When I first started writing, I went to a weekend writing retreat that was held on the prairies up in the Cypress Hills of Alberta. This workshop was led by a Canadian cowboy writer by the name of Guy Vanderhaeghe. He wrote a book called The Englishman’s Boy (which was later turned into a film). One of the first questions he asked us all was, “Tell me now, how many books have you read this year?” (To which I internally responded, One! Don’t judge me!) The thing is, even though I wanted to be a writer, I hadn’t yet even become a reader. Guy told us, his little herd of wanna-be writers, what we desperately needed to hear, that we simply could not become writers without being readers first. (So I bought his book.) Anyway, this was the year I became a reader. I think I read fifty books that year. (Which is pretty good, considering I had only read a handful of short gothic romances up until this point.) After reading Guy’s book, The Englishman’s Boy, I exclaimed: “Holy-moly, this guy is a great writer!” (I mean he is super great…Margaret Atwood kind of great, except he writes cowboy type historical fiction). I was over the moon. How did this rather shy guy write this amazing book? I mean, just listen to his voice and syntax…“The other horses trickled down the slope after them, filling the coulee as water fills the bed of a river. One by one they dropped from sight, tails switching, heads bobbing, ghostly gleaming horses running back into the earth like shining, strengthening water.”
I was convinced. I couldn’t be a writer without being a reader. So I read and read and read. I read all kinds of books—every type of genre. And then the inevitable happened. After all, when you’re a reader eventually you start to think, “I really could write something like this.” And when I hit the genre of memoir I knew this was it…this was the type of book I wanted to write. I wanted to write a memoir using the voice of a kid and the voice of a teenager.
So in regards to who I would rather be—writer or reader, my answer is both. Reading is great…escaping into someone’s life, learning about abstract ideas all while being entertained, seeing yourself in someone’s fictional character, learning how to handle tragedy or how to find courage through someone else’s words. All this comes from reading. But writing is great too…pushing yourself to finish a manuscript, editing until you wanna puke, reworking structure, learning to control voice, dreaming up characters, or crafting a real person into a character. This is writing. And it’s great.
For more information about Diedre Havrelock please visit her website http://deidrehavrelock.com/