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grouchoI can attest that K. R. Brorman, S. A. Young and I are all voracious readers. When we can’t sit down with a physical book or an e-reader, K. R. and I are driving around in our cars, or have our earbuds in place listening to audio books. We’ll win S. A. over to this new addiction one day. You watch.

We talked about this a bit during our recent Retreat, reminiscing about our early school years and we discovered that each of us was treated differently in our elementary schools because we were reading ahead of our classmates. Set apart from our classmates to learn and study at our own pace. Not that we’re scarred or anything.

 

I don’t remember when I started to read, but I had Golden books before I started Kindergarten and my parents bought me a typewriter for Christmas when I was five. I would type and copy articles out of the newspaper. I didn’t understand everything that I was typing, but I have to believe that early imprint of reading and writing has guided my entire life. When I got to first grade and we started with Dick, Jane and their trusty sidekick Spot, I ran into my first instance of socialization as we each were asked to read aloud.

“Slow down!” I was told. “You’re reading too fast for everyone to follow.” Not to mention, it was boring. Sorry, Dick, Jane, Spot. You were nowhere near as interesting as Snow White, or Cinderella.

Does anyone remember the Scholastic Summer Reading program? Oh, my. We’d get the brochure in the Spring and my parents would let me order as many books as they could afford, although not as many as I’d like. When the books came, it was almost better than Christmas morning. Almost.

When I got old enough for a bicycle and we moved to a town with a library, I uncovered a whole new world. Back in those days, it was still considered safe to let your 10-year old daughter take off on her bike and ride through town to the library. My first library card was like a passport for me. So many new places and times to explore. I would check out the maximum five books and hurry home to start reading. Summers flew by five books at a time.

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More than a decade later, I found myself laid up with a knee reconstruction that put me out of commission from work for a few months. At first, I was housebound. That’s when I was introduced to romance novels. A friend would send me shopping bags full of paperback romances and I devoured them. Some were not to my taste, exactly – pirates tying damsels to the mast for the leering pleasure of the crew being high on the list of examples – but Kathleen Woodiwiss’ books became a favorite.

When I got well enough to take my physical therapy into my own hands, I was told to get out and ride my bike. It was Summer. My favorite time to ride and read. There was a library close to our neighborhood so that became my goal. If I could ride to the library and back life would be great. This was a branch in a large northern Virginia suburb so the fiction section was pretty extensive. Not knowing where to start, either by author or genre, I decided to take them on alphabetically. Before the Summer was over and it became time to start my first year of law school, I had read the fiction section – Jane Austen to Emile Zola.

I found some new favorites in that process: Larry McMurtry for one, and rediscovered some I loved from studying literature in college, like Willa Cather, Henry James and William Faulkner.

faulkner

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Great minds and all.

For the next many years of studying and practicing law, reading – and writing – anything non-legal became a luxury. But, I’d pack books into my carry-on when I traveled and did my damnedest to read anything other than work on flights.

Is there a point to this, you ask, other than a stroll down my own personal Memory Lane? I think so. Let me see if I can find it.

As so many writers, great and otherwise, have said, to be a good writer, you have to be a reader. You have to write a lot, and read a lot. That’s it. There is no other way.

Well, life experience helps, of course, and there are courses one can take in creative or other types of writing – journalism and legal writing spring immediately to my mind – and I have. But they can only teach you so much: techniques, grammar and punctuation, particular styles called for in news writing, or how to properly reference and attribute to sources in technical writing or research papers.

Writing is a skill. But this skill is very complicated, because it can’t be got by simple learning of grammar rules, punctuation marks, and different writing techniques. Certainly, you should know how to write correctly, but only reading can help you achieve greatness. How?

  • It helps you find inspiration
  • It lets you gain new knowledge
  • It helps you learn your genre better*
  • It provides you with wider vocabulary for your own works
  • It makes you understand the language better
  • It helps you learn from real gurus of writing*
  • It helps you reveal the secrets of this job in practice

Can you imagine a musician who does not listen to music himself? The same question can be asked about writing. Every author writes for readers; no grammar rules and writing techniques will help you understand your reader if you do not read yourself.

— Mike Hanski, Huffington Post

*(Emphasis mine)

Whether you will think we’ve successfully transmuted our love of reading and writing into books that readers will want to read and collect remains to be seen, but we three have definitely put in the time and we love what we’re doing. We hope you will, too.

I started this with a dog, I’ll finish with a gratuitous pic of Fergus occupying his favorite spot while I type. That’s why these things take me so long!

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