It's interesting how certain small things burn into our memory when we are kids, only to come back to the front when we are adults. Even more interesting to people who aren't writers is how often these things make it into our books.
As an example, one of my fondest memories of summers as a child was going to Louisiana and staying with my grandparents at their home a few miles outside of Natchitoches, La. Many of the settings for my stories and books are based on that area. I may say it is Texas or somewhere else, but when I am writing it and picturing it in my mind, it is always there that i picture.
I have always been a voracious reader and visited the library at least once or twice a week there during the summer, joining the reading contest and always leaving with an armload of books after every visit. I can still remember sitting in the air conditioned library in a soft leather chair with the smell of old books surrounding me and looking out the back wall, which was made of glass, and out over Cane River which stood at the bottom of the hill behind the library. Often I would leave the library and wander a few blocks down Front Street, struggling with the stack of books, until I got to St. Denis Street, turning there and going to the P & C Rexall Drugstore.
The P & C was one of those great stores that not only carried comic books, make up, assorted medical supplies and prescriptions, but also had a counter where they served sodas, sandwiches, and ice cream. To any of those reading this who visited the P & C they will remember that the ice cream scooper was square, and I can still taste the delicious chocolate ice cream cone I would eat while sitting there on a revolving bar stool at the counter, struggling to read a book without dripping the melting ice cream and waiting for my grandparents to pick me up after they had finished their shopping elsewhere in town.
The P & C isn't there anymore, stores like Wal Mart and K & B Drugs having put it out of business, and the library has moved somewhere less scenic and that I'm sure doesn't smell as musty but they will both live in my memory just as the settings still live in my book, Junebug and The Body.
I love reading and that love is probably one of the reasons I love writing.
When I was a kid I used to go down to my grandparent's house in Natchitoches, La. and spend every summer there. My grandparents lived outside of town a few miles and once a week or so my grandmother would go into town to buy groceries or shop. She never learned to drive and so it was usually a family trip involving assorted aunts or uncles and was an eagerly awaited affair.
I wasn't much on the shopping so they would drop me off at the library where I would bury myself in the books while sitting on a comfortable chair looking through the wall of glass onto Cane River. To this day, the smell of old books is still one of my favorite things (that and the feel of the book are the only things that make me prefer physical books over my Kindle). After picking out my stack of books I would go to the P & C Rexall Drugstore and get a chocolate ice cream cone (they used a ice cream scoop that made them square) and wait to be picked up, often spending part of the time reading comic books from the stand at the store.
These experience made it into my book, Junebug and the Body, and as I read it over and over doing edits it never failed to bring back those memories. I get the same feelings when I read one of the books that were available at the library. The Henry Reed series, Beverly Cleary's books about Henry Huggins, and, as I grew older, the S.E. Hinton books are sure to trigger memories.
I wonder if the kids raised on Harry Potter will experience the same sense of nostalgia? It is probably more common nowadays for parents to buy books for their children than it is for the kids to go to the library. I can remember every summer there was a reading contest at the public library with a party at the end. The winners, which usually included me (just like Junebug), were presented ribbons.
Harry Potter was the biggest thing to hit the world of children's books EVER but I'm curious to see if that has long term effects on the industry or if children will gradually slide back into the world of video games and television with no time for the heroes of the printed word.
I hope not, because "leaders are readers" and the world is sorely lacking in independent minded imagination right now and we need a generation of people willing to "go on walkabout" and not just be lemmings.
A NOTE TO eBOOK AUTHORS:
When publishing on the Kindle I make it a point to check the box to allow lending and I'd urge you to do the same. As writers we have at least a little duty to try and encourage people to read and some just don't have much extra money now. A plus is that by allowing at least some of your books to be loanedt you can pick up fans.