Unlocking the power of stories

I hated school. It sucked. I’d toe the line, take notes and study, and it was still a miserable experience. Back then, teachers would return tests and assignments in percentage order, announcing them from highest to lowest. OMG Why?

If you guessed that my name was one of the last to be called, you’d be right. The term “learning disability” didn’t exist in those days; you were simply stupid or lazy. But I knew I was neither. I guess I was lucky to possess an inner resilience strong enough that the destructive labels never got a chance to burrow in my brain. (I’ve always wondered what happened to those kids who were called last though…)

One day, at the age of twelve,  I was assigned S. E. Hinton’s teen novel The Outsiders. From page one I was drawn into the dark world of teens without parents who struggled to survive in a harsh reality with unbending rules. I continued devouring each page on the bus ride home and that night I had finished it. The reluctant reader had read an entire book in one day.

My mind was blown – where had the time gone? Why did the book have to end? Why did these characters resonate with me for days after? Although I didn’t know how to articulate it then, what I had figured out was that the right kind of story could capture – no, ensnare – the imagination. Reluctant reader or not.

That experience sent me on a mission to seek out more stories that could provide the same intense thrill. Living in a small town with an even smaller library that didn't have a teen section, I wandered deep into the adult stacks, gravitating towards tales of horror and suspense.

So no, I wasn’t one of those writers born into a literary family, or with a pen in my hand, nor did I sit in a meadow devouring highbrow literary works that were beyond my years. I read about ghosts, vampires, monsters and other gross stuff. Why haven’t I written any horror stories of my own? Good question. Maybe someday I will.

Finding my way through the reluctant reader maze paid off. I ended up falling in love with literature and graduating with a BA in English from the University of Toronto. I also wrote for TV, and received a nomination by the Writer’s Guild of Canada for Emerging New Talent.  I continue to write stories and freelance as a story advisor.

If I had one thing to say to a budding writer who thinks they can’t be a storyteller because they’re not school smart, it would be this: if thinking about stories and writing them down makes your inner self go ‘squee!’ then that’s all you need. So ignore the critics, go forth and just have fun; it’s where you’re meant to be.

Back to top