Feb 21, 2011

role models

First of all, profuse apologies for the horrid state of this blog. Life, as always, has gotten hectic. I've started two jobs and have prioritized my free time around my husband and my writing. So naturally the blog has suffered.
A couple of weeks ago, something very sad and momentous came to pass. Brian Jacques, the author of the Redwall Series as well as the Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, passed away from a heart attack at the age of 71. I owe a lot to Brian Jacques. I became a fan of his at a young age, when my mother brought home The Bellmaker from the library. I was around ten at the time-- and I was quite skeptical of the mice on the cover. How could a book about talking animals hold my interest? I was a rabid reader of Nancy Drew mysteries and the Trixie Belden series, both books that were based in the real world. I'd never before been encountered with such a fantastical realm as the woods of Mossflower and Redwall Abbey.
For a few days I refused to read it. But somehow my mother managed to corner me into a reading session. I believe her deal was: read the first two chapters and if you don't like it I'll take it back. I approached the first few paragraphs with the staunch belief that I would dislike it. Thankfully, despite my hardest efforts, I started to fall in love with Brian Jacques's universe.
I devoured The Bellmaker in a few short days. Immediately after I was finished, I convinced my mom to drive me to the library to get more books. I ran through Redwall, Mossflower, Martin the Warrior and Mattimeo as quickly as I could. Soon it wasn't just enough to borrow the books from the library. I scrupulously saved up my allowance money and had my father drive me to Barnes and Noble, where I began slowly buying and building up my collection of Brian Jacques's novels. Now, at the age of 24, fourteen of his books line my shelves.
It was Mr. Jacques who opened my eyes to the genre of fantasy and what it could do to the mind of a young reader. I began lost and engrossed in his worlds of warrior mice, badgers and hares. I began to incorporate the Redwall universe into my childhood play sessions in the backyard. I ran off into the woods and made forts and pretended I was a hare named Honeydew. I was obsessed.
I wrote to Mr. Jacques. I even got to see him in person when he visited Charleston on a tour. I was enamored by the encounter. At the thought that he was a real person and I could meet him.
Because of my love for Redwall, I started writing stories of my own. The first few scribblings were clear knockoffs--but as I read more widely and gained more experience--I began creating fantastical stories that were wholly my own. Looking back on my writing and rereading the Redwall stories, I've begun to see how Mr. Jacques's storytelling has shaped my own. There are traces, just a hint of them, in my writings today.
So thank you, Mr. Jacques, for your stories. I'm indebted to you for a childhood of happy reading and a plethora of imagination that sprung from it. Of course I've had many writing role models since then, but you were one of the strongest and one of the first. And I thank you for it.

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