I sit in the hard chair and fidget. Glance at the clock. Daft! Only five minutes until the bell rings and I have three questions to go on the English quiz. Okay, on to question number eight. I know it says number eight, but I’ve no idea what it asks.
The first word is what.
What does eht—oops that’s ‘the’—what does the t.e.a.c.h.e.r. What does the teacher say ot—no that’s ‘to’—What does the teacher say to Mr. Smith?
I know that one!
I write out the answer, hope it’s readable, and glance at the clock again. Ah! Two minutes left.
It’s multiple choice.
Question’s something about the a.n.t.a.g.o.n.i.s.t. The what?
Answer’s most likely C. I circle C and quickly pick C again on question number ten just as the bell rings.
I hate 7th grade!
The next day my English teacher passes out our quizzes. That’s a “C” written in red at the top right corner of my paper.
Thank God I passed!
But now comes the humiliating part. We go over the quiz.
As always happens, if I had read numbers three, four, and seven correctly, I could have aced the quiz, but thirty minutes wasn’t long enough for me to read the ten questions, much less answer them.
I’m not dyslexic. Oh no, they tested for that. They tested for all sorts of learning disorders but never came up with an answer as to why I can’t read like the rest of the students. Basically, they have no idea what’s wrong with me. That doesn’t change anything. I’ve still a third grade reading level, in seventh grade.
Then my sister’s boyfriend hands me a book. He’s cool, just like her, and I’m too ashamed to tell him I can’t read it.
The author is David Eddings.
The genre’s Fantasy.
Fantasy never interested me before because that section of the library boasted giant thousand-page books. But Nick was going to ask me if I’m reading it, so I sit down to agonize over each word.
Something clicked. To this day, I can’t say what. I’d agonized over stories before and it wasn’t like I didn’t want to read. In fact, I’d wanted to read since my sister started. She was smart and cool, and a bookworm extraordinaire!
But something about that book finally did it. I no longer saw the words. I was riding through the story beside Sparhawk and companions…
It took me a few months to get through The Elenium and The Tamuli (two of Edding’s series). Six books! I’d never read so much and liked it.
I asked Nick for more to read and he handed me Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World. We’re talking about a 14 book series where each book is in the 800-1000 page range.
But I loved it! I struggled, skipped words I didn’t know, went back to figure them out, struggled some more and was transported to another world. I went from a third grade reading level to post grad in a matter of a year.
There’s a quote by Carl Sagan that says, “Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
I know this magic and I want to create it. And, because Fantasy was what first showed me this magic, it forever stole my heart.
This is why I write. I love the magic that takes a dusty old tomb of paper and ink and creates vibrant worlds. I love it all the more because of the struggle to be able to enjoy it. And I know I’m not the only one who has faced that struggle.
To this day I second guess my spelling, tumble over words, and occasionally flip ‘the’, ‘to’, ‘it’—any short word possible. (It’s never the long words for some reason). But who cares? There are worlds to create and magic to perform.
P.S. Here’s my website if you’d like to explore more there. jenniferzeiger.com