A Lifelong Love of Language
I am a word nerd and devout bibliophile with a sincere love of language. I have been all my life. For me, there is little in life better than sinking into a really good book, becoming besties with amazing characters, or thrilling at an exceptional turn of phrase.
My Love of Language Started Early
I learned to read before I went to school.
Sadly, for me, I learned early on that trying to read while on a car trip was a recipe for me to lose whatever was in my stomach. Sadder still, for my father at least, was the fact that I couldn’t stop myself from reading every road sign, billboard, and license plate we past.
On long trips, my parents resorted to giving me medication for motion sickness. It helped in that it put me to sleep for at least part of the drive, but it didn’t stop me from reading whenever I was awake. And it couldn’t dampen my love of language and words.
I Read Everywhere I Could Hold a Book (Even Upside-Down)
Recess at school, I could usually be found sitting on a bench, reading.
On my bicycle. Pedaling slowly with a book in my basket, which I discovered was not such a good plan, when I wrecked into the back of a parked truck!
At home, I hid in my closet where I set up a small shelf (for storing the books I was reading), a sleeping bag and pillow (for comfort), a lamp (for light to read by), and a towel (to tuck under the door, so no one would see the light).
Oddly, I could (still can) read upside down, which I learned drove my teachers to distraction. They’d see that upside-down textbook and try to bust me for not doing my work.
TEACHER: What are you doing?
ME: Reading the assigned chapter.
TEACHER: Your textbook is upside-down.
ME: I know.
TEACHER: [Practically gleeful at having caught me doing something wrong AND lying about it.] You can’t be reading. Your book is upside down.
ME: [Reading paragraph aloud, as easily as if the text is right-side up.]
(Okay, I was, admittedly, a bit of a smart a**.)
Books, Books, Books, and More Books
And, yes, books plural. I often read as many as five books at a time. Moving from one to the other and back again.
I read so much as a kid, my mother would tell me to put down the books and go outside to get some fresh air and exercise. When this happened, which was pretty often, I’d push out the bottom corner of my window screen and drop a book into the garden. Then I’d say, “Okay, mom, I am going outside, now.” I’d head out, grab my book and go hide in a tree, or my brother’s fort, or out in the orchard, anywhere I could tuck myself and my book out of the way.
All the Words!
All this is to say, I have always loved words, alone or strung together in sentences, paragraphs, poems, stories, building blocks for the language of books.
So, it is hardly any wonder that I am an author, as well as, a book coach and freelance editor. And that I love teaching writing craft. And that I find the beauty of a well written phrase and the fresh use of language to convey ideas and concepts and create and transmit images to be profoundly exciting.
Here examples of some recent favorites:
“Marra carried the knowledge that her sister hated her snugged up under her ribs. It did not touch her heart, but it seemed to fill her lungs, and sometimes when she tried to take a deep breath, it caught on her sister‘s words and left her breathless.”—Nettle & Bone, T. Kingfisher
Read it again. This is a deeply profound description of the character’s feelings and emotion around this knowledge. It’s not just that she knew her sister hated her but that she carried the knowledge of it snugged up against her ribs. And the follow up of how her breath sometimes caught on her sister’s words and left her breathless. Fabulous!
“…a river only moves in one direction, no matter how much we wish it weren’t so.”— Under the Whispering Door, TJ Klune
Klune uses such a lovely turn of phrase to describe our linear lives.
“To be a person is to be a mortal. It is also to be a death waiting to happen to a body. But it is also, until that moment comes, to be alive.”—Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives by Mary Laura Philpott
“A death waiting to happen to a body” is an incredibly a deep and poignant truth! But it’s so much more beautiful and compelling than we will all one day die.
“You can weave your life so long—only so long, and then a thing in the world out of your control will tug at one vital thread and leave your patternless and subdued.”—The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip
Revisiting Patricia A. McKillip’s work reminded me why her books and stories are so beloved. In this passage, she uses language to create emotional engagement and articulate an incredibly universal feeling.
“Of course it would be teeth, her mind said, while her skin tried to crawl off her body and run away screaming. It was never not going to be horrible.” —Nettle & Bone, T. Kingfisher
And this gem! Oh, my molars!! What a fresh and glorious was to show someone’s skin crawling at something horrible!
“The poet proves that language is inadequate by throwing herself at the fence of language and being bound by it. Poetry is the resultant bulging of the fence.” –A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, George Saunders
Saunders explains poetry in the most poetic manner possible, by offering an intense image that encapsulates the truth of what it is to be a poet and how the resulting poetry affects the world.
“I am but paper. Brittle and thin. I am held up to the sun, and it shines right through me. I get written on, and I can never be used again. These scratches are a history. They’re a story. They tell things for others to read, but they only see the words, and not what the words are written on….”— The House in the Cerulean Sea, TJ Klune
I end on this lovely bit of poetry from TJ Klune, because it expresses how many of us often feel in the world in general, but is expressed in such a way that it resonates particularly strongly for me as both a word nerd and a writer.
I highly recommend all the books listed above, not only as great reads, but as potential mentor texts. Books to study, authors to emulate, examples of excellent writing craft. Especially for those with a love of language!
Check Back Next Month for Love of Language, Part 2: The Incredible Language of Illustration
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