Saturday, January 14, 2012
To All The Writers Who Change Lives
I’ve never met these great writers and I probably never will. But one thing is for certain; they changed my life forever.
Growing up in a middle class suburb in the Midwest, life was pretty bland. At times my childhood was a bit sad. But then something happened that rocked my world. I learned to read.
When it all finally ‘clicked’ and I was able to comprehend the letters on the page and read the stories, the world was mine!
Thanks to Rudyard Kipling and his ‘Jungle Book’, I could travel to India. I was dazzled by Mowgli and his family of wolves. I could see the jungle and became acquainted with all the characters- lovable or not. I was enchanted. Mr. Kipling took me away to another world.
Then there was ‘One Thousand and One Nights’. This book of stories featured some of the most well-known tales in history. Its origins are in ancient Persia and India. Happily these stories were illustrated. The illustration gave me a deeper understanding of these new experiences. Ali -Baba and the Forty Thieves showed me fascinating aspects of daily life in ancient Persia and amazed me with opulent jewels and rugs. And of course, no one ever forgets the magic words, “Open sesame”.
Then there was the less exotic, but nonetheless exciting Nancy Drew -She was created by Edward Stratemeyer, but the books have been ghostwritten by a number of authors and are published under the collective pseudonym Carolyn Keene.
Everyone wanted to be Nancy Drew. She was smart, fearless and cool. She was wealthy. In the words of Bobbie Ann Mason, “At sixteen she 'had studied psychology in school and was familiar with the power of suggestion and association.' Nancy was a fine painter, spoke French, and had frequently run motor boats. She was a skilled driver who at sixteen 'flashed into the garage with a skill born of long practice.' The prodigy was a sure shot, an excellent swimmer, skillful oarsman, expert seamstress, gourmet cook, and a fine bridge player. Nancy brilliantly played tennis and golf, and rode like a cowboy. Nancy danced like Ginger Rogers and could administer first aid like the Mayo brothers”
I’m in good company when I say that Nancy Drew has influenced my life. That is also true for Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Sonia Sotomayor as well as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and former First Lady Laura Bush
But I have to say that my absolute favorite series was 'Trixie Belden'. The series was originated by Julie Campbell who wrote the first six books. Trixie Belden was a teenage girl who lived at Crabapple Farm in New York with her family. She’s not gorgeous. She has freckles and curly hair that frustrates her. But she is smart, brave and adventurous. She saved her brothers life, she befriended and rescued a runaway boy, she helped a sickly rich girl, she has a big heart and is always up for a challenge. She even formed a club with her close friends, called the Bob-Whites. And she can solve a mystery like no one else.
Later as an adult, Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt was a brilliant illustration of the poverty that many endured at that time in Ireland. My own mother sometimes spoke of “not knowing where their next meal would come from” and many times after a meal she will say,"Well, as your grandfather would say, we're sure of that one." I understood that it was a hard life, but reading Mr. McCourt’s story caused me to feel that pain so deeply that I cried. It gave me a profound understanding and respect for what my ancestors battled and survived.
Coming to current days, I reluctantly found myself addicted to the Twilight Saga. I didn’t want to- I thought it was for kids. But Stephenie Meyer was able to write stories that crossed generations and appealed to everyone from seven year old children to middle aged women and everything in between and beyond. It's a phenomenon really. These are stories that create a bond with me and my young nieces and nephews. From the beauty of Forks, Seattle to the diamond- like skin of the vampires. I could see it all so clearly. When the movies came out, I almost felt like I had already seen them.
As a writer of fiction, I am in awe of these and the many other gifted writers that bring magic and light to their readers. These and countless other amazing writers changed my life. They opened my mind to new cultures and different lifestyles beyond my own small universe. I believe that this made me a more accepting person. It took away the fear of people and things that were ‘different’ and replaced it with curiosity. It gave me a desire to travel the world and experience all these new worlds firsthand. I thank you all. You have changed the universe.
My dream is that I will be able to open new worlds for my readers-even if only in a small way.
Posted by Kathleen Patel at Saturday, January 14, 2012