This is a story I have been wanting to share for a while, but I couldn't figure out the proper platform for it. It's too lengthy for Instagram or Facebook. It kind of floated around my brain for a bit, and now that I have a rule-free blog, it's the perfect place for it!
I wanted to share the story of how I got "into" reading - and how one book changed my whole life.
It seems a little random and maybe even a little dramatic but I wanted to share this story for two reasons:
I believe it is important to show gratitude in a situation where it is deserved and
I want to show the power that one good book can have. That is similarly my aspiration as an author - if my book can change one life, my mission is accomplished.
Growing up, I absolutely despised reading. Unless it was any version of Goosebumps, I would not read it - which included books for school. I think I read maybe 3 books/required reading my entire high school career. Which means I skated by on 2 years of Honors English and 1 year Advanced Placement English on Cliffsnotes. I even managed to get an A on a paper by solely reading the back of the book (not going to lie, still patting myself on the back for that stellar display of "making-stuff-up"-ness).
Needless to say, I did not read for leisure. "Reading" and "fun" were never used in the same sentence unless the word "not" was firmly placed between them.
Until this experience:
Like many religious, Jewish girls my age, I spent a year post high school in Israel at a school called a seminary, where we focused exclusively on Judaic studies. In seminary, we were not allowed to have computers, dvd players, ipods with videos, and the hot-ticket item at the time, a blackberry smartphone. While that didn't deter many from hiding such contraband in our dorms, we still had to find ways to entertain ourselves on Shabbat. As religious Jews, that meant that we were technology-free for 24 hours while we were spending shabbat in school or off campus.
I spent most of my Shabbatot either at family, different teachers, or at school. And like any good 17 year old teenager, I spent most of my weekend sleeping. The first time I went to my friend's dorm for Shabbat, I had quite the confusing experience though.
All Shabbat afternoon, everyone in the dorm just sat around and read. I didn't know what to do with that. I most certainly didn't own a book and bringing one while hanging out with friends was just out of the question. I didn't even borrow because I was standing my ground:
I could only stare at the wall for so long. I caved. I decided to borrow a book from my friend and give it a try.
Anyone who knows me knows that I hate chickflicks/chicklit/anything romace-y and mushy. Of course, those were pretty much the only books that were available for me to borrow. Grudgingly picking one up, feeling like I was betraying every fiber of my being, I cracked the spine. And it wasn't absolutely horrible. I think my eyes rolled back so far they got stuck looking at my brain at all the lovey-dovey stuff. But ok, I could see the appeal... ish. I thought maybe I could do this if it was a subject I liked.
It took me some hemming and hawing, but eventually I decided to go to the local bookshop and see what English books they had in stock and if there was something up my alley, I would give it a try.
Being as this was in Israel, the English book selection was fairly limited. There was a tiny table with a stand reading "Thrillers." OK, here we go, this is my space.
Since I really didn't want to be in a bookstore (ick), I just wanted to find a book and go get lunch. I saw the cover of the book "Never Look Away" by Linwood Barclay and thought, "Hey that looks dark enough, title sounds grim, let's do it."
I literally just broke the cardinal rule of reading - don't judge a book by it's cover.
I bought a book solely based on the cover.
And I finished it in one sitting. I could not put it down. To my own shock, I craved more.
I returned to the store hoping to find more Linwood Barclay books, but there were none. There were other books by other authors, but I knew I liked his books and I was scared to lose this newfound interest in reading, that I didn't want to risk ruining it by reading a potentially bad book.
When I returned home, I read through all of his books. I was shocked at myself. Who is this person who reads books!
I discovered that if I find an author whose books I love, I can fly through them. I am transported to another world.
So that's how I got into reading and that was how I continued to read- find one author I love, read their whole library of published works and move onto the next (thank you, Amazon for the "because you liked x, maybe you'll like y" feature).
In college, I got my degree in Early Childhood Education. I wanted to get a Master's Degree in something education, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to specialize in. I thought, "Hey, I love reading, why not go that route?" So that's what I did and I got into Columbia University Teacher's College Literacy Specialist program. Which I absolutely loved.
We had to do our Master's Thesis, which was called a MARP - Masters Actions Research Project. It obviously involved a lot of research. We also had to do a mini-MARP as "prep work" for our actual thesis. For the first one, I don't even remember what I did, I was so bored. I thought to myself that there was no way I could repeat this topic for my full thesis and that I needed to find something else. I needed to find something else that I could relate to. I thought back to my own childhood and my history of reading and after hashing it out, I settled on researching "How Interest in Reading Impacts Success in Independent Reading."
Let me tell you, I had so much fun researching and writing this. Doing assessments, observing students, putting the whole thing together - was just so FUN. I even managed to finish it early (and was actually able to use my research from it as part of final research papers for multiple other classes - still proud of that ingenuity as well).
A few years later, a bit of this, a bit of that, here we are, having published a children's book that I am so proud of.
I never thought that this would be the path that I am on. Never.
But if I hadn't picked up that book from the bookstore purely based on how it looked, I can't say that I would be here, doing all THIS.
So thank you, Linwood Barclay.
And yes, I still read every book he puts out, eagerly awaiting the next one.