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  • The Griffin

Shaping a literary life

By Eliana DeGlopper, Features Contributor

What moments sparked your beginnings as a writer? Your love for reading? Your fascination with literature? The flow of words on a page and off the tongue? Syllables moving with fluidity from the pen to the page?

In middle school, a librarian named Mrs. Leaper taught a class to sixth graders about the Dewey Decimal System and the difference between fiction and non-fiction books. I was one of the few people who did well on the pop quizzes, as I was captivated by how books were sorted and classified. My class would enter the library, passing rows of children’s and chapter books, to sit in the back at wooden tables. We all wore uniforms, the girls having just switched from plaid blue jumpers (in fifth grade) to skirts with a blouse, and the boys wearing cotton polos and navy slacks. The lights were a comforting pale yellow, and an old box TV sat atop a large rolling cart in the corner. The room also housed the book fair, at which I would read the summaries on the back covers of all the eye-catching books, spending my parents’ money quite cautiously on the most-advanced chapter book or novel I could find, while others used money on posters of Justin Bieber. It was that year I decided to write a book.

Every week, I would write a new chapter, introducing new characters, enhancing the plot and printing fresh copies. I would arrive at school prior to dawn and slip copies into the mailboxes of a few of my favorite grade school teachers, including the librarian. They would all revise my chapter every week and give me feedback marked up in red pen with grammatical suggestions and positive feedback. The story grew that way for months.

To this day, I cannot remember what the story was about. I remember, however, that I typed it on my family’s “home” computer, which was the only computer in our house. I sat at a small island that jutted out from a wall beneath some cabinets in our kitchen. It was to the right of the coffee maker, to the left of the cereal and within arms reach of the stove. The computer was an old Dell laptop that typed extraordinarily slow. I would type away as the daylight faded into night around me. My mom filled the kitchen with the smell of either spaghetti sauce or meatloaf as I typed after dance class, on the brink of the next scene while my younger sister waited patiently for her turn to use the computer and play games. When my work was done, I saved the file (so my sister didn’t destroy what I had created) and then printed and stapled my piece to share with my parents and teachers.

One time, when a teacher required a handwritten final copy of an assignment, I discarded my final copy instead of my written draft. My dad, in an attempt to unwrinkle my crumpled essay, tried ironing out the wrinkles. Instead, he evaporated the ink, leaving us with a newly non-crumpled but very blank piece of paper. I never hand-wrote my novel drafts again after that incident.

As a baby, my mom read me children’s books every night, swaying me back and forth on the rocking chair. My dad would sit next to my bed, night light aglow, to make up complicated bedtime tales of knights and princesses in faraway kingdoms or children from faraway galaxies. My mom took me to the library where we would read and play and to Barnes and Noble storytimes. I was constantly surrounded by books and stories: They fed into my imagination. My parents bought me a build-your-own book (which my dad likely still has in our basement) to make in elementary school, illustrated with stick figures, stitched together with ribbon and written between wide-ruled lines.

In fourth grade, my classmates and I competed over who could read the most books each month, the winner of the book log gaining bragging rights. After that, I advanced to “Junie B. Jones,” “Magic Tree House,” “The Sisters Grimm,” “Harry Potter,” “Divergent” and eventually the classics. I then found my own interests: sci-fi, Irish literature, nature-based writing, etc.

Now, reading and writing fuel my soul. I can express love, grief, joy, sadness and even inexplicable emotions through writing. Reading takes me to those faraway galaxies, and writing lets me create my own universe. Where did you become a reader or writer? Where did your literary life begin?

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