I listen to several podcasts. The other day I checked out Helping Writers become Authors to see if I should add it to my list. In one episode, the podcaster, K.M. Weiland (whose work I am not actually familiar with) talked about books that shaped her as a writer. There’s no need to repeat what she said, (I agreed with her Neil Gaiman quote about the matter), but it did make me think about books important to me. I’ve answered this superficially before, but thought I might look more into this question as I try to improve my work.
To become better artists/writers/creators, we should know about the land we’re building on. What we read as children, often has a great deal to do with where we’re born and who are parents are. Do our parents take us to libraries or give us money for books? What books are around the house? Are we given time to read? Do we see books that speak to us, that tell stories about us, that challenge us?
My father isn’t much of a reader, but my mother and grandmother always had a book nearby. And I spent many hours as a child at the library and sitting on the floor in Waldenbooks.
I’ve been trying to think, however, of the first book that really stuck with me. That feels near impossible, but if I’m going to find one in the dusty bin of memories, I pick an anthology of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. I can’t remember the title of the book, but there was one poem I read over and over again.
The Horses of the Sea
The horses of the sea
Rear a foaming crest,
But the horses of the land
Serve us the best.
The horses of the land
Munch corn and clover,
While the foaming sea-horses
Toss and turn over.
I wish I had still had the book, but my dad’s second wife got rid of many of childhood books. She thought they cluttered up my shelves.
So, why did I like this poem? The horses? Probably. I loved horses. I think I liked the idea of horses in the sea. Not seahorses, mind you. The illustration in the book was fairly plain, white ocean waves as horse heads coming up from a green sea. The rhythm of the poem was easy to remember. Now, even though I write prose, I like the rhythm of words. The words have to flow. I hate it when the word I need doesn’t sound right with the mood I want for the story.
I’ll rewrite whole scenes to be able to choose a different word.
In any event, I’ll be looking into the past for those first loved poems and stories. It’s really more for my own benefit than anyone else’s, but maybe we’ll find beloved stories in common.
Thanks for reading.