Chris Wiewiora remembers how, no matter where his missionary parents moved, his mother always had a book with her, and how that literary dedication passed on to him.
In a Crayon drawing on a white sheet of paper, a kid sits on a stack of green, yellow, red, and blue squares. The kid looks at a square held in his hands. A dump truck with a pile of more multi-colored squares in its bed drives toward the kid sitting on the stack. Above the kid and the truck, several diagonal streaks of yellow sunlight cut through a swath of blue sky. At the top of the paper, in no. 2 pencil is the sentence: I’m thankful for intersting Books.
I found that picture in a file drawer at my parents’ house with my passport and a copy of my birth certificate before my move from Orlando, Florida to attend graduate school in Ames, Iowa. I drew that picture and wrote that sentence in second grade. The year before, in first grade at Academy Elementary School in Buckhannon, West Virginia, I had learned to read. But the year that I drew that picture of sitting on a stack of books, reading a book, and having more books delivered to me; I had learned to write at the American School of Warsaw.
My parents had moved our family to Poland because they were missionaries. Over there, on the trams and in taxis, I remember my mom always had a book with her. In the evenings, Mom read to me and had me practice reading to her. By the time my parents moved our family from Poland back to America and settled in Orlando, I was reading fantasy and mystery novels under my desk in public school.
During my sophomore year of college—after I took macroeconomics … twice—I switched majors from business to creative writing. I thought if I liked reading so much then I should try writing. At the time I mostly read novels and short story collections that I checked out on my weekly motorcycle rides to the library. Still, I didn’t know what to write about.
First, I took poetry workshops. The professor said to me, “Write about yourself.” I took her advice and wrote a poem about my heritage in Buckhannon. The professor praised my poem. I went on to write a narrative poetry collection for an undergraduate Honors thesis about being born in West Virginia, growing up in Poland, and then moving to Florida.
After all that, I didn’t feel like a poet. I knew the poems were just scenes from my life. I also took fiction workshops, but I felt my stories’ narrators were really just me or that I forced the plots along. And so I switched to nonfiction.
And now, I write about moments I’ve lived. I enjoy exploring my memories of those moments. Like one of my first attempts of writing being a celebration of reading.
All of this started with a kid sitting on a stack of books.
—Photo slightly everything/Flickr