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Doors and Writing

A few weeks ago, Victoria Schwab did a speech at Oxford and thankfully it was put online. I was so excited and I was not disappointed by her speech. It was stunning and beautiful and amazing. Certain things stood out to me more than other things, but I think the biggest thing was the theme of her speech overall: doors. I loved her take on doors. Doors to reading and to writing. I can't explain or write about the subject as eloquently and beautifully as she did, and I won't try, but I do want to say how much that impacted me. How much it spoke to me.

She talked about how Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling was her door to reading. That book and that author opened up the door of reading for her, showed her how amazing reading was and made her a reader for the rest of her life. Taught her how to love reading and how to love books. I loved how she said just because Harry Potter was my door, doesn't mean it has to be yours. Her take on reading and how it should always be voluntary and an act of love was amazing and I agreed completely. Reading shouldn't be forced and kids (and adults and everyone of all ages) shouldn't be forced or feel pressure to read any one book. If you don't love a book, then why read it? It'll just make you miserable and make you bitter toward the act of reading.

Victoria talked about how Neil Gaiman was her door to writing. When she was in high school she got her hands on several of his books and short stories. She said how it was the first time she realized how much she loved words, how much she loved the act of writing. The whole speech made me think a lot about my doors. What was my door to reading? What was my door to writing?

And before any of that, she talked about why she decided to write her speech about doors, portals. I loved this, this is probably my favorite part of speech because it reminded me so much of myself when I was little. Victoria talked about how when she was little she would roam the beach and look between the cracks in the rocks, believing that if she just looked hard enough she would find a portal to another world. Because surely there had to be more to this world. Surely there had to be a bit of magic and light and wonder in this world. She had a true imagination like most kids do. They wait for their letters from wizard school to come, they crawl into wardrobes looking for a hidden world. They look through the cracks searching for a door to another world, for magic, for something more. The dreamers look for more, they see magic and they see something more than just this world. I believe completely that a child's imagination is one of the most amazing things ever. Sometimes I wish I hadn't grown out of that imagination. I still have plenty of imagination. How else would I be able to create whole worlds and characters through my fingers? But I don't have the same type of imagination as I did when I was little. I don't look for fairies and giants anymore...

Some of my favorite memories when I was little was when I convinced my two younger cousins that fairies were real. We drew our fairies and gave them names and I created a whole story for mine, who was named Bluebell. I remember leaving little things for them on the table and believing completely that they were real. I feel like I kind of lived in my own little world then... A world where fairies and magic existed and where I would go for a walk at a park surrounded by trees and just imagine all the creatures hiding in there. Victoria's story of when she was little reminded me of that. It reminded me of the time I saw a big hole in the mud behind my aunt's house and imagined it being a giant's footprint. Remembering all that made me agree completely with what Victoria said next: one of the biggest disservices us adults do for ourselves is taking ourselves too seriously.

After the speech, after remembering my imagination as a little kid, I couldn't help but try and think of what my doors were. What books and writers influenced me? What books had helped grow my imagination? I know there are a lot of writers who don't realize they love writing until high school or even into adulthood, but I'm not one of them. I can't remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer. Ever since I can remember, I've always wanted to write and be an author. Despite having dyslexia and struggling with writing, I still managed to write stories of zoo animals and unicorns and fairies when I was little. It's what I've always wanted to do, so I'm not sure if I can think of any one book that made the connection click for me... As for reading? I was a terrible reader. It took me longer than the other kids to learn how to read and I struggled a lot. But I was so determined and I didn't give up and I'm glad I didn't. I wanted to read so badly that when I could read I read everything I could. The earliest books I remember reading and loving are fantasy books. I can't remember the exact name but there was this one series that I think was what made me love reading at the very beginning. Something Realm I think... It was about this girl who's grandma had a garden in her backyard. Surrounding the garden was a wall and beyond the wall was a whole world of magic. Full of fairies and goblins and unicorns and all kinds of other creatures. This girl finds her way there and makes friends and goes on adventures and stuff. There were like six books in the series and I remember rushing to the library to look for the rest of the series to devour. There were a few other little kid fairy books that I read, but I think besides that one, the other series that really sticks with me is the Disney Fairies books. You know the ones that follow Tinkerbell and her friends. Those were a big one for me.

I find it funny that I started my love for reading with fairies and magic and mythical creatures and throughout all these years, at twenty years old I'm still fascinated by them. Now I know about the Seelie and Unseelie courts, I know the many different types of fairies, Fae, fey and elves. I've done my research and despite the fact that my writing is turning more toward Sci-fi and the supernatural, I am still drawn to high fantasy as a reader. Maybe unsurprisingly, the other series that stand out to me the most, the ones that are branded into my memory are ones I read when I was a little older are also fantasy. The authors I have to thank for continuing to grow my love for reading is Julia Golding for her Companion Quartet series, Liz Kessler for her Emily Windsnap and Phillipa Fishers books, Lindsey Leavitt for her Princess for Hire books. The list could go on and on including Michael Buckley's Sisters Grimm series (that I still reread every year to this day) and of course, Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. But those first few series are the ones I read when I was transitioning from little kid books to middle grade books. They were a good in-between series and I ate them all up. The rest of the middle grade books I read were when I was older. Like a tween and teen.

Now that I think about it, there is one book that I can think of that influenced me as a writer. Despite having always wanting to be a writer, Savvy by Ingrid Law sort of sealed the deal. I still don't know what it is about that book, but I remember buying the audiobook on my little nano iPod and reading it within a day. I was enchanted. I couldn't get enough of the main character Mibs and to this day, I have no idea why! Maybe it's just Ingrid Law's incredible and quirky writing and cast of characters. I used to fall asleep listening to the audiobook of that book every night and have reread it countless times since. The other book I can think of that influenced me as a writer was Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff. Again, I don't know what is about that book... but it is, to this day, one of the best written books I've ever read. Those two books gave me something to strive for. I looked at those two books (among others) and said, that is what I want to be. That is what I want to do. I want my writing to be as good as theirs and I want my books and characters to be as good as those. And I've been growing in my craft, working hard every day since to be the kind of writer that they are.

I'm glad I got the change to listen to Victoria's speech. It was amazing and really thought provoking. If you would like to listen too, you can find it HERE. I also loved how she just walked up onto that stage and was supposed to talk about J.R.R. Tolkien even though she had never read a single book of his. Seriously, I just love that. The confidence it must have taken and the fact that she said, you are not less of a reader or writer because you did not read a book by someone who is considered a master of his or her's craft. You are not lesser of a reader or writer because you did not read or even enjoyed J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis or J.K. Rowling. I loved that and I hope you click on the link and listen because it is definitely worth it.

Anyways, that was a bit of a rant, but it was a fun rant so I hope it makes you think about what your doors are too. Also, just a quick reminder, the first two chapters of Sterling Silver will be on Wattpad tomorrow! You should definitely check it out. I'll be posting a link and a snippet on here on Saturday so make sure to check back here for that!

Have a great weekend everyone!! 


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