Thursday, September 20, 2012

Where It All Began

I'm not really a love at first sight type of girl. To be totally truthful, I'm more of a watch, slowly began to crush on, watch more, and most importantly (this is the tricky part what with all the watching) never EVER make eye contact type of girl.

But there was one time in my life when I fell in love at first sight and I fell hard and I didn't care who was watching.

I was in first grade at the time and a friend's mom was taking a bunch of kids from my neighborhood to this arts and crafts thing. The craft was cutting a picture from a magazine and gluing it onto a piece of wood. Not to brag or anything, but mine turned out AMAZING. I kept that thing for decades afterwards. In fact, I'm pretty sure I still have it packed away in a box somewhere. But that's not what I fell in love with. That's just me being a pack-rat.

No, the love came when we left the arts and crafts room and entered the main part of the building. The rest of that building was a place called...

THE LIBRARY (insert choir of angels sound effect).

This library place wasn't flashy and pink like the Barbie doll aisle at Toys R Us. It didn't have to be. And that's because it wasn't trying to sell me dolls that would give me unrealistic ideas of a women's proper proportions. Actually, they weren't trying to sell me anything. They just had tons and tons of books and if I could print my own name onto a library card, then I could have access to all of them. It was the most wonderful place I'd ever been. You know, come to think of it, it's STILL one the most wonderful places I've ever been... and I've been around a bit in the time between first grade and now.

You can probably picture it, but just to set the scene, my library kind of looked like this.

Cue the music. The Turtles "So Happy Together" would be appropriate.

And then the 1980s-esque montage begins. Me. The library. The books. Together we wildly spin in circles. And then there is laughing and holding hands and sharing a plate of spaghetti---

---Well no. Actually, not any of that. It's a library and they have that whole quiet thing going on. I also don't think we were allowed to bring food in. So mostly it's just me, skulking through the shelves, a pile of books stacked precariously up to my chin, and yet I still can't stop myself from reaching for just one more.

Oh sure, it wasn't all good times. There were the lost library cards. The disapproving parents (they never truly understood what we saw in each other) who didn't want to drive me there every week. The lost books. The books that smelled like someone had exhaled a carton of cigarettes into their pages. The late fees.

But it was all worth it when I discovered the stash of Anne McCaffrey books they'd been hiding in the Science Fiction section. Or when I thought I was too old for young adult and then found the "Tomorrow When the War Began" series. Or when there was something bright and shiny in the new arrivals section.

If it wasn't for the library I never would've been able to read books the way that I did - treating the entire varied literary world from Peanuts cartoons to Flowers In The Attic to Anne of Green Gables like it was simply one big all you can eat buffet. I sampled everything and although there were times when I would keep going back to one favorite item - I always knew that when I got hungry for a different kind of taste - there would always be something new to try.

So this post was supposed to be about how I became a writer, but I haven't talked about writing at all. The thing is, if it wasn't for the library, I never would've wanted so badly to tell my own stories and to one day see my own book on a library shelf.

For me, reading and writing, isn't a chicken and egg type conundrum. I can see very clearly not only the connection, but which one came first. I am not a writer, who reads. Even now, so many years later from when I first discovered the joys to be found inside the library - I am a reader, who writes.

Kate Karyus Quinn is the author of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE, coming in 2013 from HarperTeen. You can find out more about her book on Goodreads, and read more about Kate on her blog or her website.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I do love this post, Kate! Libraries were my first love too. Later, once I began to write and get rejected, they could trigger horrific shame spirals. Luckily, that's gotten better. Thanks for posting!!