Books are sensorily stimulating for me. (That’s a stuffy way way of saying that books turn me on.) The feel of paper under my fingertips, the intoxicating smell of ink on the page, that delicious crunch of a spine first opened…Thinking about books gives me a lovely little whir of anticipation in my soul.
Yeah, I know–it’s only a rush of dopamine flooding the reward centre of my brain, but we’re talking about a serious case of book-love here, so let’s not get all clinical. The fact is fabulous stories make me swoon.
One of my most vivid childhood memories is from sixth grade when I finished reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden for the first time. It was my first book-crush, and I was completely smitten. I turned the last page and was overcome with a wash of gratitude and loss and joy. I hugged the book to my chest, dreading the loss of Mary, Dickon and Colin and Misselthwaite Manor, but relishing the experience at the same time. I was in love with a story–and with the feeling evoked by the story.
I actually felt heart-sick with a yearning to create a similar beauty, to recreate a literary experience for others that left them giddy and delighted and sad to say good-bye. The desire to write books was born in me at that moment. I dreamed of one day mastering the particular magic of storytelling.
A few decades have come and gone, and I can happily tell you books still do it for me. Like selkies on the rocks, they call to me with their gorgeous covers and promises of escape, and looking is never enough. I have to touch and hold and possess. I’m an adult, yet stories still have the power to sweep me and all my grown-up pretensions away. It seems I’m never too old for a case of literary euphoria. Yes, I can still go ga-ga over a book.
And as for that 11-year-old’s dream of writing books, I’m not a fully-fledged, card-carrying, storytelling magician yet, but I’m well on my way.