November 30: Bookish Memories (Share stories of your reading life as a child, events you’ve gone to, books that made an impression on you, noteworthy experiences with books, authors you’ve met, etc. Reminisce with me!)
Here are a bunch. Some are good, some are bad, some are ugly!
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown– One of my earliest bookish memories is reading this with my parents and then saying “goodnight” to the things in my room.
The Baby Sitters Club series by Anne M Martin– When I was about 9, Anne Martin did a book signing in a store near my house. I made plans with my friend to get our books signed. The morning of the event I woke up with little itchy red patches on my skin. I kept quiet about having the chicken pox until after the event, because I knew my mom would make me stay home if I said anything. (I have since become more cognizant of public health concerns.)
Five Children and It by E. Nesbit– When I was a kid, my family took a trip to Disneyworld. My little brother was really into trains at the time and my parents thought he might like taking one. We had this tiny sleeper car that was more like a small closet than anything else. In Georgia, a freight train in front of us derailed and we were stuck on the tracks for most of the day while they cleared everything away. It made a long, cramped trip even longer and more cramped. I read this book while we waited. Even though I liked the book a lot, I’ll probably always associate it with bored and uncomfortable, which are unfortunate associations to have with a book I like!
The Kids of the Polk Street School series by Patricia Reilly Giff- These were some of the first books I remember reading independently. I remember my dad would occasionally pick up a copy of one for me on a trip to the bookstore. Since I had trouble finishing books before starting new ones, he wouldn’t give me the book until I finished what I was reading first. But I knew where he hid them, so I snuck peaks!
Stand Before Your God: An American Schoolboy in England by Paul Watkins– Every year my high school had an “enthusiastic reader” breakfast where an author attended to talk about their books. Each English teacher selected a student from each class to attend. For obvious reasons, I was usually one of them. My freshman year, Paul Watkins came to talk about his novels, and his recent memoir. All the enthusiastic readers got a signed copy of the memoir. I wasn’t super excited by the title, but when he read a portion of it aloud at the breakfast, I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. The book itself was humorous, but his delivery really made it. The whole book wasn’t as funny as the part he read, but it was still a good read.
Do You Want to Know A Secret? by Mary Jane Clark– This was another author who came to an enthusiastic reader breakfast when I was in high school. We all got copies of this book and then she raffled off a hardcover copy of her second book, Do You Promise Not To Tell, and I won. Other than that, the thing I remember most is that she showed us a page of her notes for this book, and they were a mess! Her point was that you don’t need to be organized to write a book, which was encouraging news for me!
The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon– When I was about thirteen my cousins and I went to Florida to spend some time with our grandmother one summer. I forget why I picked this up. It may have belonged to my grandmother. Regardless for the next 24-48 hours I couldn’t put it down. My grandmother took us places, and I read. My cousins played in the pool, and I read. I don’t think that it’s the kind of book that holds up as an adult, so I don’t really want to reread it. I watched the film version a few years ago, and it was trashy fun, but it definitely suggests that the book was pretty silly too.
Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates– My sophomore year of college, Oates came to my school’s campus to give a talk and see a performance of a one act play that she’d written. Another girl and I had the opportunity to interview her for the school paper. I had a number of questions planned, but I pretty much forgot how to talk when I met her! The other girl definitely did the bulk of the interviewing. But she signed my copy of this book.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson – Shortly after I read this book, I saw that my library was having a discussion group about it, so I decided to go. I was the only one there under 80. I may be exaggerating slightly, but only slightly! Whenever I shared a thought, idea, or perspective, they dismissed it as “a Young Person’s opinion.” I don’t think they intended to be condescending, but it definitely came off that way.
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth– Several years ago, I saw on social media that Aussie author Kate Forsyth had some events scheduled in the US. I’d read this book not long before, and loved it, so I messaged her asking if she had anything in my area. She said that she’d had an event scheduled but it was canceled. She said she’d still be in the area if I wanted her to do something. I invited her to come to my writing group. She was so kind about sharing her experiences and advice with writing and publishing, and answering questions.