Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Reader's Story by Finegan Kruckemeyer

Before I was a writer, I was a reader, and thought that words and stories were things for taking in, instead of sending out.  I ate up stories as fast as I could find them, and enjoyed rainy days as much as sunny ones because of this.  Which was good, because I grew up in the south of Ireland, and there were a lot of rainy days.

The author as a young boy

Then at age eight, my family and I flew halfway around the world to Australia, and started a new life here. There was a new school and new friends and a new park right across the road, and all us local kids played outside a lot, so I started enjoying sunny days as much as rainy ones.  But always the love of words remained.

Sometimes their magic was revealed to me by others – like the day someone told me to spell RACECAR backwards and see what it made.

And sometimes the magic revealed itself – like the day my wife Essie gave me a card saying ‘SEE LEAF FALL’. And I stared at those words for a while, until they had shuffled around to say: ‘FEEL ALL SAFE’. And I did.

Sometimes you and a friend can end up saying exactly the same sentence at exactly the same time, and it makes you both laugh big wonderful laughs.

Helena and the Journey of the Hello, Terrapin Puppet Theatre

And sometimes you read a book, and hear an idea about the world explained back to you, in a way that makes perfectly perfect sense. And all you’re looking at are some inky lines on a page. And those lines have been stuck together to make letters, those letters words, those words sentences. And that author has never ever met you – but somehow those words, those letters, those inky lines, they forget to be as simple as that. And instead they make you put the book down on your lap, lean your head back in your chair and look at the ceiling and think: ‘Yes. Yes that is exactly the way the world is’.

Some people have been so scared of the power of stories, that they have burnt books.

And some others have been so sure of the power of stories, that they have remembered them over thousands of years. They have passed them on without paper or pencil, from the mouth of a grandparent to the ear of a child – so that some stories have lasted longer than the countries they exist in.

It is hard to believe that once upon a time, before words, a thing had to be seen (‘there is a stream full of fish’) to exist. And if you wanted someone else to know about that thing, you had to take them there and point (‘here is a stream full of fish’). But then along came language, and suddenly a picture in your head, could be carried many miles, and then shared with a person (‘over those hills is a stream full of fish’). Suddenly we could be amazed not just by what we could see (because not everyone can get everywhere, to see everything). Instead, we could be amazed by what we were invited to imagine. We could be amazed from afar.

So for all these reasons and a million more, I read, and I write.

Staring Up at Sea (Currency Press, 2013)

And sometimes I teach. And what I teach is that absolutely anyone can become a writer, if they want to. All you need to do is love words, and love stories, and decide that the ones you’ve been reading are good, but that there’s one story slowing forming in your brain which you can’t seem to find in any book you open. If that happens, then maybe it’s your turn to write it down, and to share those words with people. Because that’s the best thing about words – they’re great for sharing.

About the Author 

Finegan Kruckemeyer is a playwright who has had 63 commissioned plays (mostly for children) performed on five continents, and was an inaugural recipient of the Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship.  This year, 18 works have been presented on five continents and in four languages.

"In terms of my childhood reads, I loved (and continue to love) everything by Maurice Sendak, Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner, Tim to the Lighthouse by Edward Ardizzone, all Roald Dahl's books and many more, by many more."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Finegan. I loved reading this story.

    I looked at the ceiling and thought: ‘Yes. Yes that is exactly what good writing does’ and I got a little teary at the thought of book burning and the horror that goes with that and even more teary at the thought that some stories have lasted longer than the countries they exist in because it brought home to me that our stories are our collective memories, the things that connect us to each other and we pass down to the next generation to love and look after for the generation after that.

    Everyone can tell stories, I agree. But not everyone tells them as well as Finegan and, the next best thing - if writing is not your skill, is to be a good reader so you can recognise a good story and remember to tell again and again so that story continues through the ages.