Part II of my special series of posts in participating with #BloggerYes and #BloggerBlackout. Today’s series of questions kind of trace my roots as a reader and shapes my identity – personally – as an aspiring writer. It also starts a dialogue in terms of writer – reader relationships.
Q: What were some of your firsts (first picture book, first book I read on my own, first audiobook, first series, first full length novels of each age group – children’s, middle grade, YA, adult, first manga, first book I read in a foreign language)?
Rose: At least this question is more straightforward than trying to ask me what my favorite novels are! *laughs*
Yeah, my firsts are interesting because they reflect quite a bit of history and I can actually remember them vividly enough for one reason or another. This ought to be interesting to answer. Note that when I say what my firsts were, they aren’t necessarily always my favorites, just the first I picked up.
First picture book: Probably “Mystery in Paris” – one of the Worlds of Wonder books that came with my talking Mickey Mouse (because I didn’t have a Teddy Ruxpin, I think my parents opted for that since they figured my sister and I were attached to Disney from the hip).
First book I read on my own: “The Velveteen Rabbit” – a classic in its own rights.
First audiobook: I had a number of firsts with this. First audiobook I can remember reading with my parents as a very small child was either “Mystery in Paris” (with the talking Mickey Mouse) or “Care Bears: 12 Days of Christmas” – which wasn’t on tape, but on a vinyl record that my dad played with some of his other records on his player. My parents were both lovers of music, so they had 8-tracks, record players, the big bulky radio tuners that seemed like they had 20 different knobs on them, and an early style CD player as well. I still have that Care Bear album. (I should probably pull that out next time I visit my childhood home…)
First audiobook that I actually read fully on my own as a kid (third grade) was either “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” or one of the “Encyclopedia Brown” books. Both were suggestions made on “Reading Rainbow” and I ended up checking them out of the library. And I remember “Sadako” made me cry the first time I read it.
First series: I remember reading boxes full of Sweet Valley Twins, Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, as well as Babysitter’s Club books. Most of them scattered throughout the series and not so much in sequential order. But the first series I actually read straight through from beginning to end? Virginia Hamilton’s “Justice and Her Brothers” series, and it was a trilogy.
First full length novels:
For children’s, it was either “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli, or one of the TV series novelizations of the PBS show “Ghostwriter” (OMG, I loved that show sooo much.) I’m pretty sure that I stayed in the library to finish it during recess, but it was one of those two.
For middle grade, it was probably “Time at the Top” by Edmund Ormondroyd.
For YA: “The Golden Compass” by Phillip Pullman. I count it under YA, though I read it when I was 10-11.
First adult novel? Technically…Stephen King’s “It.” My view of horror was never the same since. (Though to be fair, I’d read my fair share of juvenile horror before that point. You would think I’d be scared of clowns, but I think somehow it played into my like of creepy carnival environments. Somehow.)
First manga: I’m really having to think on this one. Right now, “Marmalade Boy” is the one that comes to mind, but something tells me I read something before that series. I know it wasn’t “Sailor Moon” because I saw the anime before I read the manga. Argh.
No, wait, I’ve got it: “DNAngel.” That was my first because the two were really close. I started reading manga well after I started watching anime.
First book I read in a foreign language: Probably “In the Time of Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez, Spanish version. I’ve taken Spanish through school since Kindergarten, and have spoken it around half my life, but unfortunately, I don’t use the language, so my skills are very rusty. I did read a Spanish edition of “Don Quixote” the whole way through, but my Spanish no where near as good as it used to be. And I had a dictionary on hand with me trying to read that.
Q: Many people say that interests in reading and writing go hand in hand, and while you note that you started your love of reading at a young age, when did you become interested in writing?
Rose: I think my interests in writing started around the age of 10-11 and just took off from there. My fifth grade language arts teacher was one motivation – not just for the sheer number of books we read in class (and I have her to thank for introducing me to “The Giver”, “Sarah, Plain and Tall, and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”), but also for how she challenged me to take an intimate eye to sensory details and experiences from a narrative eye. I think being such a prolific reader (and maybe media peruser in general) set the stage for me to experiment. I read a variety of books in different genres, and through the eyes of many different characters. I felt like I wanted to explore more venues with my own stories that way. Granted, just because people have an interest in reading doesn’t mean they have an interest in writing, and that’s a misconception that some have. For me, however, the two are very closely linked, and I knew that at some point in my life, I wanted to peruse more stories to experience as well as write my own.
Q: Does any part of your role as a book blogger influence your perspective as an aspiring writer?
Rose: I feel it does to a limited extent; I don’t think the two roles are mutually exclusive, but at the same time, they entail different things. My role as a book blogger/critic does involve me taking an eye into a narrative differently than I would as an aspiring writer. For my blogger eye, I feel like I delve into the reading to experience what narratives provide based on the shape of the elements given (setting, characters, plot, etc). That’s different from story to story, and a writer provides that experience with the eyes and tools at their behest. For my writer eye, I’m much more focused on construction of those elements and creating an individualized experience of my own. Those roles can aid each other. If an element works for me, I can expound upon the experience a book gives me when I read, but if I see something that doesn’t work, sometimes I look at the story through my writer eye and try to see where the problem occurs in terms of construction, for example. And even that might be simplifying what you could do with those eyes.
I get antsy when I see authors who say that book bloggers are just “failed writers” or “jealous” of not achieving success and fame. Success/fame is usually defined individually, so it isn’t universal, for one problematic term in that assumption. For another, not all book bloggers are writers, not all writers are book bloggers, and to assume anyone’s roles or motivations so flippantly is disingenuous. We all have variant backgrounds and experiences, and shouldn’t seek to belittle what we can contribute in the book community to our discussions, whether our identities intersect or not.
I happen to be a book blogger first, while I’m taking on the role of an aspiring writer second, though I have passions for both. I’ve seen a number of authors (and admired them) for their insightful reviews as well as their ability to weave prose into an engaging story. Nenia Campbell is one I can name without batting an eye. She’s a self-published author who writes critical reviews and isn’t afraid to point out things that may not work in a narrative for her, but at the same time crafts her own stories with confidence and knowledge of what she wants to do for the audience for that novel.
Some may say that book bloggers and writers/authors have competing interests, but I don’t think that’s true. When I review a work, I know the experience may or may not work for me, and I do my best to express why from what my experiences and knowledge lend, and that contributes to the reaction discussion to a piece that’s already written. If you’re a blogger reacting to something you’ve read/consumed, then you share that “experience” with others, and people can take from that what they can. My goal in this role isn’t to undermine, but enlighten and inform, provide new ways of thinking and feeling about the experience – specifically MY experience – of that which is written. The narrative can’t be changed once it’s out there, because then that changes the experience, and it would be a whole other consideration for others who consume it.
I feel that’s separate from my role as an aspiring writer because the perspective I take on there is to build, craft the stories I want to write in my own image, which may be shaped from various inspirations of things already experienced. As a writer, I challenge myself to place out the best experience I can for the story seeds and elements I sow. That is its own enlightenment in a separate scope.
I think seeing through these lenses does help me shape my own identities in these roles, and I – personally – don’t shun it. I’m proud to belong to both communities, and respect the diversity of backgrounds that people have in them, whether of one or both.
*more discussion on this to come in Part III*