Junot Diaz, author of Pulitzer-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, started his auspicious career in the most unlikely of imaginary places: crafting stories for his friends in the tabletop roleplay game Dungeons & Dragons.
“I grew up hearing my father digging into words for images that will stretch the limits of life for my siblings and me. In my father’s mouth, bitter, rigid words become sweet and elastic like taffy candy. His poetry shields us from the poverty of our lives.” Kao Kalia Yang for The Literary Hub on learning to understand her blue-collar father as a legitimate literary force.
Nicole Krauss has taken her family to deserts in Chile, a lice-infested nursery in Tel Aviv, Sarajevo, Capri, and even the Arctic, but she’s never been on a beach vacation. She tries to relax and searches for the meaning of paradise in Turks and Caicos in her essay for Condé Nast Traveler.
“If Earth overheats and crops and fuel become scarce, guess what? I know good bartering supplies include tampons, mercury fillings, eyeglasses. One particularly anxious day I read instructions on how to cook on my woodstove—so in the early days of environmental apocalypse and culture collapse, my family will enjoy bygone potatoes roasted over hot coals and underdone loaves of bread.” Year in Reading alumna Megan Mayhew Bergman prepares herself for the apocalypse.
13-year-old Charlotte Brontë and her brother Branwell wrote adventure books in 2-inch books they sewed themselves. The results are exactly as adorable as you imagine. (Pair with our own essay on the sisters’ beginnings.)
The Tide King author Jen Michalski shares a wonderfully honest account of how she managed to write her way out of the closet. “People, mostly nonwriters, are always surprised when I tell them I wrote so much growing up,” she says. “But those words, I want to tell them, weren’t written for anyone else – the audience who needed to see them and the audience for whom they were written was me.”