Tonight I had the fortune of attending the Talk of the Stacks event with Roy Blount, Jr. – and what a treat! I’ve long admired Roy Blount, Jr., as he is a well-established linguist & author, former president of The Authors Guild, a lover of words and thinking-outside-the-box, and of course one of my favorite regular guests on Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!
I’ve often stated that to be writer, one needs to be an overly zealous reader. That some folks are meant to write books, because it’s a part of their “being;” while others (like me) are solely meant to be lifelong readers as it defines our existences. This is my own personal observation, others may disagree. Nevertheless, I’m fairly confident I’m not alone in this belief.
Roy struck a few chords with me this evening – two of which I wanted to share:
- That words should be (and are) kinesthetic, i.e. sensory. Writing words on paper,forming sentences, telling a story: it should be a sensory experience. Yes! Writing should be this way, and a reader unconsciously will notice it when enjoying a good book.
- That one’s words need to have a “Garden Path.” Be fully aware that the order in which words are placed can have multiple interpretations. I’ll use a basic example: a boyfriend can indicate one having a friend that is a boy, or the more obvious definition of whom one’s dating.
That’s just TWO of the many interesting points Roy made during tonight’s event. Both pointing to how one’s use of words, voice, and passion to write will influence the overall book.
This goes back to my personal observation of those meant to write, and those meant to read.
As a child, I had no desire to keep a diary or draw a picture book. I preferred to read, let alone read as many books as possible. So the habit of carrying books to and from home started early in life, specifically in kindergarten. Three of those titles were a used copy of the 1958 Snoopy Weekly Reader (which was further destroyed due to the many times I read it & carried it to school), a used 1972 edition of Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume (which I wrote my name in purple marker across the cover & placed a 1984 Sticker of Michael Jackson on the inside cover ), and a 1958 used copy of Crictor by Tomi Ungerer (which is now falling apart, so much I had to buy a new copy).
The reason I carried those books around – marking my name in them, ruining them beyond their used state, and hence why they are still on my shelves today – is because I liked the words, how the words were put together, the images, and the sensory experiences of reading them.
Not just anyone can accomplish such a feat – convincing a young child (or adult) to become a lifelong reader, to carry books everywhere s/he goes, and of course taking the time to invest money in building a personal library. In the larger picture, once ONE writer gains a reader, the rest of the publishing world benefits. Reading books is similar to any other addiction – reading a good book will lead to wanting to read ANOTHER good book, and so forth. Simply the best kind of “addiction” one can have, at least as far as I’m concerned.
For writers, contributing to this process (thereby producing new books for readers) takes the same passion for words that Roy Blount, Jr brings to the table – enjoying the sounds words make, taking into consideration the general impression one gets from the sound of a word(s), and putting phrases together that connote a new idea or tells an engaging story.
I’ve nothing but respect for those who write. For the time being I’ll continue being an avid reader – and of course a literary agent. 🙂