Last week, the first thing I did when I got home from college was — not unpack — go to Barnes and Noble. If you know me, this is completely normal behavior. But, it was not my normal visit; I was going to see an author. But it wasn't an author I have read for years, almost a decade. I went to the book signing for the author of my favorite childhood books, Erin Hunter.
The Erin Hunter team wrote the cat books we all read as a kid about the wild cats living in the woods, the Warriors series. I remember reading 36 of the now-still-growing number of books and finishing the very last one that I read, running downstairs in the middle of the night, and sobbing to my parents. It was the most exciting, creative, and intense book series that I had read at the time, and were the coolest thing I had ever stumbled upon in fourth grade. I've moved on to adult novels of course, but those box sets I got in middle school still make me smile every time I see them under my desk, holding up the massive collection of new books I have accumulated.
And they were just that for me — a foundation. I read those books in two days sometimes, and they changed the way I would read for the rest of my life. But not only that, I loved them so much that they were the books that inspired me to write when I was just a fifth grader. It might have been the worst four pages of ripped up notebook paper with messy, scrawling elementary school handwriting ever of a story ever, but it was the start of something.
Those books gave me a passion of reading and inspired me to write, and how ironic it was to come home from college, the epitome of stretching my wings and entering adulthood, and drive straight to Barnes and Noble to get to see my favorite childhood author. I owed my passion for literature and writing in part to that team of writers, and I just had to see them in person.
I was the only person (besides parents) above the age of thirteen, so I lingered in the back, a little red-faced and nonchalant, holding my beat up copy of my favorite book at my side. The author of the team's newest series came up and started to speak. After the children ceased their squealing. The crowd gathered may have been small, but it gave me so much hope that kids were still reading, as they were all holding physical books and not tablets, phones, or anything. They were just as enraptured with the author who brought me so much joy when I had been their age as I was. We were both experiencing the same joy of seeing the person and hearing the voice behind the words that came to life in our minds.
Standing there as the only adult not supervising their child, I held back a little bit from frantically raising my hand and just listened to her speak. Listening to her speak about the most recent series was incredibly interesting, but it was not the most important thing I took away from her visit. She spoke of her journey as both a writer and an author, and the whole first part of it was eerily similar to what I do on a daily basis. I was not expecting to learn anything by going to that or to gain anything profound beyond some positive nostalgia and gratitude for the stories she helped to tell. But I got so much more than that; I go reassurance and encouragement to keep with it.
By taking an opportunity to return to something you enjoy, you never know how much you might find from the experience. I was just going to go for the sake of my self from ten years ago, who would have scolded me if I did not. What you need to hear finds you at the exact time that you need it to, and sometimes the opportunities to listen come in gifts that are wrapped with interesting paper.
What I needed to hear — as someone who only finds the time to write narratively in her free time — came from one of the women who sparked that passion, and if that is not something coming full circle, I don't know what is. I needed to tap into my inner child and younger self in order to hear what was always being shouted all around me, but then again, children are much more open-minded and can pick up on things that a grown person may not ever take a moment to observe.
So break out the watercolors. Pick up your favorite chapter book from middle school. Go put that old Disney movie on the TV. You might pick up on something that you always understood as a kid, but need to hear with a more experienced mind.