I have always been a readaholic, reading and rereading books until I’d memorized some passages. Although reading is a good thing, my Mom recognized that I was taking it to an unhealthy level. Mystery was my obsession, and I was caught reading the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew when I should be doing school. Secret of the Golden Cowrie was confiscated when I failed to set the table for supper. Mystery of the Missing Stamp had to be given up for a week because I was found with a flashlight under my blanket, reading into the wee hours of the morning. And the American Adventure series? I dove into those so whole-heartedly that my Mom put a restriction on me: I was only allowed to read for 1 hour every day. TORTURE! At another time, I had to take all of my books into my mom’s room so that she knew what I was reading and when I was reading it. I’d trek in early in the morning and ask for Twig the Collie, read a few chapters, and return it to her before breakfast. So went my early life.
When I turned 13, however, Mom came up with a new idea. I must say it was rather brilliant, though I did NOT think so at the time. She told me that for one whole long month, I could not read any fiction. Her goal in doing this (I think) was to have my “must-be-reading” nature turn me towards biographies and autobiographies of missionaries and other more worthy heroes. I imagine that she didn’t want me trying to turn into a Nancy Drew, getting kidnapped every few months and being incommunicado for days on end during a case. (LOL Like that would ever happen!) Anyhow… I didn’t see the sense of her idea, so I resolved that if I couldn’t read fiction, I wouldn’t read anything. I lasted for THREE DAYS, people. Yeah. It’s an obsession. The first thing I picked up was a biography about Jim Elliot. I don’t remember which one it was, but I do remember reading it and thinking, “You know, this is kinda cool.” And then someone suggested that I read about Anne Frank. I wish I knew who it was who gave me this suggestion, because they opened a new chapter in my life. You see, my library didn’t have any books about Anne Frank that weren’t checked out. But they DID have dozens of other World War Two and Holocaust books. Memoirs, autobiographies, timelines, histories. I checked out a few in desperation: I felt that I just had to be reading! As I read, I started wanting more. These were REAL people, things that REALLY happened! I read about concentration camps and battlefields, then one memoir mentioned a pilot… so I read about him, then I had to read about airplanes. Planes can take off from onboard ships, so then I read about ships. Then I checked out books on secret codes. And the process just went on and on. It was at this time that I discovered the classics, as well. In one of the many biographies I read, I found that a girl loved Jane Austen and George Eliot. So when my month was up, I read Jane Austen. And George Eliot. Charles Dickens. Elizabeth Gaskell. Arthur Conan Doyle. Lloyd Douglas. Alexander Dumas. etc etc etc. My fiction addiction leveled off a bit, but my obsession with the written word reached a feverish all-time high. I decided to break my mystery habit in my own writing and wrote my first historical fiction. I don’t know if I’ll ever love any of my writings as much as I love that book. The story takes place during the Holocaust, and it involves finding new life at the end of tragedy. I had found a new life for myself in the world of the past. The things that really happened are often just as (or more) exciting than what authors come up with.
So here’s the thing about history: It opens your eyes. I found links from the past that explain some of my world today. I discovered just how amazing things are – things that I just take for granted. What went into the radio? The light bulb? Airplanes and cars? The people who invented these things are honored in our society today, but in their own world, they were thought of as total jerks. I’ve just written about 750 words to say something that could be said in a mere five words: “Don’t be afraid to expand” Try something new! As unwilling as I was to enter the “real world” of non-fiction, I found it to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Don’t get stuck in your little corner, ’cause another thing about history is this: people who stay in their own cozy little corners don’t make a difference.