By Stacey Horan, author and speaker
I didn’t meet an actual, real-life author until I was an adult. Looking back to when I was a kid in school, I don’t know how I thought books were made. Did they just magically appear on the shelves of my local library or school classroom? I don’t remember ever giving it much thought, and I’m sure I never thought about the people who wrote them.
What I do know is that I never thought I would write a book…until one day I did. Bored with my job and desperate for something creative to do, I started writing. That was over fifteen years (and five books) ago.
I never planned to be a writer when I was a kid. I never thought of it as a real profession. I didn’t see it as art. I didn’t understand that it was a calling. As I mentioned, I never gave it much thought, and that realization struck me as I stood in front of a cafeteria full of students at West Nassau High School.
My book, Sycamore Lane, had been selected for WNHS as part of the AIBF’s Authors in Schools Program for 2019. I arrived at the school, ready to talk about my book and writing in general. But what happened next changed everything for me.
I discovered that some of the teachers had taught my book in their English classes. They had written quotes from my book on the boards in their rooms. They had discussed my story at length with their students, and I worried whether they would know my book better than I did.
I remember one teacher quoting a line from my book back to me, and I thought, “Did I write that?” For a few seconds, I couldn’t remember writing the book at all, let alone recall any particular line from it. What I thought was going to be a simple presentation about my book, which I assumed very few students had actually read, turned into something much bigger.
On that day, I was an author of a book that the students of West Nassau High School had read in class. I felt the weight of that responsibility, and it was a pivotal point in my own writing journey. I confess that some of the details of that day are a blur, because I felt so awestruck and overwhelmed. I do remember meeting many students and teachers who asked me questions about my book, who shared their thoughts on my story and who told me about their own writing ambitions. I was humbled by their enthusiasm, honored to represent the AIBF and hopeful that I did justice to the calling of author.
I wish I had met an author when I was a kid in school. I wish I had seen someone do what I now know to be the best job in the world. I am grateful that I stumbled upon writing when I did, but I wonder what would have been different if I had started writing earlier. What books would I have written in those intervening years? What stories would I have shared?
If even one child who meets an author through the AIBF Authors in Schools program goes on to write a book or a poem or a play, the world becomes a better place for it. As authors, the best legacy we can hope to leave is not a shelf full of published works but a new generation of writers who, in turn, will go on to inspire the generations that follow. Just think of all of those books, all of those poems, all of those stories waiting to be written. And, if we are lucky, we will get to read them.