defeated the bad guys, and then ate pie.

... I had a surprisingly good grasp of plot structure for a 3-year-old.

Also, does it make me a huge geek that I was writing fanfic as a toddler? Hrrrrm.

"Is there a book that you’ve revisited as an adult that seemed completely different to you as a kid?"

Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that as I've grown older - and learned more about writing myself - I've become a more discerning and critical reader. When I was younger, I liked just about anything I pulled off the shelf. But I think I was ultimately more smitten by ideas than execution. If the idea was cool, I liked the book, end of story.

Of course, that made for some complications when I tried to re-read some books as an adult and found that I could no longer enjoy a book on the merits of its concepts alone. To me, concept and execution go hand-in-hand to make a complete, fulfilling story.

I think the most radical example of this was probably The Indian in the Cupboard. I loved the entire series when I was a kid and just thought it was the coolest thing ever. I wanted a magic cupboard that could bring toys to life and they were actually real historical people. Imagine all the new friends you could meet if you could do that! Imagine how you could mess with the world's timeline. Hrmmmm.

So when I found the book again as an adult, I was stoked and set to reading it immediately. And... found myself not only unimpressed, but annoyed. What?

Okay, so. I still thought the concept was good. But I found the characters super irritating and exasperating. Perhaps this is because Lynne Reid Banks did a bit too good of a job writing realistic 9-year-old boys, and took care to make them extra impulsive and self-centered. 

I also quickly tired of Little Bear's narcissism and Boone's thickheadedness, and I hated how nobody in the story seemed to be able to get along (or indeed see things straight at all) until the last few chapters. All in all, it felt very much like a story written for the same sort of 9-year-old boys as the main characters, which meant it did not appeal to me, a grown woman with a completely different type of personality, past the intriguing fantasy elements.

So, that was disappointing. But I think it also hammered home a good point to me, that a truly timeless story should be able to appeal to everyone, no matter what stage of life they're in and no matter what age range the book is technically marketed to.

"What is your favorite book you were given as a child?"



Like I mentioned before, I don't have many books from when I was a child, much less the actual exact copies that I owned as a child.

But here is one of the exceptions: my beautiful 1985 boxed set of one of my most favorite literary works ever, as well as one that was incredibly influential to my writing.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, growing up I had a nerdy uncle who, upon learning that I liked to read, proceeded to give me wonderfully nerdy books, including a lot of children's fantasy and even a book of classic brain teasers that I loved.

I think he gave me this boxed set when I was maybe 8 or 9, which is a bit on the young side to read Tolkien on one's own, but he was such an avid Tolkien fan himself, how could he not? Case in point: he gave my cousin the middle name Meridoc, a variant spelling of Meriadoc (the full name of Merry Brandybuck).

However, at that age, even though I was a huge bookworm, ginormously thick books full of tiny text and zero pictures were still a little daunting for me. I don't doubt I could have handled it on a reading level, but as far as formatting, I still preferred an illustration sprinkled in every now and then to break up the text a bit. So I put them on the shelf and sort of overlooked them for quite a few years because I just wasn't ready to tackle them yet.

Then, in high school, when the Peter Jackson films started to come out, I decided to finally give the books a try just so I could see what all the hype was about --and I found myself wishing I'd read them sooner, because I saw what I had missed out on. Thanks, uncle. 🙂

I have to mention that I usually take much better care of my books than this, but the reason these are so dinged up is because I used to take them to classes in college, both to read while waiting for my ride home, and to read before class because I had an incurable habit of liking to be there at least ten minutes before the professor. College was stressful in a lot of ways, so being able to delve into Middle-earth for a few precious minutes here and there was a welcome escape.

Thanks for everything, old friends. You now have a hallowed place on my bookshelf forever.

(And yes, if you'll notice, I have a shelf dedicated to Tolkien. My uncle would be proud.)

"What kids' books have you discovered as an adult that you wish you had read as a kid?"

I was a pretty well-read kid and my reading interests have generally stayed the same throughout life, so I can't really think of any books that were around when I was a kid but I only discovered them (and liked them) as an adult.

So I'm going to take this in a bit of a different direction and talk about books that were not written when I was a kid, but I would have loved if my younger self had been able to get her hands on them.

These aren't any particular titles, but rather all of those awesomely nerdy STEM books for young readers that have been popping up over the last few years! I took my niece to the bookstore and was blown away by all of the fun books about math and science in the kids' section! They have board books about quantum physics now, you guys!!! Where was all of this when I was a kid?!?!

I love getting my nieces these nerdy books as part of their well-rounded early childhood education. I even got my one niece a book called "100 First Words for Little Geeks" which includes such important vocabulary as "hoverboard", "orc", and of course "inconceivable".

Yes, I live vicariously through my nieces.

"Are you related to any writers?"

Once again, I'd like to take this one in a bit of a different direction, as I am somewhat of a renegade.

Okay, so, I am not directly related to any writers that I know of. Writing is not something that runs in my family. (I do come from a long line of butchers, oddly enough.)

So in lieu of that, I thought I'd look on RelativeFinder.org and see which famous authors and poets I'm tangentially related to!

If you want to do this yourself, you'll need a FamilySearch.org account and a family tree on that website that connects to the shared site-wide family tree. Then, just go to RelativeFinder.org, log in with your FamilySearch information, and it'll show you which famous individuals you're related to according to the family tree!

(On the left-hand sidebar, you'll find a list of filters you can apply to the results; there is one specifically for Authors & Poets.)

Here are some of my closest literary relatives that I found interesting:

Laura Ingalls Wilder - 5th cousin 4 times removed
Robert Frost - 5th cousin 5 times removed
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - 5th cousin 6 times removed
Ralph Waldo Emerson - 5th cousin 6 times removed
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) - 5th cousin 6 times removed
Louisa May Alcott - 6th cousin 6 times removed
Herman Melville - 6th cousin 7 times removed
Edgar Rice Burroughs - 8th cousin 3 times removed
Lewis Carroll - 7th cousin 7 times removed

So yeah, not super closely related to any famous writers, but some of them are my distant cousins! I like to think they're smiling whenever they see me typing up a good story. 🙂

"Was there something else that ever got you excited about reading?"

Besides just reading for the love of a good story, I loved reading to learn. So not only did I read a lot of nonfiction, but I really enjoyed when a fictional book introduced me to new concepts and even new vocabulary words. I still remember how thrilled I was to learn about tesseracts from A Wrinkle in Time, and how it introduced me to the idea of higher dimensions. I had fun trying to wrap my mind around that one.

Now, as a writer, I enjoy trying to instill that same love of learning into my readers. I want you to go out and research what a Xiphactinus is, or look more into the real theoretical studies behind astroengineering. There's a whole big universe out there for you to explore!

"What nonfiction book captured your attention as a kid?"

As mentioned before, I read a lot of nonfiction as well as fiction. I can't think of one single nonfiction title that really stands out, so I'll say that a type of nonfiction I really enjoyed in general was encyclopedias! Yes. That's right.

No, but hear me out. I grew up in the ancient days before Wikipedia. If you wanted to learn more about just about everything in general, you went to an actual encyclopedia. So I just loved picking up a hefty volume and spending hours soaking in all that information. What new and wonderful subject would I learn about next? Particle physics? Marine biology? The history of flight engineering? It was like the world was at my fingertips.

... Also, as a result, I became really good at knowing random trivia. For reference, please see this Studio C sketch. Martin is 100% me.

You're welcome, world.

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