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Returning to My Literary Roots, Part II

Shakespeare was my first literary love.

I was 8 when my grandmother and I read Macbeth aloud together, sitting at the dining-room table of the house that holds my most vivid childhood memories, bright sunlight streaming through the window as I encountered that grim but glorious material for the first time.

This is the very book from which we read, my grandmother and I, this book bedecked with working designs, such as this image, drawn by Michael Ayrton and John Minton, from which a costume would be fashioned that Lady MacDuff might clothed be.

I was hooked.

After that, I sought out the Bard at every opportunity. By high school, I had absorbed Shakespeare’s sentence structure deeply; I was more comfortable with a sentence containing four or five clauses than my teachers.

As I proceeded through my academic career and especially during my time as a lawyer, my writing changed. I retreated from my literary use of language. By the time I left legal practice, I had developed a dry and unambiguous style, a style that was working against me as I struggled to write a fantastical novel.

This fall, I started working through a dvd-based course entitled Building Great Sentences. The instructor loves and encourages long, cumulative sentences. As I started working with the materials, it was as if a flood gate had been opened. Complex, flowing sentences of greater than average length started appearing throughout my work. The early influence of Shakespeare and my grandmother had been sleeping, but no longer.

Several of Shakespeare's plays in the Folio Society edition from the 1950s. There were several complete collections of Shakespeare's plays and poetry in my parent's house, but this edition was my favourite because of the heavy paper, elegant type, and evocative production design drawings.

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Returning to My Literary Roots, Part I

I’m at my parents’ house for a few days. The books of my childhood surround me. Browsing the shelves, deciding which books to bring to my children’s attention, I am deep in my own literary memories.

Yesterday, I found this book.


I don’t remember anything about the story, but I remember a creative project inspired by it, or at least by the cover. I had forgotten this book was the inspiration until I saw it again. But, the project itself is one of those half-finished projects from my past that still haunts me.

For class (fourth grade, Mrs. Voake, one of my most inspirational teachers), I made a map of an island country, Gingericana, where every geographic feature was named after a spice. In my imagination, stories about the peoples of this land were writing themselves, but I never made time to get them down on paper. Over the past few years, I have considered revisiting this world to write stories for my children.

I don’t know if I will.

In the meantime, however, I plan to reread the book. I am curious to see whether I recognize the story within the cover.

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