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Posted in Uncategorized on July 2, 2013
A post I wrote for The Booksellers New Zealand Blog in 2011
When I was 16 I read The World According to Garp for English class. That was the beginning, the beginning of the somewhat inexplicable influence of authors named John on my life. In the ensuing three years I read every John Irving novel I could get my hands on. I noticed trends in his writing, symbols and recurring themes; but mostly I just revelled in his stories, which were at times heart-rending, and often full of entrancing bizarreness.
In 2008 I encountered another essential authorial John when I picked up a Popular Penguin edition of Rabbit, Run. Since then I’ve delved further into the Rabbit series, Memories of the Ford Administration, Marry Me, and a shelf-full of others. Updike was the first author to convince me that, if well written enough, I could truly, viscerally, love a character who is devoid of any positive personality traits. This…
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Reading: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Last night I attended the second night of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour — so many inspiring and frightening videos of people doing things they love. I’ve never really been into “extreme” athletics — it took me until university to really become interested in any “sports” other than marching band — but since hitting my mid-twenties I have become increasingly more involved in outdoor sports. I guess this could be traced as far back as hiking at girl scout camp in elementary school, but is probably more to do with two week-long trips across Isle Royale National Park as a teenager. These trips to the beautiful island in the middle of Lake Superior were my first experiences of finding my body’s limits and having no choice but to push past them.
Many adherents of extreme sports seem to face this idea and become, for lack of a better word, addicted to it. Not so in my case. Becoming athletic has, until recently, been an uphill battle. Most of my exercise has always been as a result of wanting to learn a new skill (Fencing, Archery, Kung Fu and, more recently, Muay Thai) or have an experience (kayaking in Homer Alaska, backpacking in Denali National Park). I can certainly thank Muay Thai for the fact that I am currently the fittest I have ever been, fit enough that other sports which I have always found intimidating or horrible to experience have become fun, mainly because I am no longer automatically terrible at them. Hill running is the latest in this list. Even with a good baseline fitness I had to struggle a bit to build myself up for it. Having the motivation of an experienced hill-running partner was a big help and I soon discovered that the freedom I felt in the ease of running down from the hill top was enough to push me up it in the first place. Since then I have tackled two more challenging hills in the very hilly Wellington and am feeling consistently better about my running. Long may it last.
One of the funny things about living the life of an aspiring writer is that new hobbies and new experiences in one’s life almost always make it into future work. My experiences with fencing, archery, horseback riding and martial arts inform many of my combat scenes, as well as the training ethos of characters who live soldiering and travelling lifestyles. Knowing what it’s like to run over a distance has been a help writing certain scenes in my current manuscript. It will be interesting to see if hill running works its way in as well.