On Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to read at the 1888 Center in Orange, California. You can read more about the venue here. (It's pretty cool.)
There were 17 readers and I was probably the second most memorable because somewhere, somehow, I lost the first page of my essay and I had to ad-lib and recite from memory. (I said I was second most memorable because there was a there was a theatrical woman whose essay was more of a dramatic reading, plus it also had shock-value which I won't share here because I'm not into graphic descriptions of body parts.)
Anyway, I wanted to say thank you and kudos to the 1888 Center for all their support of the arts, show off my pictures, and share my essay. See below.
Dr. Seuss was my first love. When my mom left me in the children’s section of the library I’d find Horton and the Cat. My mom hated the good doctor and refused to check-out his books. He was my secret, guilty pleasure. Eventually, I read about Narnia, Oz, and Green Gables.
When my mom grew too sick to visit the library, a lady from our church brought her a stash of romances which she kept in a big box beside her bed. Weekly, this good friend replenished the box. My mom didn’t know I read her books; it was like the Seuss affair, only sexier. Reading became my escape from a horrific and scary situation. Immersed in a story, I didn’t have to think about the life and death drama taking place on the other side of my bedroom wall. Books were my hallucinogenic drug of choice. In college, I studied literature and fell in love with Elliot, Willa, and too many others to mention. (This had no similarity to my dating life.)
I’m no longer a child living with a grieving father and a dying mother, nor am I the co-ed in search of something or someone real, nonfictional. I’m an adult blessed with an abundance of love. I love my God, my husband and our children, my dog, my friends, my neighbors, my writing group, the birds outside my window.
Because I’m a writer, I also love my characters. I adore their pluck, courage and mettle. I admire the way they face and overcome hardships. But, as in any relationship, I sometimes I get angry with them and think that they are too stupid to live. At those times, I have to remind myself that they exist only in my imagination unless I share. Writing for me is all about sharing--giving back to the world that has so generously blessed me.
I learned a long time ago that the world is full of life and death dramas. Sometimes we need a story to help us escape. And most of us won’t be fortunate enough to have a church lady deliver us a big box of romance. We have to seek out our own entertainment, and in today’s world we are bombarded with so many ways to fill our time and divert our attention. But books never run out of batteries. We can go to the library—or if you have a tablet, online—and there are thousands of stories to choose from, and they’re free. Books introduce us to unknown worlds, courageous thinking, different point of views.
Sometimes I get caught up in the creation of a story and the pleasure is all mine. But when the slogging is hard, when the words won’t come, when the characters are wooden and boring, I remember my younger self, my dying mother, my grieving father, and I write. Not because I enjoy it, but because someone, somewhere, might need to escape into a story.
(Photo from 1888 Center website)