NY Times bestselling author Kim Edwards has written a number of short stories as well as two novels, THE MEMORY KEEPER'S DAUGHTER and her latest, THE LAKE OF DREAMS. She has received many accolades for her work, including The Kentucky Literary Award, The British Book Award, and The Whiting Writer's Award. Here she talks about her lifelong passion for books and some occasions on which she has received them as gifts.
I loved books as a child, and stories. Before I could read myself, my mother read to me every afternoon. She had been a kindergarten teacher and she helped me make books too, writing down the stories I told and letting me illustrate them. Whether reading or writing, for me it was always magic, the chance to enter into a world beyond the one I could see. Years later, when my oldest daughter discovered books and spent her entire summer on the porch swing, her languid afternoons full of stories, I saw my childhood repeated.
Growing up, the only other person in my family who loved books as much as I did was my grandmother, my father’s mother. I don’t remember talking with her very much, but I knew she loved me because I’d often look up from playing and catch her watching me intently, a smile on her face. There were books everywhere when we visited her house, and I always felt connected to her because we shared this same passion for words. One year, when I was quite small, she left presents under our tree a few days before Christmas. From its shape and heft, I knew mine was a book --- a hardcover book, mysterious in its wrapping. I saved it for last on Christmas morning, and when I pulled the paper off I saw it was a chapter book with a pale green cover called THE FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS. I treasured the book, this gift from my grandmother, and I have it still.
Another Christmas, when I was a little older, my brothers and I woke up about 4:00 am and slipped into the living room, where we found a pile of huge boxes. We’d pulled the paper off one and gotten a glimpse inside before our parents heard us and shooed us back to bed. Books! The huge boxes were full of books. I could hardly sleep for the excitement of it. When we finally got up, we rushed to the boxes and delved inside, pulling out encyclopedias, volume after volume, from A-Z. The sheer magnitude was impressive. They took residence in a glass-covered bookshelf, and over the next few years I had fun exploring the pages. I especially remember the drawings of the human body, with a series of transparent overlays that showed the circulatory system, muscles, organs. And I loved that each volume began with the history of the letter of the alphabet it represented. I studied those shapes, swirls and dashes that morphed into the letters I recognized, and understood that the stories of the world had begun long before my own.
Those handmade books I’d made, the stories written in my mother’s neat handwriting, the crayoned pictures I drew, soon came to represent a dream. I wanted to write books, and to live a life surrounded by books and stories. There’s no path for such a life, and finding my way took lots of trial and error, some wonderful mentors, and many, many years of disciplined work. When the first copy of my first book arrived I carried it with me for days, unable to believe it, really, unable let it go.
Last week I was invited to the Kentucky Book Fair, a wonderful gathering of authors, books, and readers. Many people come each year to do their holiday shopping, and they leave with as many books as they can carry, each containing an imagined world, tethered in words, in stories. I sat for several hours, talking with people and signing copies, feeling a great pleasure to think of my books beneath so many Christmas trees, wrapped and waiting, gifts.
My grandmother, I think, would be happy, too.
Read more about Kim Edwards on her website www.kimedwardsbooks.com