I’ve never been much of a fiction fan.
Back when I was younger, we had a Home Reading Program: a fifteen to twenty minute period of imposed reading, every night from second to fifth grade. We also had to prove we had understood what we had read by using a program called Accelerated Reader; it would quiz us on the books we read and our results would go towards our grade in reading comprehension. Pretty nice system, I must say. In second grade, those who were considered better performers than the rest of the class were given the right to go to the school library, instead of being restricted to the class library. And so, a few classmates and I found ourselves at the library.
I remember the library pretty well. It was where we were given vaccinations and I spent half a day arguing with nurses about their intentions to kill me with their syringes. I remember being a short and tubby little kid running around the place with the bookshelves reaching the ceiling, and it was a delight. In retrospect, it was a very average-sized school library, but having made the move from the 30-page storybooks of the class library to the 100+ page chapter books of the big kid library made it seem like a room filled with books three times the size I was used to reading would be impossible to go through.
We were told by our teachers to stay away from the reference book section, which I found pretty sad. I’ve always been into reading reference materials; if you saw how much of my browser history is occupied by Wikipedia, you’d agree. We’d eventually get our chance to take over the section in fourth grade, where we were given encyclopedia volumes to look at while the nurses got the Hepatitis B vaccines ready. That and for several research projects thereafter.
But at that time in the second grade where I first entered the library, I went around the fiction section looking for something that talked to me. All of it looked old, dusty, and foreign. Until I made it to the deepest corner of the left wing of the library. The one shelf that seemed to be directly targeting me: the Babysitters’ Club series shelf.
Our school wasn’t that big, but they had a ton of BSC books. They had most of the books released up until 1998, except maybe a few prime-numbered volumes. That’s around 125 books. Then count in the Super Specials and some of the Club Mysteries, not to mention a huge amount of the Little Sister spinoff books. I would find myself with a lot of reading material.
By the time end of fourth grade when I left Shawinigan High School, I had read through all of the volumes our school had of the canonical BSC series, most of the Super Specials we had, and all of the Club Mysteries we had as well. From the second half of second grade until the end of fourth grade, I had only read Babysitters’ Club books, and the few books we had to study in class like James and the Giant Peach and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.
Which is why when I transferred into TRHS in 2000, I was shocked when I went to that school’s library and found no fiction of interest to me. The characters of the BSC series represented the only fiction which I cared about; in this time of everyone freaking out about Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Narnia, nothing really spoke to me. In fifth grade, we had to take out a novel every week from the library. My dark secret was that I took out novels which I never read. Once, my dad handed me some Isaac Asimov book, and I liked it so I ventured into the As in my library and took out The Robots of Dawn. It was apparently part of a series; this I did not really care about, as the book on its own was a fairly good book, had lots of different worlds you could imagine, and also coincidentally, contained human-on-robot sex. From that point on, every week, I would simply keep taking out The Robots of Dawn for the rest of the year.
Sixth grade arrived and we no longer had to read every night, nor did we have to read books ourselves. My lack of finding anything like BSC to hook me back into reading didn’t motivate me to read much fiction, so I only read the books we needed to read for our reading comprehension tests, or later, literary analysis.
I would still read reference materials and non-fiction, both of which I have always found fascinating; it is often less trouble to understand these as they contain facts, typically not hiding underneath metaphors. And that would be the only reading I would undertake under my own will (save reading Twilight on the way back from New York City two years ago) until two weeks or so ago, when I discovered Eclectica.
Eclectica is one of the oldest online literary magazines. I stumbled upon it about two weeks ago when I was bored in class and decided to search for “literary journal”. Thanks to this discovery and the magic of Instapaper, I believe I have read more fiction in the past two weeks than I have in the past two years. Eclectica is incredibly-well curated; I have not seen anything get past their filters that has not been of the upmost quality. Reading its fiction is how I spend any free time I have on my hands now. I don’t mind downtime as much, because I know that I always have a wide variety of reading material at my fingertips.
Perhaps this reading is what pushed me to try NaNoWriMo this year. As I type this, less than 15 minutes are left until the clock strikes midnight and National Novel Writing Month begins.
I want to write something the short, tubby little kid I was when I was in second grade would like to read. I want to write the novel the fifth grader me would have taken out every week for the rest of the year because nothing else got his interest. I want to write something that resonates with the kind of entertainment I enjoy; something which I guess is hard to find. It may share some similarities with BSC, who knows. You might even recognize some anime influences in there, because some of that has touched me greatly over the last few years.
Can I get to fifty thousand words? I don’t know. That’s what I’ll find out.
Five minutes left. Happy writing everyone.