Passing it on

I collect books - what writer doesn't? I fill the shelves and love to look at the colors of the spines and typography of the titles, remembering when I heard this poet read, or sat on a workshop led by that fiction writer.
So it's tough to give up a book. I lend with reluctance...knowing that books, once loosed, tend to be like wandering hounds, always headed for the next porch down the road.
But sometimes the book and the person come together. One young man went away with my (third) copy of Breece D'J Pancake's stories, and told me it changed his life. That book didn't come back, but it is where it needs to be. I'll get another.
A couple of weeks ago, a former student stopped by my office at North Carolina A&T State University. She had just landed a job as a schoolteacher, and one of her new duties would be teaching some creative writing.
"I don't know where to start," she admitted.
I rolled back to the bookshelves that loom ominously behind my desk (I wonder if they will topple over in an earthquake or just from misplaced weight) and pulled a thin book from the ranks. Meredith Sue Willis, a writer I knew from way back when in Shinnston, WV, had written a small volume of exercises for middle school students called Blazing Pencils. I've had the book for decades, use it sometimes, but mostly like to have its bright cover there next to other writing texts.
"Try this," I said. "This will get you started."
She went away with a smile on her face and maybe a bit less stress about the first day of school. so the book is where it needs to be.
Now about that copy of Kafka on the Shore that a former student left with me and never returned to get - the one that made me fall in love with Murakami....







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