Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Elegy for Paper

September 15, 2011

I was reflecting recently on how the business of writing, like so much else, has changed drastically over the past couple decades. I thought it might be fun to set down on this electronic page some memories I have of a world that has vanished.

I came of age as a writer in that brief day of the word processor. Does anyone remember that? It wasn’t a computer, yet it blew typewriters out of the water. It was a bulky machine that covered half the desktop, with a screen that swung up from its closed position against the keyboard to show about eight or ten lines of text — dark green against light green or dark gray against light gray, depending on how bright the environment was. It had one font unless you changed the plastic snap-in print wheel. I think I had two or three of those; but there was no way to get, for example, one word in a line to be in a different font (like this).

Still, I thought it was the greatest invention ever! I’d used a manual typewriter as a kid, an electric typewriter through college, and this machine was WAY better than those — I could correct typos or revise without once committing the text to a printed page, and when I printed, the manuscript would be glorious! I could store documents to be printed again — yes, to be printed all over again, without re-typing them! It sounds so laughable now. But then, these were miracles of technology. The tools of the writer had taken a quantum leap forward, and we could focus on the writing, not on the physical chores. We wondered how Tolkien, Dickens, and others had managed without these things.

There’s a quote from Mark Twain that gets reprinted now and then in the trade magazines. He’s waxing enthusiastic about the marvelous new device that allows you to get your words onto the paper as fast as you can think them. It sounds for all the world like he’s talking about a computer — or a word processor, if you read the reprint back in the eighties — but the machine he’s raving about is the new-fangled manual typewriter.

I wonder if the document survives in which some long-ago scribe is singing the praises of the miraculous new ball-point pen . . . or the fountain pen, the quill, or the hammer-and-chisel.

But back to my reminiscences: in that word-processor “era,” I was convinced that I would never need a computer. They were fine for the math and science people, but for those who wanted to write, the word processor was clearly superior. The WP produced documents that looked nice, as if they’d come from a typewriter; the computer, on the other hand, spewed ugly dot-matrix printouts, faint and rudimentary, with holes along the sides of the paper. Bleah! What serious writer would ever need a computer?

But as wonderful an electronic gadget as the WP was, we were still standing firmly in the world of paper documents. The function of the WP, remember, was to produce beautiful typewritten pages. Real pages. Paper pages. The WP didn’t connect to an invisible, interconnected world — for that matter, neither did computers quite yet.

I remember that one day my mom couldn’t get the document she was working on to save onto the diskette. (There was no hard drive: any saving you did was onto a little disk. I didn’t know you could save things onto a computer’s hard drive until several years after I’d started using one.) That was a moment of techno-glory for me, because I figured out the problem and solved it. The paper label that came inside the slipcase with every diskette had gone into the disk drive with the diskette but not come out again. The label was forming a physical barrier between the diskette and the drive’s reader. I discovered the paper in there, fished it out, and boy, was I proud of myself!

Paper . . . and my mom . . . Mom was a great conserver of paper. She would go through every piece of junk mail and save any sheet, large or small, that had a blank side. These would go into her stack of scratch paper beside her elbow at the kitchen table. They became her notepads for jotting ideas and rough drafts of stories or articles, usually early in the morning or late at night, when she had the kitchen to herself. Regulation-sized scratch paper, such as the blank backs of outdated manuscripts, occupied a drawer in her office, and would become the tablet for new, typed rough drafts.

And envelopes! Mom would save envelopes that came in the mail, too. Why, all they needed was a scratching-out of the old addresses, and they could serve again. All through college and my Japan years, I received weekly letters from home, invariably in second-service envelopes. For Christmas or her birthday, I would often give Mom boxes of brand-new business-sized or manila envelopes (a great present for a writer, and she loved getting them) — but I could probably count on one hand the times she used a new envelope out of the box. I’m sure it felt horrible to her, like shooting a buffalo and taking its skin, leaving the carcass to rot.

Mom even used recycled manila envelopes for story submissions to editors. Once a Cricket editor complimented her on her recycling.

The value was certainly passed along to me; that’s the way I did things, too. When it was time to submit a story to a magazine, I’d go to the cabinet, which was chock-full of used envelopes of every size. I’d look for two cleanish, respectable ones, make sure the old addresses were obliterated, and dutifully make my self-addressed stamped envelope to go inside my outbound submission. SASE . . . I wonder if writers younger than thirty have even heard that term? There was IRC, too, after I went to Japan: international reply coupon.

How did you find places to submit stories in the pre-Internet world? Well, you scanned the Markets sections in Writer’s Digest and The Writer. You made trips to the library and paged through Writer’s Market and Literary Marketplace. That last one is where I located the address for Arkham House, and Dragonfly finally found a home.

I loved printing out and signing those cover letters. I loved the heft of the hard-copy story and the taste of envelope glue (previously licked by who knows whom). I loved the drive to the post office and the satisfaction of plunking down a little money and watching the postmaster drop the story into the outbound bin.

But even more, I love how that era made us appreciate the mail. When stories were out on submission, I’d go to the mailbox with such anticipation, just waiting for that response from an editor. I guess the memory is colored by the fact of how young I was, dwelling in that magical time when I had yet to receive a single acceptance, and any day, the mail might change my life forever. The fondness is tied up with childhood and youth, checking a mailbox in the shade of great oak trees, with dogs around my feet, on halcyon summer days when my parents were hale and the world stretched limitless and kind before me.

To discover a heavy manila envelope in the box was bittersweet: you knew at once that the editor had returned the manuscript, but there might be an encouraging note inside, a request to try the magazine again with something else, and that took away much of the sting.

Better by far was a small, light envelope from the magazine’s office . . . not a recycled SASE in your own handwriting, but a new, crisp envelope, some pristine thing never before glimpsed, perhaps fallen from Heaven — because such an envelope couldn’t possibly contain your manuscript. It could only hold a letter saying “We here at *** have all read and loved your story, and we would be delighted to publish it.”

Ah, the age of paper! It was slower; it taught us patience. Yet patience is a quality that, as a writer, I’m glad I learned.

A writer friend of mine made the point not long ago that in a few hundred years, no one will be able to access the electronic data that we in the present are producing. Who among us now could go home and play back the music on an eight-track tape, watch a movie on a Beta cassette, or recover my first novel from those Smith Corona Power Word Processor diskettes? If our descendants don’t have the exact hardware we’re using today, where will our data be? And what’s the life expectancy of hardware these days?

For his epitaph, John Keats wrote, “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” Brothers and sisters, we are writing our legacy in water. It is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

Even now I save pieces of junk mail for memos. Still it hurts me to print on clean, new paper without a Very Good Reason. Still I don’t sleep well unless a manuscript — or even a manuscript-in-progress — is printed out (on scratch paper until it’s ready to go out and make good impressions). Here in the gentle light of my workspace, there will always be a place for paper. He is an old friend; and old friendships, as they say, are golden.

The One Thing Wrong With Your Writing

September 8, 2011

Hello, all! Mr. Brian Wasko, founder of, ran my essay as a guest post on his blog today! If you’re interested, please check it out at:

(If there’s a new post up by the time you get there, just scroll back until you find me.) This will also give you a look at the company I’ve started working for. They provide writing instruction and encouragement to (primarily) homeschooled students. Brian does an incredible job of updating his blog nearly every day. He discusses all sorts of interesting issues related to writing and the use of English — well worth following, even if I weren’t a guest there!

Thanksgiving Weekend — Thoughts

November 24, 2010

Okay, it’s high time I posted here. What is a blog without any new posts, right? Though I must say, I deeply appreciate everyone sticking around during the quiet stretches, keeping the blog alive in the comments section. I’m reminded again and again of how it is our blog.

More about World Fantasy is still coming. But for this entry, I feel like simply talking — no unifying theme (unless one emerges) — just a stream of the state of things for me as we move into the Thanksgiving weekend.

I could have called this post “In the Smoke,” because I’m in that exciting place right now with revisions of The Star Shard. I’m doing some intense rewriting of the climactic scene. Up till this point, I’ve kept a clear tally of how far I’ve been getting through the manuscript, following my editor’s extremely helpful notes, adding in some new ideas of my own. But at the climax of a book, all cold calculation dissolves, and you just ride the avalanche on your surfboard. [How’s THAT for an analogy?] There’s no seeing or hearing anything but the dust and the roar until all the inevitabilities settle into place. So, for about the next three days, that’s where I am. It’s one of the most exhilarating times for a writer. It’s a good place to be on Thanksgiving weekend!

And just before the deadline, too. I’ve been working steadily toward my deadline of December 1st, when I have to turn the book back in to my editor. The timing should work out just right, Lord willing. But this close to the deadline, it’s suspenseful, isn’t it? It’s like the scene in Apollo 13 when the capsule with the exhausted, harried astronauts has re-entered the atmosphere, and no one knows whether they’ll make a safe splash-down or whether they’ll be incinerated in the atmosphere. There’s the expected zone in which all radio contact is lost. Silence, silence, the cameras scanning the skies . . . silence, silence, the attempts to hail them met only with silence. Gary Sinise standing there in Mission Control, a frown on his brow as he strains to hear a reply through his headset. Silence, silence . . . and then a burst of static, the voice of a living astronaut, and the glorious, blessed opening of a parachute.

Um, that will be me at the end of this month. Lord willing! 🙂 “Houston, we have a book! We have a book!”

Orion is dazzlingly clear tonight (as is the moon, a little past full), and I saw the bright cloud of the Pleiades. A friend back home who keeps me informed of what the Farmers’ Almanac says tells me that this was the Full Beaver Moon we just witnessed.
My writing class went really well today! [I warned you this would be rather stream-of-consciousness!] For the second time (at least the second time; maybe it’s happened more often) this semester, we had perfect attendance, which is really hard to do with a class of 31 upper-classmen. 31 university students is hard enough, but during a cold season (flu & colds going around), with all the job interviews and school visits and practice teaching and special seminars that seniors go to, it’s amazing that everyone can be there. And God helped! I prayed right before class that I would be able to teach clearly, and I think it was a very clear lesson. The topic today was essay structure, particularly the thesis statement and the body of the essay. After passing back homework papers and doing the Quote for the Week, I gave a brief lecture on essay structure using a big diagram on the board and a sample essay handed out to the students, in which we identified the various parts. Then, for the main part of the class, students used the information they collected last week from interviewing a partner. I gave them a worksheet I’d made: one side of a piece of typing paper with a blank line for a title and then five big rectangles representing the introduction, three body paragraphs, and conclusion. There were more blank lines in the appropriate places for the thesis statement and the topic sentences of the paragraphs. Our focus today was organization, so the students didn’t have to be so concerned with grammar and spelling. I instructed them to look at the information in their notes about their partner and try to sort it into material for three separate paragraphs. They filled in the worksheet accordingly, writing notes inside the rectangles to show what content they would put into each paragraph. And they had to write a thesis statement for the whole essay as well as topic sentences for the body paragraphs. (We didn’t officially do anything yet with the intro and the conclusion–I haven’t taught those yet–but some students tried it anyway, which was fine.) As they worked, I walked around to help them individually. I could really see the light going on for some of them as they got the idea that the three body paragraphs develop different aspects of the thesis. Days like this are fun!
Of course, I had a lot of papers to check through tonight, since I collected those at the end of class! 
So, I suspect a lot of us saw the latest Harry film this past weekend. (Don’t worry — absolutely no spoilers here. And don’t anyone dare spoil anything for me! I don’t yet know how this story is going to end.) I went to the delightful after-midnight showing at my local theater, which is the way I experienced many showings of The Lord of the Rings. [Twice, if I remember correctly, I’ve had to explain to patrolling policemen that I’m walking home from the movie theater at 3:00 a.m. — really! Police officers here don’t have a whole lot to do . . .]

Every single time I experience more of Harry Potter, either reading one of the books or seeing one of the movies, it messes me up emotionally. I don’t think I will ever fully get over my envy and the anxiety it sets off in me as a writer. I really, really want to write something that good, that big, that deep, that complex, that moving . . . I want to write a story that will far outlive me, that zillions of people around the world will embrace and enjoy–to create (sub-create, Tolkien would rightly say) a world that readers will want to live in. No other books/movies set me off in the same way. It’s partly the widespread success of the books, completely unprecedented in the history of the world; and it’s partly that J.K. Rowling is so close to my own age, and our careers were pretty much parallel until her books started taking off the way they did. (She even taught English as a Second Language overseas. Dragonfly and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out at about the same time.) It’s partly that I also write YA fantasy using magical creatures, dark mysteries, etc. Even a lot of our naming sense is very similar. It’s hard for me to deal with the fact that she really got it all together. The lightning bolt of inspiration struck her, and she pulled together just the right combination of ideas, storytelling, timing, etc., to produce a series of books for the ages. I can’t imagine anything I’d rather do as a writer than to make something like that! If it were totally beyond my ability, it wouldn’t bother me. (It doesn’t bother me, for example, that a friend of mine is a fantastic violinist. I can appreciate classical music as a fan, pure and simple. It’s not something I have any talent for, so I can just listen and enjoy it.) But creating a wonderful series of fantasy books seems so close, so much within the realm of possibility . . . but it’s finding that right, perfect combination. Or perhaps, that right combination finding us. I think it was more a case of Harry finding J.K. Rowling than the other way around. I believe she’s even said that, as have many other famous writers about their famous works.
One thing I’ve been thinking about is trying a more disciplined approach to plotting. J.K.R. said in an interview that she spent an entire year plotting the whole series before she ever started writing the first book. And that’s how she achieved that marvelous unity and coherence, that seamless quality — that steady improvement of the books. Instead of “trying to top” her previous books, she was steadily building one story toward its climax.
I have always taken the other approach, the one used by Stephen King of discovering the story as I go along. I know that can work very well — obviously! Stephen King knows what he’s doing. But I think plot — and especially plot as determined by character — is a weak area of mine, and I need to consciously spend more time on it. Focusing on people . . . on putting them into situations that threaten and test them to the max . . . on being true to their emotions, their reactions, their interactions. For me, I think the “cool settings” and place descriptions will always come naturally — but a book needs to be a lot more than that to resonate with readers. It HAS to be all about the characters. I really want to try something with many layers, with story threads in the past and the present. To do that, I think a writer has to be very conscious of the structure — that is, s/he has to plan it out — it’s much harder for a multi-layered story to happen “accidentally.” I think I’ve been leaving too much to chance.
If an artist is truly a genius, I think the “chance” approach is more likely to work. Such a genius can just “start writing,” and an awesome book will emerge — but what’s really happening is that the writer’s subconscious and instincts are doing all the work that us lesser intellects need to do more consciously.

Anyway, Thanksgiving is here! I always enjoy it in Japan. No one else is celebrating it. There are no turkeys, no feasts, no gorging on far too much food; so it’s much easier to focus on the essence of the holiday: giving thanks for the amazing blessings we have. (And yes, I usually find a way to work some sort of Thanksgiving-reminiscent food into my diet, whether it’s lunch from Kentucky Fried Chicken [a similar bird], or a turkey breast sandwich from Subway, or some cheese [a rare commodity here].)
When I was a kid, I associated Thanksgiving with reading for some reason. I have powerful memories of being curled up with a book while the aromas of Mom’s cooking wafted through the house. I think that’s a picture of Heaven — to be completely at peace and free, with no responsibilities; but to be in the midst of loved ones; to have the unending feast of the Lamb all laid out before us; to be full of excitement and creativity and Story . . . “And we’ll all go together, / Where the wild mountain thyme / Grows amang the bloomin’ heather . . .” (That’s from the traditional song “Wild Mountain Thyme,” as performed by The Tannahill Weavers on their album Dancing Feet — perhaps my favorite song of all time . . . perhaps . . .)

“Okay,” as we used to say during D&D sessions, “that’s about a turn!” That’s about a blog post, I reckon. Talk to you again soon!

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Writer’s Life Considered

January 30, 2010

A writer’s life, like any life, should be well-considered. We should take stock periodically and ask ourselves what we’re doing, where we’re going, and if we’re on course. Is there a better route we might be taking? Do we have exactly the things we need in our packs? Should we be walking faster? — slower?

A comment came in yesterday by regular contributor jhagman that encourages just such an assessment. It was written in response to my previous post, “Durbin Finishes Reading a Book!” You can read the original comment there, and I’m going to quote it here in its entirety, but the gist is that jhagman takes me to task for my slow reading speed.

Let me preface this by saying I in no way intend this as a “counterattack.” All civil, legitimate expressions of opinion are welcome here. And I’m fully aware that the commenter meant it constructively, implying that s/he’s waiting for my next book and calling me one of jhagman’s “favorite writers.” So, thank you, jhagman! I do appreciate the thoughts! I offer this post in a friendly spirit, as the self-reflection they triggered. Here’s the comment:

Fred, reading this post made me sad! I think it was Samuel Johnson who said, “It takes a half of a library to make one book.” At your rate of reading, it might be a lifetime of 100 years before we see another book! While reading ESL papers of students does constitute “reading,” unless they are like Joseph Conrad, you spend the bulk of your year not reading literature . . . ugghh! Can they pay a person enough to live like that? When I was at Fort Benning (paratrooper school) I got through two books — The Trumpet Major by Thomas Hardy, and David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus, and the school I was in was for me no picnic. If I can do it, you can do a lot better with your reading! Lecture over, but when one of my favorite writers reads a book a year. . . . Enough said.

First, jhagman, you know from this blog that I’m the first to lament my slow reading pace. Two or three times I’ve studied books on speed-reading techniques and have tried to master them, but it’s never worked out for me. Fiction is just too precious to me to zoom through without looking back. I agree with you that I should be reading more. If I knew a way to do so, I would.

But consider this: I have a friend, also a writer, who reads tons of books — book after book after book — and she feels she should be reading more. We could all be doing better. You should be reading more, jhagman! Why didn’t you read ten books in paratrooper school, you slacker? Think of all that time you have before pulling the rip cord, when you’re just twiddling your thumbs in freefall — what, may I ask, were you doing then?!  🙂 There are uncountable great stories and characters out there, waiting for us on the shelves, that will be waiting forever. We’ll never have the pleasure of most of them. We are limited creatures. In On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King acknowledges this. He allows himself time to read for pleasure in the evenings, but he says that at his age, he’s had to become much choosier about what he reads, because he doesn’t have time to read it all. (I “read” King’s book on cassette tape while walking, jhagman — do I get some points for that? :-))

I love the Samuel Johnson quote! — half a library to make one book. Richard Peck said, “We write by the light of every book we’ve ever read.” And Tolkien, of course: “A book like The Lord of the Rings grows like a seed in the dark, out of the leaf-mould of the mind.” Oh, I do not doubt that we become better writers the more we read.

But I would caution that that’s not everything. There was a joke (I think it was a joke) I heard about an aspiring violinist who couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t more successful, because he went to symphony concerts every night and sat in the front row. See the point? Reading books is fine — it’s necessary — it would be hard to be a concert violinist without ever having attended a concert as a listener. But sadly, there are aspiring writers who have read a hundred times more than I’ve read, but who never seem to get the pen to the paper, who never seem to finish a story of their own.

Another good friend, also a reader of this blog, once said to me that she feels she doesn’t have exceptional musical talent, but that she has the gift of truly enjoying music. Some people listen to a lot. Some people read a lot of books. Some go through whole DVD stores seeing every film that catches their interest.

Ultimately, I don’t think it’s about reading volume. There’s this famous advice to writers: “Don’t read 100 books. Instead, read your 10 favorite books 10 times each.” I don’t reach that goal, either. But when I do read a book, I digest it pretty thoroughly. I study nuances and structure, and I think about it carefully, while I’m reading and for weeks afterward. I often sigh with momentary envy at friends who are not writers, who can read without their crafter’s eye and mind automatically engaging — who can read irresponsibly, just dashing through the book. But my envy is momentary. (It’s like those times in the years we played Dungeons & Dragons, when now and then I’d want to enjoy the wild abandon of playing as a player-character, not running the show from behind the DM’s screen; so I’d beg some other member of the group to launch an original, separate campaign, and I’d play as a character for a meeting or two, swinging my sword and puzzling over riddles, finding delight in exploring the unknown — but then I couldn’t wait to get back into the DM’s seat.) In the end, what I love to do is write books. If that means the sacrifice is that I can’t read like a 12-year-old, barefoot and carefree — so be it. Heaven is coming in four or five decades at the most, and I’ll catch up on reading then. For now, I’ve got writing to do.

There was a year when I worked full-time at a Japanese company. It was ostensibly a “school,” a senmongakkou, but it was a company: the management’s only goal was extracting money from the students. Still, there were some dedicated teachers there trying to teach between a rock and a hard place, and I did my best to be one of them. That year, I was so physically and emotionally drained every day that there was no way I could write. That’s the one year I did quite a bit of reading. I read like a normal person — almost every night, and on the weekends. I finished reading quite a few books that year, and doing so was very nice — very calming and anchoring.

But it’s a tradeoff. For me, I think it’s possible either to read regularly or to write regularly. Reading is “for me” — it’s fun, and it feeds me. But writing is a calling. Writing is what leaves something behind in the world, something that I hope others may enjoy and benefit from. When I have to choose, I choose writing. Is anyone out there inclined to blame me? [Achilles: “Is there no one else?!”]

I was happy to hear Barbara Hambly at the World Fantasy Convention in Calgary say that when she’s writing, she has no time to do any reading; and she’s writing constantly — has been for decades — so she confesses that her knowledge of the genre is almost entirely from the books she read in her youth. So I figure if I’ve got Garth Nix on my side regarding character creation, and Barbara Hambly on my side concerning reading, I’m not alone.

Next, about the issue of day jobs: back in college, two of my closest friends and I made a promise to one another that we would never in life work long-term at jobs “just to make money” — that whatever we set our hands to in life, it would have merit, it would be worth doing. It would somehow glorify God, use our talents, and serve humanity. Except for a very few brief transitional jobs that enabled us to get from one situation to another, all three of us have kept that oath. (And that’s by God’s grace, of course — I can see now that there was youthful idealism and impetuousness in the vow, and there are plenty of people in this world who have no control over what they must do to keep food on the table. The three of us have been blessed that we were able to keep our rash vow.)

So, no, jhagman: at the senmongakkou, they couldn’t pay me enough to not-write. Once my contract was up, I was out of there, and I had a wonderful time explaining in great detail to my bosses why I didn’t want their juicy contract renewed. I took my soul and left. But now, at Niigata University, it’s my privilege to have classes full of excellent students who are, for the most part, eager to learn. I’m able to give them something. I know now what my gifts of perception, language, sensitivity, patience, flexibility, tomfoolery, clarity of explanation, compassion, organization, and dramatic performance are for. When I’m teaching writing, I’m teaching something very dear and real to me; and when I see the students’ final drafts, I know why it’s okay that I’ve labored over their rough drafts and answered their questions.

What value, you may ask, is there in English conversation? Well, I won’t get into the usefulness of communication in English in today’s world, but I will simply say that a university classroom is an overall experience. Some of the best things I got from classes in college had little to do with the content of the courses (and some did). When I was a student, I took notes on my favorite professors’ personal stories and philosophies just as eagerly as I took notes on what we were there to study. It might be said that my college major was “Froehlich and Lettermann” with a minor in “Sorensen.”

I’d like to believe that I’m helping my students a little farther along the path of learning “how to suck all the marrow out of life” . . . helping them to figure out what it’s all about, and how best to spend their time on this spinning rock.

Can you pay a person enough to do that? Well, no. I’m glad they do pay me something, because I have to pay bills. And I’m glad I’m doing the job.

But the story doesn’t end there. A university job allows more free time and autonomy of mind and spirit than any other job I’m aware of. I was able to write The Sacred Woods — a full-blown novel — during my first semester this year. As to whether or not you’ll have wait “a lifetime of 100 years” for the next book — well, I’m writing them, but I can’t control what publishers buy. Writing the books is the only thing I have any degree of control over. (And we do know that The Star Shard is still scheduled for Fall 2011 — so put that on your calendar!)

So, jhagman, shake my hand before we go away this week: we’re friends, you’re among friends here, and your comment is well-taken. You are not wrong. I will try to do better. Let’s all try to do better, each in our own vocations. As dear Professor Lettermann said (which probably had no direct connection to the class at hand): “One of the best things about our theology is that we don’t have to be what we’ve been.”

Or, as Scarlett O’Hara says, “Tomorrow is another day.” (But that’s in some book I haven’t read.)

But at the same time, I’ll go on making the decisions I have to make. Time is limited, and as I see it, the books I’m waiting to read are friends I can depend on. They’ll be waiting for me, whether I live long enough to open them or not. Their words and their writers, some long dead themselves, are cheering me on in my own task.

“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” (Whitman, quoted in Dead Poets Society.)

The books that need me most are the ones waiting to be born.