My first encounter with Shakespeare came at the age of eleven. My grandmother, an English teacher and writer, introduced me to the works of Shakespeare. She inspired me with her love of books and love of English history and literature. My eager eyes spied a couple of her college books sitting on a shelf while visiting her one summer and my fingers brushed along the shelf, making imprints in the dust bunnies. I slid the books out and sat on the floor in front of the bookshelf and slowly turned the pages, soaking in the beauty of the language into my young heart. It wasn’t until later I realized she had been watching me, and after I returned the books to their hallowed place, she came up, took the books back down and placed them into my hands and said, “Here, these are yours.”
I still have them, to this day, some forty years later, and they hold such a precious place in my heart and in my home. Her gift and those words set my feet on the path of English history, inspiring me to take up my own pen to begin writing the stories floating in my head.
When in school, I adored English literature, the classics, the poets, the playwrights…. everything!
My first attempt at story writing was in eleventh grade when I joined the Short Story Writing Competition for our city. My story came in second place. And then, our school started a small literary magazine and a few of my stories made publication.
My senior year I began my first attempt at a novel entitled “Feringhi” – about a young Indian girl with a British father and Indian mother, set in 1800 Kashmir; a laughable piece, but now looking back on it, a necessary step toward developing my voice.
My next attempt, a sort of romance set in the 1700s during the early colonization of Massachusetts and Georgia and the barrier islands of Jekyll and Cumberland, in the style of one of my favorite authors in my younger days, Victoria Holt, entitled “The Jekyll Child”. Romance, or at least the style of Historical Romance, is not my forte nor my passion.
Later, after reading books such as Rosalind Miles’ “I, Elizabeth” and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “The Mists of Avalon”, I knew where I wanted to take my writing. Thus, the combination of Shakespeare and learning my own voice, as well as my many visits to London, I arrived at the current air of my novels.
Writers write, and writers write what they know. I never went to college or studied Shakespeare to the extent I wish I could have, but I hope the passion for his works come out in my novels. My grandmother’s book is “The Complete Works of Shakespeare” edited by Hardin Craig and published in 1961 and I thought it might be interesting to blog about things within this book that inspired me, and hopefully will move others and younger ones to look into the incredible words of this genius. I hope my words mingled with Shakespeare’s will find some other eager eyes to pass along my dust bunny soul.
The opening lines of the book read: “In order to fully understand and appreciate Shakespeare, it is necessary to see him as a whole. It is not enough to read individual passages, scenes, and plays as independent units; they should be studied in their relation to the development of Shakespeare’s powers as a dramatist, to the drama itself, and to Renaissance literature. The student who would know Shakespeare needs to know the temper of the Elizabethan age. As the student comes to understand better the meaning that Shakespeare had in his own day he will at the same time, the editor believes, develop a richer appreciation of the qualities of Shakespeare’s genius that have given his work meaning in all ages.”
I wholeheartedly agree. In this world of technology, let none of us take for granted or lose the beauty of his words. Young people today, well not only young ones but all, are inundated with screens – cell phones, computers, movies and TV – but there is something grounding when they are encouraged not to forget the smell of a classic book, the eloquence of a phrase, or the heart-moving verse in a sonnet or poem. This is a legacy, Shakespeare’s legacy, needing to be sounded from the corners of the world.
This is my sounding from this blog and I pray someone hears. If you are out there, listening, I heartily thank you. Now, pick up your own pen and carry on….