I wrote this little entry to Warren Adler's contest on the plane back from Germany last week.
The challenge was to write 300 words about "what reading fiction (or writing) means to me." Here was my submission:
What Reading Fiction Means to Me, Aaron Paul Lazar
I’ve inhaled books with gusto since childhood. In addition to stimulating my imagination, reading fiction has always lifted me from times of trauma and provided solace. Whether I joined hands with John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, or Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas, or was whisked to alluring Italy via Warren Adler’s The David Embrace, the act of living and breathing in someone else’s skin provided comfort and separation from the sting of life’s misadventures.
I didn’t have to fully test this process, however, until my family and friends started dropping like proverbial flies. Sanity nearly eluded me. I needed solace, and books provided a lifeline.
It was when my father died, however—the eighth loss in five years—that I learned reading wasn’t enough. Aching with grief, I began to talk long walks in the woods, hearing my father’s voice rustle in the leaves, believing the whistling wind was my father telling me he was okay.
I returned home and wrote lush, God-awful poetry about my walks. It felt good. It felt right. Each time I put pen to paper, the pain lessened a little.
Writing was great therapy. I decided to dedicate a mystery series to my father, something I originally planned to do when I retired and the kids were gone. But it couldn’t wait.
It was all so addictive! The power of words, whether the birthing of a complex character, or churning out a pithy dialog, the pure joy of having absolute and total control over plot, the ability to cure the ill or punish the villains…mesmerized me. I was hooked.
Fifteen years later, I still thank God for the ability to transcend my own wonderful—albeit challenging—life through books. With stories absorbed through books or borne of my own imagination, life is not just tolerable, but utterly fulfilling.
Did anyone else enter the contest? The prize is lunch with Mr. Adler himself at a famous literary cafe. Oh, I can't wait!
Take care my friends and remember to write like the wind!
- Aaron Paul Lazar