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How I Became a Writer: Part One...the Obsession Begins

I became a writer through reading. Lots of reading. Excessive reading. After my bedtime by the hallway light (bad for your eyes, don’t do this), during class with a book inside my text book (bad for your grades, don’t do this either), while walking around the house and through the hallways of school (dangerous, please watch where you’re going). I read so much that my parents once punished me by putting me on library restriction. My appalled teacher asked, “Really? You don’t want her to go into the library with her class?” and my parents answered, “No. And don’t let her friends check out books for her either. She can read her math text.”

But the obsession continued. In those days before the internet, I used Interlibrary loan to go down one rabbit hole after another. Sometimes they led me in one direction--Howard Pyle’s The Adventures of Robin Hood to The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley to Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott; sometimes in another--Eleanor of Aquitaine by Marion Meade, a whole bunch of books by Jean Plaidy, and then oddly to Jude Deveraux Velvet series. (This was before Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory, but when I feel the urge to revisit this obsession, that’s where I turn).

And then at a time when my sister and I would pool our allotted 30 minutes of television to watch 21 Jump Street (the show, children, not the movie) starring an extremely young Johnny Depp, I started reading crime novels. I’d already read Agatha Christie and M.C. Beaton, but my interest in the police took me first to Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct and then to the dark world of Joseph Wambaugh. I discovered Sara Paretsky, Marcia Muller, and Sue Grafton, then Elizabeth George and Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson.

While I was at the College of William and Mary (and later at the University of Georgia and at Brown) I obtained and used a public library card in addition to my school library card. I knew where the local bookstores where...chain and independent, used and rare.

Step one to becoming a books from an early age.

A handful of books from a 5 minute rummage of my shelves. Notes: Joseph Wambaugh is not an appropriate book for children!

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