Falling in love with writing…
By Rose Jackson-Beavers
Orsayor, lately there has been a lot of negative conversation about African American literature and literacy that it becomes easy to forget why we fell in love with writing in the first place. However, talking about why we fell in love with writing may help us to refocus our energy and talent to become better authors so future generations will read our work and become inspired to write.
Thank you so much for encouraging me through this topic to reminisce about my love for writing. When I was in the first grade, I loved to read aloud, enunciating my words and I loved to spell. I can see myself jumping out of my chair whenever the teacher asked, “Who wants to read?” Looking back, it’s kind of funny how I almost knocked over the chair, a child, or whatever was in my way to be the person chosen to read. I love reading so much I brought bright red apples to my teacher to make sure she knew exactly who I was. This way I felt she would give me special privileges to read in class when she needed a reader. Back then they called a person who tried to impress the teacher, the teacher’s pet. But truth be told, I was just a reader who loved to show off my skills.
When I was young I was competitive so I participated in spelling bees. To learn new words and other information I would read encyclopedias and dictionaries. I know what you might be thinking, “Who does that?” Reading became my total joy.
I remember the first word that made an impact on me. I must have been about 10-years-old when I found my mom’s Secret Magazines. Immediately, I started reading the romance stories, trying to figure out all the words and what they meant. The word orgasm was the one word that stood out. I remember thinking it meant organisms like in Biology, a contiguous living system. It took me a while to learn the pronunciation.
I remember asking my aunt why women had organisms. She fell out of the chair laughing. “Where did you hear that from?” She wanted to know. I ran to get my mom’s magazines and showed her. My aunt said, “The word orgasm, not organism and that’s what women had when they were with their husbands.” She took the magazines, but that didn’t mean a thing to me though! I would wait until mom’s magazine would fall from her hand because she read until she fell asleep. Then I’d grabbed the magazine, sneak away and read as many stories as I could, then tiptoe back to her room, placing the magazine back where she dropped it. Reading those magazines sparked something in me, the desire to write and tell stories; I was hooked.
My family is very close. When we were younger, mom took us out of town to beaches and water parks. Oftentimes I refused to leave the hotel rooms or a relative’s house because I preferred to stay to read. My siblings participated in sports and neighborhood activities while I remained in my bedroom reading from my well-stocked library. I missed out on a lot of family activities because I couldn’t put down the books. To date, my mother tells me when she sees people from the past, they ask about all her children, except me. She said it puzzled her why folk didn’t remember me. It hit her; I was the one locked away in the room with the books. I was happy because I had access to a world of experiences and information.
Reading caused me to fall in love with writing. I had interesting information about the world. I visualized what I read. The description of Paris and Hawaii was so great; I dreamed of travelling there wearing the designer clothes I learned of. The more I read, the greater my imagination became. Reading gave me hope to do and become what I’ve read. Writing helped me to express feelings which could not be voiced because of my bashfulness. Because of the vast information I accumulated, I had to share it. I began writing letters to prisoners, relatives and other pen pals. I read the back of the Right On Magazines and found pen pals. I wrote them, describing what was happening on the outside of the world I was so descriptive, they would write back asking me to describe the sun and the moon. My mother found out and put a stop to it.
But you know Orsayor, after that experience, I believed I could write anything and I did. I knew writing gave freedom to exaggerate, telling a story your way. You could make your scenes do what you wanted them to do. I could write exactly how I wanted my dream man to look and how I wanted him to make me feel when we were together. I could make him whisper sweet words of passion to me as I stared adoringly into his sexy, dark brown eyes. It gave me freedom to become, to create and to explore. That’s what writing does for me.
Growing up my mother always told me if I didn’t have anything nice to say about a person, don’t say anything at all. But with writing, I could say exactly what I wanted without guilt or shame. I could write about things that bothered me and I could write about things I hoped to change. Even if I decided to do nothing with my words, once I released them from me, I was free; free of stress; free of restraints.
Writing allowed me to purge my soul of pain without revealing who I was, if I didn’t want to acknowledge my truth to the world, I could give that pain to a character. I could tell my story, releasing the burden holding me hostage, ultimately, giving another person the strength to do the same.
Orsayor, this is a great topic to think about. Writing can take your characters to the end of the world and back, then take them back again and again with different voices. You can live vicariously through your characters until you have the courage to explore the opportunities the world has to offer and then come back and write about what you discovered. Writing never bores me because there is always something new to write and someone new to share it with.
I hope we continue to improve our craft by taking classes and producing more great books so our children and their children will fall in love with writing, having the desire to become authors.
Thank you again Orsayor for taking me back on that memory trip. It was good to remember how important literacy was to me as a young girl. It will help me to stay focus on creating and writing the best stories I can.