Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Ache

by Katie DePoppe

Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed. - John Steinbeck

Last week, as I laid in bed with my 4-year-old son, he asked me to tell him a story from when I was a little girl. We’ve discussed that I used to ask my mom the same thing, so while he nearly always chooses a book over the old-fashioned oral story-telling tradition, I jump at the chance when he requests stories from my childhood.

We talk a lot about using our imagination and being creative at home, and he’s great at coming up with his own stories, but when he asks for ideas, I have to admit that I re-live my childhood vicariously in 5-minute heart-swelling increments. I’m not ashamed.

So, on that random evening last week, I was more than willing to share my “stories” with him. Most were just snippets of great memories. One of those: explaining to him how I would wait all week for my mom to take me to the Home Video each Saturday to rent one of Shelley Duvall’s Fairy Tale Theater classics. My favorite? The Six Dancing Princesses, an old classic complete with mystery, an invisibility cloak, and a secret passage way.

I watched as my little boy’s eyes widened as I told the story.

“I am so excited,” he said, and then his little face fell for a moment. “I just want to be in the story so bad, Momma.”

I told him I understood. I know that ache. More than he knows.

Over the years, there have been those stories – you know the ones – that affect you. The ones that linger long after you’ve read the last line, a shadowy friend who follows you as you go back to everyday life; the ones that seem to wrap their hands around your shoulders and pull you through the pages and hold you there for a while.

As a child, there was a storybook I spent hours poring through because the illustrations were so beautiful; I decided I wanted to live there and spent hours of my early years trying to draw pictures like those. I still remember, with great nostalgia, my eighth grade self, tucked into bed in the wee hours of the morning, brought to tears for the first time by a novel. And I could write all day about the works that I’ve read as an adult that have shaped my heart in some good way or opened my eyes to a new way of thinking.

What’s the point of this, you ask?

This post isn’t meant to teach or tell you something you don’t already know. Rather, I thought it might be nice to have a reminder interspersed amongst all the well-thought strategies and professional advice – a reminder of why we do what we do.

I hope I write something that will one day put that ache in someone’s heart, that ache I know all too well and which my son felt for the first time at 4. How easy it is to forget that literature has the power to change the world.

For more information on the power of literature
and a recent study on the power of fiction, visit http://teachthemdiligently.net/blog/2013/10/power-fiction/

Katie DePoppe is the editor at large for Azalea, a magazine that celebrates the lifestyle, history, and culture of the South Carolina Lowcountry. She spends her days working in the library basement of a local university and her nights tinkering with words she hopes will eventually appear on her personal blog, The Southern Apothecary (currently under re -construction), or in the pages of a Southern gothic short story collection. She lives with her husband and son, five dogs, twenty chickens, four peacocks, and a plethora of strays on her grandfather’s land near Charleston.  She is a member of Word Weavers International, ACFW, and is a life-long member of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society. Connect with Katie on Twitter @KDePoppe.


  1. Katie, this is a delightful post! I believe all true writers can identify with the "ache." And, yes, I understand perfectly about your four-year-old wanting to be in the story. That's why with my now six-year-old grandson Samuel, I've told him umpteen times: "Once upon a time there were three little pigs...Samuel built his house of brick, Will (cousin) built his house of wood and Matthew (cousin) built his house of straw..." --Not only does Samuel want to be in the story, he tells me who ELSE he wants in it! Is this evidence of a writer's gene passed down from grandmother?? I hope so. Elva Martin

  2. Elva, I think this is most certainly evidence of literary genetics.;)