When I was a kid I spent most of my summer days playing baseball or messing around in the woods. My friends and I would generally eat breakfast, start calling each other and finding other kids till we had enough for teams (four a side was generally considered the acceptable minimum) playing ball all morning, eating lunch, and then heading to the woods, creek, or someone's backyard till dinner.
The beginning of the summer I turned twelve however, my two best friends, Mike and Drew, both went to camp. This had never happened before and I don't know why it happened then. It was only for two weeks, but it threw my well-ordered summer routine out of kilter. At the same time I had just discovered Ray Bradbury. I had read a short story near the end of school called "Kids Grow Mushrooms in Your Basement" or something like that. Basically the plot was that these mail order mushrooms took over your mind and were intent on taking over the world. I was blown away by how this crazy idea was written so well that it was completely believable. It actually kept me out of my basement for a while.
There was a used book store near us which I found had paperbacks at the very reasonable price of ten for a dollar. I looked for Bradburys and found plenty. That summer in the morning I started taking a blanket out to the backyard and laying down and reading a Bradbury book instead of trying to get up a baseball game without my two comrades. I read Dandelion Wine, R is for Rocket, S is for Space. One collection after the other. The stories were like potato chips. I couldn't stop. It was sunny and hot outside, but I was content to lay there in the shade reading. Unusual for a twelve year old, baseball-mad Yankees fan. My father seriously asked my mother if there was something wrong with me. To her credit, she assured him it was all good. Fortunately, he trusted her judgement.
I read The Martian Chronicles which was very cool because all of the short stories were linked in that they were about Mars but from all different perspectives and time frames. Then I read Something Wicked This Way Comes which still seems to me one of those most wonderful, descriptive, fantastic novels ever written. Talk about a well-crafted book that could be enjoyed by anyone twelve and up. Man! I was swept away.
It was an unusual two weeks. I was steeped in this one author's works and I actually began to notice things about craft. About how he opened and closed stories. About the power of description and setting. How he used the reader's senses. It turned out to be a two week crash course in writing and it gave me something to really aspire to.
Then Mike and Drew came home. We got the rest of the kids together and started playing ball again. But I still have a shelf full of Bradbury. And sometimes I still read him on a blanket, in the shade, in the summer.