"Fatso!" "Heifer," and "Lard *ss," were names that followed me through school hallways, the playground and even the classroom growing up.
"Why are you so fat?" a girl asked me one day on the playground. I mumbled something about being big boned and got out of there fast, cheeks stained red, our game forgotten.
Growing up as "the fat kid," was a fate I wouldn't wish on anyone. My heart was broken over and over again when others--especially friends and once even a teacher--commented negatively on my weight.
It did, however, give me two gifts that I'm still grateful for.
The gifts that being "the fat kid" gave me
Firstly, it allowed me to feel complete empathy for others who were left out, picked on, or made fun of. Even after I went through my "transformation," in junior high and lost 60 pounds in about a year, I have never, ever lost that righteous anger I feel for the underdog.
Secondly, it brought me my true passions: reading great books and writing stories. When I read a book, I was no longer the fat kid. I was the hero. I was sometimes beautiful, always strong, and often funny. By putting myself in the place of protagonist, I worked through challenges and hardships. This helped me see some of my own problems in new ways. Or at the very least, helped me to see that other people had it as bad, if not worse, than I did. Their stories provided me with a sense of solidarity.
Stories were important to me. They offered me an escape as well as adventure, love, freedom, hope and power. They're still important to me for these reasons today. I'm guessing that's why they are important for most of us.
I've been writing for as long as I can remember. In my books there is often a theme of social justice or of the empowerment/growth of a particular character. I don't do this purposely. It comes from the way that I've always lived my life.
If I had it to do all over again, would I choose to grow up as the fat kid? If I said "no," then I wouldn't be the person I am today. And we don't get a chance to go back.
So, I'm taking the lessons that I've learned and using them to make my life richer. And I hope that along the way I've encouraged other misfits like me in ways that are real and meaningful to them.
All right fellow booknerds and bookworms: I have a pressing question for you today: what are your special reading habits?
The topic of this post is similar to one I wrote about recently on the blog, "Do You Have a Reading Ritual?" It's also in the same vein as this post, "Do Your Suspense Tastes Change with the Seasons?"
I was inspired to write this post after reading a great one called, "My Reading Habits," over at I Wish I Lived in a Library. Katherine offered some great behind-the-scenes info about her own reading habits. I thought it would be fun to do something similar here.
In no specific order, here are five questions about my own reading habits. Please chime in and share your answers in the comments!
Q1: What time of day is set aside for reading?
A: I have a fifteen-minute block of time after lunch when I most enjoy reading. I have been doing it for years and it is very relaxing. I sip my (decaf) coffee and let go of the morning busyness and just unwind...ahhhh. Lovely!
Q2: Where do you most enjoy reading?
A: I usually read curled up in a corner of the couch. I also like to read in bed before sleeping if I'm not too tired.
Q3: Sticky note, scrap of paper or proper bookmark?
A: Sadly, you'll find the most ugly things marking my place. I have been gifted with pretty, REAL bookmarks over my life, but somehow my books end up with scraps of junk mail, crumpled post-it notes or (ahem) as is the case right now, a piece of a tissue. But at least it's a CLEAN tissue.
Q4: How do you choose your next book to read?
A: This is tricky! I will sometimes pick up a book if it's recommended to me by a friend. I'm also part of a mystery/suspense online readers' group and sometimes I get ideas from there. I also love browsing used book shops and used book sales and admit that I will frequently pick up a book due to its cover.
I went through a minimalism phase where I donated about 75 percent of my books (!). Now I'm back to collecting them, but with care. I still don't like clutter and figure I can get most at the library when I'm ready to read them.
Q5: If you start reading a book and don't like it, do you plow through anyway or give up on it?
A: Give up! This didn't used to be the case though. When I was younger (teens) I would keep going no matter what. But then college came and then work, family and other things that take up my time. Now my reading time is so limited/precious that I will only read things that I really enjoy.
Now it's your turn, readers. Please answer these questions in the comments below. I can't wait to find out more about your reading habits and preferences. :)
Do you have a reading ritual? Maybe it's reading in bed every night before going to sleep, curling up on the couch after work to immerse yourself in a few chapters before making supper or facing the laundry, or sitting on the back deck in warm weather, soaking up sunshine and words at the same time.
I'd love to hear about your favorite reading spot, and what other "accessories" you use to enjoy it even more. Whether that's a big, fluffy pillow to lean on, a warm, cozy quilt to snuggle under, or a particular beverage to have in hand, please share in the comments.
I recently read this blog on reading rituals while researching what other readers/writers had to say on the subject. I do not think I'd like to keep spreadsheets and publication lists for my reading ventures, would you? As a side note: I guess there really is a downside to being in publishing ... and here I thought that people who got to read all day had a dream career!
My Reading Rituals
Here's a peek into my reading rituals: I start my day with quiet and time for prayer/reflection. This is done EARLY in the morning, around 5 or 5:30 when I wake up. I usually do read during this time (my Bible and/or another inspirational text). Then, it's on with my busy day.
If it's a work-from-home day, I read for about 15 minutes on the couch while enjoying a cup of coffee as part of my lunch break. Then, if I'm lucky, I try to squeeze in another 10-15 minutes of reading in bed before turning the light off. With a busy little boy in the house, it's not likely I'll get another chance to read, unless I skip hanging out with my husband to do so after our son is in bed. I go to bed early (usually by 9:30!). I wish that I was someone who could get by on less sleep. :)
Please tell me about your reading habits and rituals in the comments.
Welcome to my office! Were you picturing something dark and creepy? :) This is where I write. I love the light that comes in the only window, which looks out over the front yard. I can watch the birds flying into and out of the big pine tree nearby, or the cars driving up and down our street (I prefer the birds).
While I don't have a set writing schedule, I'm experimenting this year with some new ideas. One is writing to a word count with fiction (I have been using my 15-minute writing method for so long that I honestly forgot that I can write longer now that my work schedule has changed!). This morning I wrote about 1,500 words on a fun, new project. I'm not sure it will ever make it into a book or even see the light of day, but I'm really enjoying it.
You might notice that there are a lot of old things in my office (or reproductions of old things). I definitely love things that have history and patina. I'm happy when I get to explore junk shops or antique stores ... all those stories!
I wouldn't exactly say that this office is "where the magic happens," because honestly? A writer's work from the outside is yawn-inducing. There is a reason that they don't let us on shows like "American Idol." Still, I love my little space and am grateful for it.
How to get to September without saying, “Oh, crap, I never got a chance to _____”
Don’t worry, I'm not going to guilt you into doing extra writing this summer, taking on yet another book club or making a promise to finish your manuscript before September.
By "count" what I really mean is "live."
I was listening to an interesting podcast the other day on Hopologie and the topic was none other than changing one's rhythm for summer.
This got me thinking: how can I make sure that I don't miss out on the things I love most about summer, while still producing well-written articles for clients and work on my next novel?
I thought about this as I kneaded a batch of bread dough. I love making bread for my family--a recipe and skill learned at my mother's elbow when I was five. But I haven't made any in months. Why? Because it's "too much work," and I'm "too busy," and besides, isn't it easier to just toss a loaf into the cart every week while getting the other groceries?
But here's an important lesson that this particular warm, yeasty ball of dough taught me: sometimes it’s worth the extra time and effort to do something that brings you joy.
Is it easier to grab a loaf of bread at the store? Yes. But I miss out on the creative magic of putting together five simple ingredients and watching them transform into crusted, golden loaves.
5 gentle suggestions to make your summer count
What did I miss? What items are “must do’s” on your summer list?
Welcome to the website of author J.P. Choquette (pronounced, "show-kett"). Join the Reader Group and nab a free short story, along with the latest news, goodies, upcoming event announcements and more.
Already read a book? Have you checked out her other suspense novels?