Thursday, September 6, 2012

Guest blogger: Sharon Short

We at Fine Print are very excited to bring a series of posts by local authors. We have asked them to share their thoughts about their favorite book, something they've read recently, or the role reading has played in their lives. Sharon Short is the author of the forthcoming (Penguin Plume, 2013) novel, My One Square Inch of Alaska, in which a pair of siblings escape the strictures of the 1950s industrial Ohio town on the adventure of a lifetime. Sharon's book Sanity Check: A Collection of Columns includes 100 reader-favorites of her weekly humor and lifestyle column that ran in the Dayton Daily News from 2002-2012.Sharon has also published two mystery series (Josie Toadfern and Patricia Delaney) as well as short stories and essays. Additionally, Sharon is the Literary Life columnist for the Dayton Daily News, directs the renowned Antioch Writers' Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and is an adjunct instructor of creative writing and composition at Antioch University Midwest. She lives in Ohio with her husband and is the mother of two college-age daughters. You can visit her website, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Sharon Short  will be one of the authors featured at A Tasting With Friends at Benham's Grove on September 13. For more information on this event or to buy tickets, check out this page.

My dad still chuckles about keeping a box in the front seat of his truck so that on his way to work he could return all the books I'd checked out from the public library. From my elementary school library, I received an award for checking out more books than any other kid; that was at the 200 book mark and I was in third grade. I'm sure by the time I finished elementary school, I'd read every book available. Another strong memory: my paternal grandmother giving me a box of goodies from the charity shop where she worked. It contained a fabulous pair of yellow shoes, and many books.

To say that I was a voracious reader as a child and that reading shaped my life from the beginning would be an understatement. Books that stand out from my childhood include Mystery of Hopkins Island (in that box with the yellow shoes) because it was about a teenaged writer who won an island--an island!--off the coast of Maine, went there with her siblings, solved a mystery, and found romance; Harriet the Spy, a classic that I read 13 times in a row, because I so wanted to have Harriet's moxie; all of the novels by Laura Ingalls Wilder (for example, Little House on the Prairie) and Louisa May Alcott (for example, Little Women), because I loved travelling back in time with these strong, young women; and Around The World in Eighty Days, because I yearned for adventure. Another novel that captured my imagination as a young reader was My Petition for More Space, a dystopian futuristic novel that made me realize that in addition to providing hours of imaginary adventure and intrigue, stories could serve as powerful vehicles for social and philosophical commentary.

As a teen, I was a fan of John Steinbeck and Ray Bradbury. I still am. I love books by many other writers as well. I'm certain my desire to write sprang, in part, from my love of reading. I barely and only vaguely remember an early time in my life before I was reading and writing; for most of my life, both have been as natural (and necessary) to me as breathing.

The other day, I heard an NPR interview with Thom Steinbeck, son of John. Thom said that he was about 13 when he asked his father what writers do. John Steinbeck answered that "the good ones reconnect human beings with their humanity." That summary rang so true for me as a reader. As a writer, I humbly hope I come close to achieving, in some fashion, that ideal.

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