Monday, May 29, 2017

The power of story


This past week, we moved into a lovely unit almost as big as our old home of thirty-two years. However, the available space for books certainly isn’t as big. In my husband’s old study, there was a wall of built-in bookshelves which we, of course, could not remove. So our current task is to try to fit all our books into the bookshelves we could bring with us—or perhaps buy bigger ones!
Now my husband did cull his books severely before moving and I too dispensed with some at least. While doing so, I came across a number of books that had originally belonged to our children, so I decided to see if they wanted to hang onto these themselves.
Despite being a writer of novels and memoir and thus a firm believer in the power of story, I suspected they would say no, for various reasons. However, when I showed our elder daughter some middle grade and young adult novels with her name in them, I did not have to remind her how much she loved reading them.
‘Oh look, there’s Charlotte’s Web and all my Little House on the Prairie books!’ she said, her voice filled with nostalgia. ‘And I remember those Enid Blyton ones as well! There’s Mr Pinkwhistle’s Party—and there’s The Rat-A-Tat Mystery!’
As for our younger daughter, she clearly remembered her Laura in Littleland books and one called The Computer That Ate my Brother! Oh and, of course, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
But it was our big, burly, mathematician son whose reaction surprised me the most. He had already reclaimed his beloved Narnia books some time back, but in our clean-up, I discovered a book he had been awarded for coming first in his Year Four primary school class. It was a non-fiction book entitled Why Is it?, with answers to all sorts of questions about how and why things work in our world. Yet each entry in the book was so engaging to read and contained such interesting information that one could be forgiven for thinking it was all ‘made up’.
‘Oh, I remember this book—I’m definitely keeping it!’ our son told us, as he handled it almost reverently.
Yes, these books and many more have lived on in our children’s hearts and minds over all these years. But ... ahem ... for better or worse, could it also be that our children have taken on board a little of their parents’ attitude to books? You see, in packing for our move, I myself have still been unable to part with various novels from my own growing-up years—the Anne books by L M Montgomery, as well as her Emily books and Pat of Silver Bush; What Katy Did, What Katy Did at School and What Katy Did Next; Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men and Jo’s Boys; Heidi—and many others. Those stories still grip my heart, just as they did as a child.
So, whether we write for children or adults, let’s work hard to create stories that are powerful and memorable, that fire our readers’ imaginations, that touch hearts and impact lives. Then perhaps one day, by God’s grace, the time may even come when our readers will want to hang onto those stories of ours too!

Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and two non-fiction works, ‘Soul Friend’ and ‘Becoming Me’. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com.

14 comments:

  1. Lovely post Jo-Anne. I loved it how you have both turned your children into readers and lovers of books. I like to think my husband and I have done the same thing with our son. How heart-warming to hear your children's reactions to their old books. I do agree that stories have great power and how much richer our lives with them. Thanks for the reminder Jo-Anne. And the very best to you as you settle into your new lovely unit. May you find space for ALL your books and a few more besides. May this new season of life be your best yet! :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Anusha. We already feel so at home here in our beautiful unit, even though there are still boxes everywhere! It is lovely and quiet and my study window looks out on some green space, so it is a wonderful spot for writing.

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  2. Lovely post. Thanks Jo-Anne. What a wonderful encouragement "So, whether we write for children or adults, let’s work hard to create stories that are powerful and memorable, that fire our readers’ imaginations, that touch hearts and impact lives. Then perhaps one day, by God’s grace, the time may even come when our readers will want to hang onto those stories of ours too!"
    All I can say is Yes! Wouldn't that be incredible.

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    1. I'm glad my post encouraged you, Jeanette. And yes, it's a bit hard to imagine someone from the next generation and beyond loving our books all over again, but you never know!

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  3. Oh the sentimental bloke....how funny your son to be just as connected to his memory-lane books as your girls!
    Our Josh has fabulous memories of his childhood books. When he didn't need a daytime sleep anymore we tucked him up on his bed with books for 'quiet time' (for us..wink wink). For half an hour he could quietly stay on his bed with the books. Certainly made another book worm in the family!
    Have fun arranging your books and settling into your new home Jo-Anne.

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    1. Thanks, Di. That's exactly what we're doing right now--having fun finding all those interesting things in boxes and then wondering where on earth we are going to put them. But it's all good!

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  4. So many well loved tales that live on shelves here, too! Thanks Jo-Anne, great post.

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    1. Thanks, Carolyn. I am about to start arranging lots of books on the shelves in my study in our new unit and just can't decide which ones should be close by and which could go elsewhere. I need my books on writing close by--and my lovely books on various Christian topics close to my heart. But ... er ... perhaps a few 'Anne' books and the like will sneak their way in here too, rather than go in a book case hidden away in our bedroom or in one that we think will have to go in the hallway!

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  5. Thanks for sharing that Jo. My parents were doing a clean-up a while back and got rid of some of my old books, though they checked with me first. I couldn't part with my Trixie Belden books or my original Peanuts paperbacks. And I bought all the Anne books as an adult, so they have a nice safe place on my own bookshelves. I wonder what Lucy Maud would say if she knew people were still buying her books and making movies and mini-series about them?

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    1. Yes, that's an intriguing question, Nola--especially as I understand her first manuscript was rejected so she put it away for a couple of years, then tried again. Eek--we nearly didn't have our Anne books!

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  6. Sounds like your move went well. I always found moving our books the hardest part and each time I tried to lighten the load. Though, for me, it is the non-fiction books I struggle to part with because they have taught me amazing truths about God which have changed my life.

    So if your new unit is the nearly the same size as your old house, I'm assuming you have a lot less garden??

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    1. No garden we have to care for, Susan, as we are in a beautiful retirement village, but the gardens all around us here are amazing. Also, our unit is on the edge of the village--from my study window, I look out onto shrubs and trees! But there is also a community vegie garden, with raised beds, and I think you can have a plot of your own there if you want. Still lots to find out.

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  7. I have moved so many times, and each time have had to cull the overwhelming number of books. My husband, a non-reader, never understood the attraction, but oh how desperately difficult it has been to choose what goes... ugghhh... it's always made a little better if there are people who want the books that are on their way out the door.

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    1. I agree, Bev--and that's what made it much easier for my husband to part with many of his theological books. He packed some away he wants to keep, but then invited about six pastors and students he knows to come and take their pick. Then after that, another friend came and took the remaining seven boxes for theological students overseas who have very few resources. So that made him feel much more positive about it all.

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