Of Reading and Writing

Some books I got queued up

Some of my earliest memories are of my mom teaching me math and buying me books to read. There was a science book that I did not have much interest in, there was one about a scarecrow that was mildly fascinating and there was a book about cars, which was my absolute favourite. I have long since forgotten the title but I remember that the cover was red and that it is where I first learned the word, “ignition.” This book explained the different parts that made a car and how it worked. I still have faint memories of the page that illustrated the body of a car. I think this is when I fell in love with books and ever since then it has been a wild love affair with its ups and downs of course. I still remember on Sundays after church, I would go over to the books table that was set up outside the church and browse through the books then beg whichever parent was nearby to buy me a book or two. I developed a small book collection and would go through the stories multiple times. Reading really does open up your world, I learnt the word “influenza” from The Railway Children and even though I have never been to London, I know that there is Trafalgar square with Admiral Nelson on the top of some column. I became obsessed with JFK after reading about his presidency in the World Encyclopedia (I am more of an RFK fan now though) and had a blast when I toured through his presidential library in Boston, I was literally living out one of my reading adventures! As I grew older, my love for reading fluctuated, but when I was 20, I read my favourite book of all time, A thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I still remember when I read it and how I felt as the story unfolded. Over the years, I have read many books, some of which have made me howl with laughter or lash out at the injustice and unfairness of life but I am yet to find one that will topple A Thousand Splendid Suns.  However, Our Girl, Bimpe a short story by Olakunle Ologunro remains a serious contender. Reading also helps me to relax and has made me want to write, to express the thoughts that lurk beneath the surface.

 When I was a freshman in college, my English professor gave us an assignment to write a short story. I was truly mortified, how did he expect me to come up with something when I had always been a reader? The last time I had attempted a story I was fifteen and had ended up burning the finished product but this was an assignment that I could not opt out of and so I got to work. At the time, I had a slight obsession with Japanese names and gave the main character a Japanese name in my story. It was a story about a girl who was the result of an unexpected pregnancy and whose parents have an unhappy marriage. She loses her mother and later on sent to boarding school where she attempts to commit suicide and is saved by a boy (sigh). I do not remember the grade I got for that story but I did pass the class with an A, so it must not have been too bad. Last year, I wrote a short story that I submitted to some publication and never heard back, ha! When I sent the story to a friend, he said that the story was good but there was no climax or bang moment and this made me read it again and realized he was right, but I had hit a wall with that story and decided to let it be. I used to have this fantasy of creating hit story after story but the more I learn about the literary world and how writing is not just about having a gift but putting in the work, I am humbled. I was looking for the fame that comes with being a writer without putting in the work. I am now ok with having plenty of drafts, hitting dead ends and experimenting with different genres of writing. Essays are my favourite as can be evidenced by my blog posts, they are never short and I do apologize. As I learn more about the craft of writing, the message that you have to read a lot is like a broken record so this year I am trying to have a hot and heavy affair with reading. Please wish reading and I luck as we try to replace Romeo and Juliet or is it Meredith and Derek? For the most epic love story.

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