Ruth from Deerfield,Illinois

How Has the Library Changed My Life?;  Reading, Writing, and Reinventing Myself

I have a confession. I'm one of those mothers who took her kids to the library just to get out of the house.

When my two daughters were very young, our local library was a source of entertainment, socialization, and frankly, a refuge. We visited the Skokie Public Library weekly, sometimes more, to borrow books and videos, meet friends, and get out of the house on a rainy day. Occasionally I'd check out a book for myself, but who was I kidding? I'd stopped reading books that didn't rhyme at the same time I'd stopped wearing pants without an elastic waistband.

But one day in the spring of 1999, a poster at the library caught my eye. A series of lectures called "Inside Writing and Publishing" was being held at several local libraries, including mine. No purple dinosaurs. No weird wiggling singers. Just grownups, discussing writing. I was intrigued.

The only session I could fit into my schedule would be held the following Sunday afternoon:  A local author, discussing how she sold several stories to the popular "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series. On a whim, I added my name to the registration list.

My husband offered to take the girls to the park so I could attend, and as I sat in the conference room listening to the speaker discuss her work, I felt a bug coming on. But this wasn't the kind of bug that sweeps through the house resulting in piles of smelly laundry. What I felt was the writing bug.

Heck, this woman had several kids and still managed to find time to write and publish her stories. Could I do it, too?

I took the author's suggestion, bought a notebook, and started writing while my daughters napped. On our next visit to the library, I ventured out of the children's section and borrowed a few of the writing books she'd recommended. When the local community college catalog landed in my mailbox, I knew what I wanted to do. What I needed to do.

I signed up for a class on writing for children. After all, I was already immersed in the world of picture books, so I assumed it would be easy. I quickly learned this is a mistake many beginning writers make. Actually, writing for children is one of the hardest forms to master. It wasn't easy, but I loved it.

Leaving the house for class with my notebook and pencil was invigorating, a feeling I had long forgotten. Within a few weeks I was regularly turning out stories and poems. I was creative. I was funny. I was hooked.

Once I started writing, I found I couldn't stop. I submitted my articles and essays, and eventually sold them to local, then national magazines. I entered writing contests, and even won a few. This spring, one of my essays appears in The Right Words at the Right Time, Book 2, edited by Marlo Thomas.

But the biggest thrill was receiving a call from an editor in New York, offering me a contract - my first children's book will be published next year!

Even after that first day, my library continued to make my dreams a possibility, and then a reality. It was there I found all the resources I needed:  Knowledgeable staff, back issues of magazines for research, and even the ability to borrow a book from another library halfway across the state.

Sitting in on that lecture at the library may have been a whim, but writing has become my passion. Since catching the writing bug at the "Inside Writing and Publishing" lecture, my life has moved in a completely new direction.

How has the library changed my life?

Here's a scenario I never would have imagined even a few years ago:  I picture a young mother, visiting the library with her kids on a rainy day. She picks up a book, gathers her children on her lap, and begins to read. And this time, the book she's reading is mine.