I recently chatted with a much younger friend about the books we read as kids and how the process of writing took hold for us. What she and I read was quite eye-opening. The difference had a lot to do with our backgrounds and age. I was born after the second world war when the world was emerging from dark times. We lived in the Midlands, UK, where jobs were scarce and money scarcer. Those with jobs were forever on strike, but my parents ensured we had food in our bellies, a roof over our heads and decent clothes to wear. Books weren’t a necessity.
My friend is ten years younger. Her father was an Admiral, education embraced, and she was encouraged to read. As a family, they travelled, which expanded her education further. Books were scarce in my house. My folks weren’t readers. The soul token in reading matter was a Christmas Rupert Bear annual and later a Diana annual—of which I still have a few—and whatever we read at school. I read those annuals cover to cover so many times that I could recite the contents. We didn’t go on exotic holidays. A seaside resort called Rockly Sands in Dorset was the furthest we travelled. It became apparent we came from different worlds.
What changed for me was a trip to Yorkshire to visit family. I was about eight and sent to the local shop to pick up something. The shop sold books, and I lost time perusing the shelves. I picked up One Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodi Smith (I still have that book, it’s tatty, pages are loose, but I wouldn’t part with it for the world). It was a turning point in my life. From that day on, I saved my pocket money and slowly built my reading collection. I collected the CS Lewis, Narnia series, Lassie Come Home, Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series and more. I joined the library when I was old enough, which opened a further world.
My friend, however, was reading authors like Jane Austin, Emily Bronte, and Charles Dickens etc., as well as the books in my collection. So even though I didn’t read classic authors as a child, I still loved stories. The point is that reading opens a world of possibility. It doesn’t matter what it is. You start with one thing and move to the next.
I left home at seventeen to go on an adventure—inspired by Blyton. I moved to Australia to work with Thoroughbred racehorses. I didn’t do much writing during that time (except I did keep a journal), and it wasn’t until moving to Hong Kong that my creative writing juices flowed. I became involved with the Belgian Society, and they asked me to help them with their newsletter. I joined a diving club and worked on their newsletter. I did creative writing courses and started writing short stories. The urge to write for me was always there. I just needed the right circumstances to follow through with it.
When I returned to Australia, my writing was again on the back burner. It took years before I again picked up the pen or, should I say, hit the keyboard. Word processing was going gangbusters by then, which made the process easier. But between times, I never stopped reading. My point is it’s about taking the plunge and picking up that first book. Just because your family aren’t readers doesn’t mean you can’t be. And when you take the plunge, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Until next time
Contemporary adventure with