This is perhaps a tired story, but you’re here, so you may want to read it anyway. If you stop in the middle, I won’t blame you. Here we go:
When I was nine years old, my big brother turned 13 and my parents threw him a big Bar Mitzva bash. One of the gifts he got was a set of the first three Harry Potter books, in hardcover, from our Aunt Candy. She was a relative by marriage rather than blood, and we got along well with her, though we only saw her once or twice a year. It was a good gift for my brother, the reader. What Aunt Candy didn’t know—and would never know, since she died a few years later, before I verbalized any of this properly—was that she was giving my brother a gift that would end up changing my life.
I’d always loved stories and, by extension, books, but I didn’t like reading. It was difficult for me. My mother taught me to read English when I was six and learning to read in Hebrew too, and though I was verbally fluent in both languages, I had a hard time learning to read and write in either. I loved being read to, rather than reading. Every birthday, my mother would read me Dr. Seuess’ Happy Birthday to You!—which we affectionately retitled The Birthday Bird. When my mom, my brother, and I were in LA one summer and my father stayed in Israel to work, he recorded himself reading The Little Prince so that I would be able to listen to it while falling asleep. I fell asleep with his voice and de Saint-Exupéry’s words every night for years. My parents both took me to the Hebrew Book Fair every year, where they would buy my brother and me unlimited books—the one gift that they never said no to. My brother would read his new purchases, and I would have mine read to me.
Back to Harry Potter. When I was nine, my mother started reading me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. When we got to chapter ten, “Halloween,” and my mom stopped for the chapter break, I sneaked off and read it on my own, but left the bookmark where it was so she wouldn’t know. I read ten whole pages, all by myself, all in one go. It was a big deal for me. When my mom started reading me that chapter, I couldn’t contain myself, and after only a minute or two of her reading I confessed that I’d already read it. I felt so guilty—but she laughed, and handed me the book, and told me to keep reading by myself.
Once I started, I didn’t stop. I devoured books, small and large, serious and silly. I reread books I loved over and over again. I brought books into bed with me, sat at the table with them, brought them to school and got into trouble over them. At a certain point when I was a teenager, I also started walking with them, a habit I maintain to this day.
I loved, and love, books so much more than I can put words to. They were solace to me every time one of my family members was dying or died. They provided comfort when I was ill, and distraction during recovery. They are purveyors of joy, sorrow, magic, whimsy—the gamut of human emotions. They have taught me words that I will never use in everyday life (fiefdom, dais, limn, pert, weal, and so many more) as well as those I use all the time (corporeal, crimson, riffle—okay, maybe not all the time, but more often).
I am still obsessed with books, still in love with stories. The reason I began to write was in order to try and make other people feel what I feel when I read. It’s a tall order, but there it is. It’s what I try to do. And will keep trying to do.
As for the rest of it? I love editing, copy-editing and proofreading. I enjoy being able to get inside sentences and fix them, being able to see the missing comma and mark up the extra space. I love the idea that words are both completely beyond our control and entirely within it. I enjoy ghostwriting because it’s a type of exercise with voice, and social media work because it’s part of my daily life anyway.
As of March, 2017, I have decided to pursue my PhD in English and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which will be my home for the next few years.