How and why does someone become an author?
As a child growing up in a southern family of modest means, we had a very small library of books. The ones that we did have were oft visited treasures. One of the first I remember was the Bible. I remember it not so much for the mostly incomprehensible text, but for the pictures.
My sister and I would marvel at the series of pictures that represented options for what Jesus might have looked like. Alternatives included a handsome long-haired Nordic looking Jesus with blond hair and blue eyes. At the other extreme was the brooding short haired, dark skinned middle eastern man with scant facial hair.
Other pictures illustrated stories including Jesus throwing the moneylenders out of the temple, the return of the prodigal son, and the remorseful Judas returning the pieces of silver he was paid for his betrayal. Mysterious words such as “virgin” and fantastic creatures such as talking snakes inspired me to read anything I could find. Most of my life metaphors are biblical, except for the ones that are from baseball.
The world opened further when Dad brought home a set of World Book Encyclopedias. We got the red ones, not the expensive leather-bound white ones. I spent most of my time looking at volume “B”, specifically the section on baseball, but a whole world of new information was fingertips away. A yearly update came in the mail as part of the purchase.
Our set of World Books was a perk for my dad’s efforts to sell them to other families. I went with him on several sales calls where he made the pitch that a child’s education depended on a set of these books in the home, the broadband access of the 1950s.
Later would come my membership in the Weekly Reader book club. For pennies begged from my mother, I received six books during one summer. My favorites were Dangerous Island and Mystery in Old Quebec. I raced along beside the bookmobile as it came up our dirt driveway.
Then there was the book about “the facts of life” that suddenly showed up in the living room. No one encouraged us to read it or talked to us about it. But I finally found out what virgin meant.
You can learn just about anything by reading, and if you do a lot of it you might end up thinking that being a writer is the highest form of life, or at least a worthy way to spend your time trying.
9/25/2020 08:19:18 am
My grandmother was Helen McCray whom I believe your dad worked with at World Book. She was with them for 30 years. I have all of her work journals and am starting to look through them since her passing a few years ago. It’s interesting to read about all of the sales techniques and different motivational meetings she went to over the years. Not to mention the many trips to different locations all over the world. It was a different time for sure!
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I read. I write. I learn. I’m in a writing group and I have four published books. I’m still pretty sure I’m not Steinbeck, but my heart and soul have found their way back to where they should be.