Monday, January 11, 2010

Guest Post: Michael Baron

Though I’ve just published my second novel, Crossing the Bridge, I have been publishing nonfiction books for more than a decade now. Michael Baron is a name I chose for my fiction because it is so different from my nonfiction that I didn’t want to confuse my readers (that last statement is admittedly a bit presumptuous. Some of my books have been national bestsellers, but to say that I have “readers” might be gilding the lily a bit).

Before I became a writer, I was a very dedicated reader. “Of course,” you might say. Certainly, it seems natural that those who choose to write would come to this because of how much they love to read. I’ve met several writers, though, who read very little. In fact, since I’ve become a professional writer, I read significantly less than I once did. Much of this is simply because I’m tired of looking at words after a full day of work. In addition, I find it nearly impossible to read something now without thinking about how I would have written it. Until I turned to fiction, I could read novels without experiencing this; however, that’s no longer the case.

Still, I remember the passion I felt for reading with great fondness. I started reading when I was three years old. This led, a couple of years later to a number of parent protests in my kindergarten classroom because my teacher had me reading to the rest of the class and the parents didn’t like my showing up their children. (I only learned about this years later from my mother; I was just doing what the teacher told me to do and would have been just as happy to sit quietly at my desk.) I think attaching to reading at such a formative age made it integral to my life. Words were disproportionately important to me. I studied them to see if they would reveal new meaning. When my friends were joining rock bands and picking up guitars, I wanted to be a lyricist.

Interestingly, what intrigued me the most about words was what you could do with them. While I was a dedicated “book guy,” I think my fascination with the sound and meaning of words meant that I was always destined to be more of a writer than a reader. But I think all of us that love words -- writing them, reading them, or both -- feel a certain smugness toward nonreaders. It’s as though we’ve been welcomed into the coolest club and they weren’t. I truly believe that readers get to feel the world at a different level. How could anyone not want to be a part of that?