Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reasons to Write #3 - Because they said so

Julie's post about Don was so moving and so... so... just right that I found myself thinking hard about what to post today. I didn't want to put up anything trivial, but I didn't want to change the subject entirely, either.

So I've picked up a thread from Julie's post - the one about inspirational people, the people who are genial shadows at our shoulder saying, "go on! You can do it!"

It starts with Mum, I think. It was Mum who taught me to read at an early age (so early, in fact, that when I went to infants' school, Mum was told off for having taught me to read, because, "now she will have to un-learn it all so that we can teach her properly."


Mum took me to the library every week or so, where I could have four books, and only one of them could be Asterix.... I think I spent most of my childhood with my nose in a book, and there was never any shortage. We had a houseful of books, and I made the transition from Famous Five to Mary Stewart and Desmond Bagley without ever thinking about what was a "children's book" or what was a "grown-up's book". They were just good stories.

Dad read aloud to us on holidays, giving a different voice to every character, teaching me about emotional punch when he read about Aslan's sacrifice with a catch in his voice. I can remember now the smell of the tent and the sound of his voice telling us "he is not a tame lion" through the canvas walls of our sleeping compartment. He also gave me his old typewriter, handling it with the reverence due to a tool for creating words. I typed my first story, aged seven, on it.

Then there was Mr Bennet. Mr Bennet my English teacher from age 11 to 18. Mr Bennet who stood on the desk in front of me to read my work because I told him I didn't like people reading over my shoulder. Who let two of us study Mansfield Park when the rest of the class were doing The Chocolate War. Who introduced me to obscure books by unheard-of writers, leading me to leap across genres without giving the classification a moment's thought. Who helped me love Chaucer, Shakespeare and (eventually) Milton with the same heart that devoured Terry Pratchett and Roger Zelazny.

These are the people who helped to generate the love of words, of stories, who nurtured it. None of them were remotely surprised when I expressed a desire to write.

They just said, "go on! You can do it!"

Who are or were the personal influences in your writing life?


  1. Oh, the nerve. Relearn how to read? Just how many ways to read ARE there? How silly! You had a great mom. Mine also took me often to the library growing up.

    Who were the personal influences in my writing life? Top of the list for me is Lauri Klobas, a friend I made several years ago on a writer's forum. Lauri was a writer too, a fellow cancer survivor and animal lover. We'd known each other for a few years when, after reading several of my forum posts about struggling with a bloated, over-written manuscript that was about twice as long as any agent wanted it to be, Lauri volunteered to have a look at it.

    It wasn't long before I realized Lauri had missed her calling. She should have been an editor. Or a cheerleader for some NFL team, instead of a behind-the-scenes teleprompter for the NFL. She took that manuscript of mine and bled red all over it, showing me page after page what was important to show, and when, line by line, and on a larger scale too. With her help I took a 325+K story and eventually whittled it down to 128K and landed an agent with it.

    During that time Lauri began her third battle with cancer, yet one of the last email exchanges we ever had consisted largely of her exclaiming over my news of having signed with an agent at long last. She knew I could do it. She was over the moon.

    She didn't like to complain or talk long about her health challenges. I understood this. I'd been there and felt exactly that way too at the time. So she played down the terrible struggle she was having, though it was painfully clear to me that this time she wasn't going to beat it. She lost the ability to sit at the computer and type right after that, and passed away a few weeks later, going on two years ago now. Here's my tribute to her at that time:

    I never met Lauri in person. We only knew each other through the forum, email, and exchanges of photos (mostly of our pets) and her hilarious, outrageous stories of the television and movie stars she met on a regular basis working behind the scenes in Hollywierd. But she will always be the one I think of as my greatest mentor, cheerleader, and a friend I wish I could have known for so much longer.

  2. Ah, Lori, I'm so glad you had a Lauri in your life! It sounds like she was the best editor a starting out writer could ask for, and her inspiration and cheerleading is repaid a hundred times over by the way you hold and celebrate her memory.

    Thanks for sharing a bit of Lauri with us.


  3. What Anna said Lori...

    There were many but the most important one has been my husband who gave me 'permission' to write and all the support and belief in the world. He also didn't let me give up and the kids didn't either!

    Great post Anna.


  4. I think I'd have to say my dad, because he always supported me in everything I did and when I said I wanted to be a writer, he went out and bought me a laptop, just like that! And he encouraged me to read things like the Odyssey or Alexandre Dumas when I ran out of Famouus Five's and Asterix's :D

    But I also have to say that all my friends in the RNA kept me going when I wanted to give up, especially my two writing buddies.

    Yes, great post Anna!