My father read to me before I was born.

My dad is unique. Unusual. One of a kind. He’s neurotic, insecure, brilliant, articulate, athletic- race walks three miles a day, reads three to four full-length books a week despite his advanced age (he still has 20-20 vision), and he says, he’s always said, “The most important thing you can do for your children is read to them.”

He didn’t play with us, not much anyway. Games made him nervous. Still do. Although by the time I was in the fourth grade he installed a half-court basketball court and a basketball hoop and he’d frequently come home from work in the evenings and play a couple games of HORSE with me.

What he did with his three daughters was read.

He began reading Moby Dick to me on the day I came home from the hospital. (Oddly enough I have this affinity for Melville.) And when he’d finished Moby Dick, he moved on to The Caine Mutiny, Crime and Punishment, and then War and Peace. Then there were his other favorites, Treasure Island, Mutiny on the Bounty, anything and everything by Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Jack London, Henry James, George Elliot, Byron, Tennyson, Whitman, Hawthorn, James Fenimore Cooper. He wasn’t a big fan of Hemingway, although I am fond of The Old Man and the Sea.

At eighteen months of age, I read Frankenstein on my own. I didn’t graduate to children’s books until kindergarten. Up until I began school, I didn’t know children’s literature even existed. (Nancy Drew became my guilty pleasure. I loved The Secret of the Old Clock– her roadster – and her pretty much absentee boyfriend, Ned.)

Was I a prodigy? Nah. We model those things to which we are exposed.

A child’s brain is soft, like a sponge. It soaks up information. My brain soaked up words.

The logical step, after learning to read, was learning to write. I began to write poetry at the age of three. Still love poetry. Pure word candy.

Where am I going with this? Oh, yeah, read to your children. It will make them smarter. Open their minds.

But, since this is a blog about the writing process, where am I really going? All writing begins with reading. I cannot imagine how one writes without an entire library of literature and poetry and history swirling about in one’s head.

Books, i.e., words, are how we humans communicate from generation to generation, how we preserve events for posterity, how we keep track of our property and possessions and protect legal records.

We know about ancient Sumeria (Mesopotamia) because of the cuneiform writing, the earliest system of writing discovered thus far (developed about 8000 B.C.E.).

But let’s get down to the bones– Telling stories help us make sense of our existence, or rather, the existential dilemma posed by our existence.

And, now listen up because this is important, telling stories is entertaining.

Writing is fun.

Next time— The Voices.

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juliabarrett

I am an author of fiction and nonfiction.