07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mom, Grandma, and Jane Austen

Strong women? Women who've influenced me? So many spring to mind, from my personal life, from history, and from the literary pantheon. But if I'm honest, there are three that stand out and impact who I am, what I love, and how I live my life more than any others.

My grandmother, Phyllis, took care of me when I was little while my mother, Linda, worked. Those two women, one who worked inside the home and one who worked outside of it, are an integral part of who I am today. I still struggle to balance those two identities within myself, with a deep yearning to be a homemaker and a real necessity to be a wage earner. Despite all their other responsibilities, my mom and grandma taught me, loved me, and prepared me for how I should interact with the world.

My grandmother gave me one of the greatest gifts of all. She taught me the alphabet and helped me learn to read. Later, she indulged my love of books and bought them for me regularly. My mother also encouraged my love of reading and let me fill our house with more books than anyone believed I would ever be able to read. Okay, there might still be a few back in Indiana that I have yet to read from cover to cover.

Mom wrote stories. She wrote them out in a steno notebook, but she never made any fuss about them or mentioned a desire to be published. Still, I can’t help thinking that seeing her write had something to do with the young girl I became, a child who spent an inordinate amount of time banging out stories on her mother’s green Hermes typewriter.

Somewhere amidst typed up stories and reading my way through the pile of books I’d found at the library or Goodwill, I came across Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I was in my early teens. I wanted to be Elizabeth Bennet and I wanted her to fall in love with Mr. Darcy. While reading his first proposal scene, I remember feeling a burning in my chest, as if my own heart was breaking rather than his. That was the moment I knew I had to become a romance writer.

Later, in studying all of Austen’s works and her life, I came to admire the woman as much as her writing. She was a diligent writer who believed in her work. She made sacrifices for her writing; some might say too many. She was a brilliant writer who has taught me more about characterization than any craft book I have ever read. And most importantly, her stories always have a happy ending.

If my writing life and my personal life have a happy ending, I know it will be because of the choices I make and the work I do. However, there are three women who influence those choices and my drive to tell stories. My gratitude goes to Mom, Grandma, and Jane Austen.

Who taught you to read or to write? Did they influence you to become a book lover or a writer?


Sarah Raplee said...

Christy, what a wonderful triumvirate of inspiration! As to who taught me to read,I must give credit to my older brother. The summer before Kindergarden, Jack was sick in bed for a few days. A soon-to-be second grader, he passed the time teaching me to read.

both my parents and my older brother and sister were readers. I'm sure that influenced my love of reading.

Christy Carlyle said...

Thank you for your comment, Sarah! That's a wonderful story about your brother teaching you to read. It's not great that he was sick, of course, but his desire to share his own knowledge is such a sweet slice of your personal history.

My grandpa, Phyllis' husband, was the big reader in my family. He definitely taught me the value of books and inspired my love of reading.

Robin Weaver said...

Hi Christy,

Nice post. Jane A was an interesting woman, wasn't she?

Christy said...

Thanks for reading my post and commenting. She was an interesting woman. I've read all the novels several times over, but I also have a volume of her letters and they are just as entertaining. She continually inspires me, and I fall in love with her novels and characters again each time I read them.

Paty Jager said...

Nice tribute to your grandmother, mother and Jane Austen.

I learned to read at the age of four when my brother was learning to read in first grade. I sat beside him every night as he practice and began reading at the age of five. Once I found stories in books that could take me to other places and feel things through other people, I was hooked on reading.

Judith Ashley said...

I come from a family of readers in that both my Mom and Dad and Grandparents (we lived with my maternal grandparents during WWII) had bookcases filled with all kinds of books. I was reading before I started first grade and have been a voracious reader ever since (well, not so much in college where once I finished classwork reading I was pretty much done).

To this day I seldom leave the house without a book stuck in my purse. Never know when there'll be that extra time for a few pages or chapter!