On the Importance of Reading in a Writer's Life and What We Read as Kids by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Suzanne: I wouldn’t be a writer today if I didn’t love to read. Reading and writing are flip sides of the same coin. One of my earliest memories as a child is of snuggling up to my mother on the couch as she read Winnie the Pooh to me and my siblings. Even after I could read on my own, and was devouring books like Pippi Longstocking, Strawberry Girl, Nancy Drew, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and Mary Poppins, my parents still read to me. In my humble opinion, there are few things as wonderful as sharing a good book with someone you love. Even when my daughter was fourteen years old, I still read aloud to her from time to time. How about you, Joan? What were your experiences with reading growing up?
Joan: Pippi Longstocking and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle rocked then and they rock now. My mom took us to the library, which is where I learned to love books. Thanks, Mom! She read Stuart Little aloud to my brother, and I remember listening in.
Suzanne: I grew up surrounded by the written word. Because my parents were readers themselves, our house was always filled with newspapers, magazines, and books. Every other week we took a trip to the public library. I’ve talked to lots of other writers, and I’ve discovered is that what we all have in common is not that we all knew we wanted to become writers at an early age, but that most of us were (and still are) big-time readers.
Joan: We didn’t have many books in the house when I was growing up, but my mom loved to read and I learned by her example. Now my bookshelves are overflowing.
Suzanne: There’s a strong connection between reading and writing. I once heard the distinguished, Newbery Award-winning children’s author, Avi speak, and he put it this way: “If you’re not a reader, you can forget about becoming a writer. If reading is not in place first, the writing will not come. The most effective training for writing is reading.” A lifelong habit of reading gives you the knowledge of the sounds and conventions of written language that you really can’t get any other way.
Joan: I found Greek mythology in middle school because of my English teacher, Ms. Gates. She helped us to understand why myths are important, and once I “got” that many were about heroes, I was intrigued. Author Joseph Campbell writes about the archetypal heroic quest story, which has a remarkably similar structure from culture to culture. He points out that cross-cultural heroes are really about the same hero, facing the same challenges. Young readers may find similaries in Luke Skywalker of Star Wars and Heracles in Greek mythology. Suzanne and I build upon existing Greek mythology in the Goddess Girls, for instance upon the framework of Heracles twelve-labors myth in Athena the Wise. I doubt I’d be writing these books and loving it, if it weren’t for that special, gifted middle school English teacher!
Until next time...
--Suzanne & Joan