There’s a story my mother likes to tell people when they hear that I’m a writer. It goes something like this:
When Katrina was in kindergarten, her teacher, Mrs. Fowler (silly woman) asked to talk to me after school one day. She sat Katrina down and asked her to read some stupid ‘See Spot Run’ book and was absolutely flabbergasted that she was able to read the entire thing without stumbling. So I said to Mrs. Fowler, “Watch this.” I pulled out my pocket bible and handed it to Katrina. She flipped to a random page and began to read.
Now, the only reason I know this story to be true is that I remember that day. The part I remember most vividly is that, to distract me, Mrs. Fowler asked me to start counting while she spoke to my mother. I was an easily bored child.
I’ve always loved words. I read my mother’s Stephen King and Nora Roberts novels when I was in sixth grade because I was bored with everything in my middle school library. I wanted a challenge.
When I was nine, I wrote my first story. It was called “The Girl and the Elf.” Pretty self explanatory as to what it was about. It wasn’t for school. I just wanted to write.
I’m telling you this to attempt to explain the beginnings of my passion for STORY. A passion, I think, has begun to dwindle in mainstream fiction.
I like ALL stories – fictional, historical, anecdotal. There’s magic in story. In the telling of a tale that transports the reader (or listener) to a different plane of existence. It is the ultimate means of escape and the best ones make the reader forget they are holding a book in their hands.
As I’ve grown older and grown into the Writer pants I slipped into years ago, I’ve begun to notice that it takes longer and more exhaustive searching to find those special novels that really trap you between their pages. Why is that?
There are some GREAT writers out there – seasoned and new, but it’s almost impossible to find their work in the sea of shit that sloshes the shelves of bookstores, now. It’s mind-boggling how books like the Twilight series and Fifty Shades can dominate the coveted front and center tables of even the small bookstores and novels like Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, and others have to be hunted for.
My generation has the greatest number of tools at their disposal to date, and I’m disappointed in the lack of contribution to literary creations. Where did our imagination go? If you say television and video games, I’m going to surprise the shit out of you and call shenanigans. It’s laze. That’s right. The old fuckers who give us the stink eye are right (in this case). We would rather be told stories than tell our own – and they’d better be easy stories, too. Ones we can process without having to think too much. Oh, and sex. There has to be A LOT of sex.
Gross, isn’t it?
We need to revive a love of story. It’s how we started as a species. We didn’t create language to bitch at each other. We did it to tell stories.
Writers, I encourage you to expect more from yourselves. Don’t sell yourself short. Explore the ways that stories could be told. Be different. Allow yourselves to be a little bit nuts without worrying whether your work is “sellable.” Dig into the stories of others. Read. Listen. Learn.
Non-writers, I encourage you to demand more from your storytellers. We’re listening.