Pub Rants

The Power Of Story—In Any Medium

 71 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: I have a lot on my plate today. If I don’t blog now, it won’t happen.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LITTLE GREEN APPLES by O.C. Smith

Since my father passed away in January, I’ve long wanted to write this blog entry but didn’t feel up to it. I’m going to give it try today.

My love of reading definitely came from my parents—both avid readers. But my father was passionate about books. He was the one who took me and my older brother and sister to the library every Sunday (almost without fail).

In fact, it was my Dad who created my love of science fiction and fantasy. His SFF books littered our house and pretty much covered every shelf.

Our first conversation about “appropriate reading for ten year olds” happened over an SF book actually (Slave Girl of Gor anyone?) It was the only time he ever censored reading and gave up after 6 months when my brother and I ferreted them all out anyway and read them. Just thinking about that memory after all these years makes me laugh.

The hardest thing was getting Dad to read contemporary SF&F. Man, pulling teeth to get him to try a new author. The trick was not to suggest but to just give him the books. Years ago, I did that for Dan Simmon’s Hyperion series, I never got my books back. I was in grad school at the time (when every dollar counts) and I had to go out and re-buy the books for my own shelves. I didn’t let him live that down for years. Last year, I gave him Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR and he was hooked. Another personal triumphant!

And yes, I’m going somewhere with all this. Well, my father had cancer that had migrated to the brain. He was blind for the last six months of his life. I knew he wouldn’t survive without story so I talked him into listening to audio books—a medium he had never tried before. I even got him to try a new author.

When my father was rushed to the hospital right after Christmas (literally, the day after), he had only one request for me, bring him his green iPod shuffle with his latest story.

The man was dying but darn if he was going to go without getting to the end of his audio book—which, by the way, was Brent Weeks’ THE WAY OF SHADOWS.

His last days were at home surrounded by his family and all his books (literally we had the hospice bed set up in the living room). Sadly, he didn’t get a chance to finish the story but not from lack of trying.

And that, folks, is the power of story in any medium.

71 Responses

  1. Shari said:

    My father was the same with movies. No matter how sick he felt you would find him in the movie theater. He’s been gone almost four years now and yet I still pick up the phone to call him when a movie comes out I think he might like.
    Thanks for the post.

  2. Anonymous said:

    Ouch 🙁

    I’m tear-ing up here ( if that’s even a word). Sorry to hear about your loss.

  3. Nicole Chardenet said:

    A touching and lovely story illustrating just what a wonderful literate man your father was who skillfully passed on his love of reading to his daughter, but I still have to ask…..

    ….WHAT was he doing with the entire GOR series in the house??? 😉

  4. Florence said:

    I must admit my passion for books came from an older brother, but my passion for learning and the need to know about the world around me came from my father.

    I am proud to say that although I myself have never been bitten by the SF&F “bug,” my son cherishes his books. He was the only kid in ranch camp who took his boxed set of Tolkien with him every summer.

    It is wonderful that we can leave the legacy of the joy of reading. In any genre … a good story will always remain a good story.

    Great post, great story.

  5. Marie Lu said:

    I’m getting teary-eyed over here….I’m sensitive to father-child relationships due to my own past so it was very touching to read this. Truly an illustration of the power of story. I grinned when you were talking about your dad’s attempt in vain to censor the SF book. My mom used to try endlessly to get me to love nonfiction biographies when I was a kid and balked when I would hide out in the library reading nothing but Goosebumps, Marguerite Henry, and Redwall novels. 🙂 (Hey I love Thomas Edison as much as the next person but Mom, 8 year olds don’t like biographies about Thomas Edison!)

  6. Tom M Franklin said:

    what a wonderful story and what a wonderful legacy to have passed on to you and your brother. sounds like your father was a pretty great guy to grow up around.

    thanks for writing this. it’s good to share stories like these with the world; we all need to be reminded of the power and the importance of story and difference we, as authors, can make in individual lives.

    — Tom

  7. Indigo said:

    Thank you for sharing this heartfelt part of your life.

    Me? I grew up with a mother who felt threatened by books and big words. I used to have to lie and claim a book I brought home was required reading for school.

    In the end my mother’s obstinance with reading, made me love words all that much more.

    Reading about your father’s love of books, made me smile today. Thank you. (Hugs)Indigo

  8. Anthony said:

    Oh, the Gor books! I read one when I was eleven and I was like (O_O). It was amazing feet of research and world-building. Wow, what a shock to the system though.

    Your father was wonderful man, and thank you for sharing your memories of him with your elegant post. I smiled.

  9. Julie Kramer said:

    Besides being a farmer, my father was a popular rural storyteller. I wish he could have lived to see that I wrote a book. But he also died of cancer. Reading your blog today brings all that back.

  10. Marie Andreas said:

    Thank you for sharing this. It made me think of my own father (passed away of cancer also- but 25 years ago) and his love of books. Both he and my mom were avid bookaholics and they passed that along.

    The power of a good story is the power of the world.

    Thank you for a moving post.

  11. Ted Cross said:

    It is one of my greatest sadnesses, thinking about not getting to read everything that I wish during my life. I am so proud that my sons have caught the reading bug from my wife and me.

  12. Jill James said:

    Kristin, what a legacy he left you. You are a storyteller. That blog post could have just been ‘my dad died’ and we would have all said we’re sorry, but you brought him to life for us. You were a very lucky good to have him for a daddy.

  13. Melissa Sarno said:

    That’s such a touching story. It’s amazing what power a book can have, to hear it told and want to hear how it ends up no matter what. Thank you so much for sharing.

  14. Susan J Tweit said:

    Thank you for making the effort/taking the time/pulling out something personal. It really does show the power of story. It’s especially poignant to me as my husband and I are “walking” as we put it, with his brain cancer. It’s a journey I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but it’s also a rich time together. (And yeah, I blog about it. Helps keep me sane! But that wasn’t my point, which is just this: thank you for your gifts.

  15. LaylaF said:


    It sounds as if you had a very special dad and a wonderful relationship with him. He has left a beautiful legacy in his daughter and her love for literature.

    Thank you so much for sharing your heartfelt story.

    God Bless.

  16. Tara Maya said:

    That touched a nerve on so many levels. A family member is in the hospital right now…. Thank you for sharing that.

    P.S. I think I had the very same conversation with my mom about a Gor book when I was eleven. lol

  17. Julie said:

    I love this post. You made me cry. The power of the written word and family all in one.

    Thank you.

  18. Michael J. Kannengieser said:

    Please accept my condolences on the loss of your father; how truly heartbreaking, especially since he was such a strong influence on you.

    Last year, my father died at eighty three. It didn’t make it any easier that he lived a long and fulfilled life.

    My parents left behind a massive amount of books. My mom was a lover of novels, and my dad was a man of varied tastes. My own love of reading, writing, and books was inspired by them.

    To honor him, I am writing an account of his life, focusing on his experiences in WWII and how it shaped who he became as a father and a husband; and how his faith was impacted as well.

    Once again, I offer my condolences on the loss of your father.

  19. rayfuentez said:

    What a touching story on so many levels. You are so fortunate to have had such a beautiful human being for a father and he was even more fortunate to have a daughter like you. Imagine the joy, as he reflected on his life, knowing that his love of books would live on in his children. What special pride he must have felt to see you in a position to discover and promote new voices. Thank you for sharing him with us.

  20. Lynn said:

    Thank you for a post that must have been difficult to write. In September it will be 37 years that my father passed away and yet reading what you wrote brought back wonderful childhood memories of getting in the car and going to the library with my father and my brothers and sisters. We definitely got our love for books from him. Thank you again!

  21. Olivia J. Herrell said:

    Thank you for sharing about your dad. I, too, teared up. I lost my father way too early. And my mother barely four years ago. But between the two of them they instilled the love of words in me and made sure that I had all the books my heart desired. Granted they mostly came from the library, there wasn’t much money to go around. But still.

    What a beautiful man your father was. Thank you for sharing your memories and his legacy. My heart goes out to you.

    ~that rebel, Olivia

  22. Just A Few said:

    I both became teary eyed and smile faced (if those are words) when I read your post. I lost my father also and the subject is still on touch and go bases. You described everything so well. Thank you for sharing, made me remeber a few things about my dad.

  23. Connie Gillam said:


    This blog moved me to tears. I also lost my father to cancer. Unfortunately, we weren’t as close as you and your father- something I regretted.

    I just happened to see Brent Weeks new book -Black Prism- on also listen to a lot of books.) I’m going to give him a try since your father obviously loved him.

  24. MaryC said:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Kristin. I know how hard it is to lose your father.

    For me it was my grandmother who inspired my love of reading. She used to say that what she feared most was something happening to her eyes so she couldn’t read. This was in the days before audio books were widely available so she used to travel by bus to a library for the blind and sit and read books onto tape for them.

  25. Jamie Ayres said:

    What a heart warming blog . . . sorry for your loss.

    I bring my daughters to the library every Tuesday evening & have many discussions with my 10-year-old about “appropriate” books:) Hope she holds onto those nice memories just like you did!

  26. Saranna DeWylde said:

    This was touching. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss.

    I get my love of books from my mother. My father always encouraged me to read, but books weren’t a love for him.

    My mother is recovering from uterine cancer and she also had cataracts removed. These last years, she hadn’t been able see well enough to get around on her own, let alone read. But her sight is improving now every day and she asked me to find her a copy of SHANNA by Kathleen Woodiwiss, the first romance she ever read.

    The appropriate reading discussion was kind of funny. I was reading romance when I was 10 because I already had a HS reading level. She paperclipped “those parts” so I could skip over them or read them as I felt comfortable. But I wasn’t allowed to read Fear Street novels, or The Witch of Blackbird Pond, or anything else in that vein. So of course, I saved up all of my lunch money and ordered from the school book order. I’d keep the books in my locker and then give them away at the end of the year.

  27. C.C. Harrison said:

    Okay, Kristin, you made me cry. I lost my dad recently, too.

    But what do you know? A character walked into the pages of my WIP manuscript that is the spitting image of him!

    Touching post.

  28. Beth said:

    Beautiful, touching post. Thank you for sharing. What a gift your dad gave you–and you in turn gave him. Wonderful.

    My dad couldn’t get through a day without reading the newspaper. And he’s a farmer yet loves to recite poetry. He is not a writer, though. Someday, I’ve got to write down his childhood stories–the family was so poor they traveled via horse and buggy and slept in a tent for a year.

    You’re motivating me to start recording him now so I won’t forget a thing. Kristin, thank you for this post.

  29. Kelly M. Olsen said:

    I am always touched to read personal, reflective posts, so I thank you for sharing this deeply personal reflection of your father, and his love of reading. What a beautiful legacy to leave to his children, and even though he didn’t get to the end of the story, I’m sure you blessed his last days with your thoughtful gift to him…suggesting the audio book.

  30. Alleged Author said:

    I rarely comment, but I thought this needed one. My Popi died a few weeks ago. He wanted no more than to listen to jazz and read The Stand. My mom read him this book every day while he was in the hospital. On the day he died, he read the second to the last chapter then told her he didn’t need any more chapters read to him. He said Stephen King wrote so well that he would take the words with him to heaven. He made up his own ending. But God bless Stephen because he crafted a story that would reach anyone at any time. We should all be so lucky that an author touches us so deeply and that WE could write so memorably. To write a memorable story is something to strive for in this lifetime. If we are unable to do this, then we have failed both ourselves and our readers. Thank you for this post. It makes the going easier.

  31. Christine said:

    Thank you for this powerful and moving post. My father also hooked me on reading–SF/F as well. And yes, I think I may have slipped into reading adult materials a tad early as well.

    My dad passed away in 2002. I still miss talking with him about our favorite authors and books. Even now, when I come across a great book I’ll think about how much he’d have liked to read it, too. There are other memories, other triggers that bring him to the forefront of my thoughts. National Treasure–he would have loved that movie series. And the wineries we discovered in Virginia, too.

    He was a shy man–an engineer/architect with a passion for painting, calligraphy, reading and traveling. It was not easy for him to connect emotionally. But books bridged the gap. Your blog reminded me of the great gift he gave to me–he used his love of reading to create a connection between father and daughter that gave us a wonderful adult relationship.

  32. Kathleen Bittner Roth said:

    Your blog was especially poignant to me because when I returned from RWA Nationals this year, my husband was not at the airport to pick me up. On the way, he’d had a terrible car accident. During the CAT scan to determine the extent if his injuries, stage 4 cancer was discovered in his brain, lung (nonsmoker), bones, and lymph nodes. Within days, he could no longer see from his right eye and his vision dances, making it impossible for him to read, something he’d done voraciously from childhood up.
    As we hang on the edge of uncertainty, waiting for the brain surgery we pray will be successful, for the chemo and radiation we hope will eradicate the inoperable beasts,I read to him. Reading has become more than our bond, it is our tether that keeps us sane through the insanity of experiencing a once vigorous man rapidly deteriorate.
    There is hope in words, and I choose books that make us laugh, yes, make us weep, and give us pause to reflect on our life together.
    Thank you for sharing your experience with your father, Kristin. When I am not tending to my husband and have time alone, I read, read, read (yes, even your blog and others like them)to keep my mind healthy.

  33. Loree H said:

    My condolences to you. I bet that felt good to talk about.

    Your story brought back memories of my own mother.

    From the time I was in the fifth grade, my mom always told me to write. Some teacher told her that I had a great imagination and would make a good writer someday. That teacher gave her a story I had written.

    From that time on, she would always say to me “Write Laura, just write.” It would come out of her mouth, almost out of nowhere, when she was mad at me or upset about different cirumstances. Kind of like in the movie, Signs. (“And tell Merle to swing away.”) When I saw that movie for the first time, I was covered with chills and thought of mom.

    Mom had lost her memory the last year of her life…the same year I started my first novel. As her time was near and she lay unconcious, I sat at her bedside and whispered to her that I was writing a book. I wanted to make her proud.

    I don’t know if she heard me. I felt sad for a long time knowing that she never knew I tried to do what she had been always urging me to do. Published or not, writing gives me a great joy that I can’t get anywhere else. All those years, my mother knew that.

    True story—Going through her personal papers a few weeks after her death, I found that silly story I wrote back in the fifth grade. Right then, I knew she knew.

    Keep your memories close.

  34. de la O said:

    What a poignant story and a personal triumph to write about it. Losing a parent is one of the hardest things to experience and the fact that he was such a strong role model for you and your siblings creates memories that will be etched and reciprocated for so many years to come. I am sorry for such a huge loss, and see your accomplishment for writing about it. I know how hard that must have been.

  35. Danielle said:

    I wish I had had this post to point to when I was producing audiobooks several years ago and had to try to gently coax authors away from reading their own novels.
    Audiobooks are exactly as you have put it here: the story in another medium and as such, the medium should be respected and used to its best ability to communicate that story. Too often, it seems to me, authors and publishers see an audiobook as an extra publicity opportunity and fans of authors like to collect author-read versions like they might collect a movie t-shirt and it is so wrong put publicity over the story. It is so rare that an author has the voice-acting skills which will give life to the story in a way that is needed, and deserved, by those who love and respect good spoken word and, most importantly, people like your father who have no choice in their medium.

    Last year, a friend mentioned that she had listened to an audiobook with a narration that she loved so much she’d written a review on audible and was surprised that some had not agreed – they felt that it should have been narrated by someone with the accent of the author, since it was an autobiography. She had no idea that I had cast that actor for that audiobook, and I didn’t tell her, but I just had to have a look at the reviews. The complaints were by far the minority but what they, of course, didn’t know was that the author himself originally wanted to read it – his accent would have been perfect, of course, but there were two problems: his accent was too thick, even when he tried to slow down as much as possible and, accent or none, he did not have the voice acting skills to communicate the beauty of his story to people listening, without the book in front of them. It took some convincing (and tact) but the author agreed that the story was what was most important (I can say this without worrying too much that it will be identified because it wasn’t an isolated incident!) I did try to find someone with the right accent and skills but, with the publishing deadline approaching, it proved impossible so I put story first and, most agree, it did work out beautifully.

    I hope that when your writer’s books are put into audio, you’ll remember your father and help your authors choose what is best for giving their readers the best experience of their story 🙂

  36. Danielle said:

    I wish I had had this post to point to when I was producing audiobooks several years ago and had to try to gently coax authors away from reading their own novels.
    Audiobooks are exactly as you have put it here: the story in another medium and as such, the medium should be respected and used to its best ability to communicate that story. Too often, it seems to me, authors and publishers, see an audiobook as an extra publicity opportunity and fans of authors like to collect author-read versions like they might collect a movie t-shirt and it is so wrong put publicity over the story.

    It is so rare that an author has the voice-acting skills which will give life to the story in a way that is needed, and deserved, by those who love and respect good spoken word and, most importantly, people like your father who have no choice in their medium. I hope that when your writer’s books are put into audio, you’ll remember your father and help your authors choose what is best for giving their readers the best experience of their story 🙂

  37. Danielle said:

    Apologies for the double post – please do remove whichever you prefer, Blogger told me my first had not gone through due to its length (which I found reasonable) so I cut it and tried again.

  38. Dayana Stockdale said:

    That was the most enjoyable blog post I ever read. What we do matters. I used to be an in home hospice helper too, so just the word hospice always makes me happy. Stories are with us at every stage in our life, even dying. That is very comforting to know. Thank you.

  39. Buffy Andrews said:

    So true. I remember a TV show I liked was pulled off the air and it drove me crazy not knowing what happened to the characters or how the issues left standing were resolved. That’s the power of a story, the thing that keeps us reading or watching or listening because we have no choice. We must know. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

  40. Carolyn said:

    That’s a lovely story, Kristin, and thanks for sharing. I have to do the same thing with my father — just give him the books I think he’ll like. You named two of my favorite SciFi/Fantasy books, Old Man’s War and Way of the Shadows.

    Thanks for sharing the story.

  41. beckmcdowell said:

    Thanks for sharing this. Your earlier post about losing your dad gave me the courage to show a more personal side on my blog when my Dad died recently. I appreciate your paving the way for others to share personal stories on professional blogs occasionally. It’s what writing’s all about, after all. 🙂

  42. Amanda Ashby said:

    Kristin – I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. I definitely got my love of reading (and writing) from my dad and ever since he died five years ago, the toughest times for me have been when his favorite authors release new books or when I read a book that I know he would’ve loved.

  43. Jemi Fraser said:

    I got teary reading this. It brought back memories of me scrambling for my dad’s library books when he’d been air ambulanced out of town. He’d have been truly ticked off if he’d come out of surgery to not have his books there with him.

    I’m glad you were able to write this post – it’s powerful and full of love.

  44. Vicki said:

    I’m so sorry for you loss, but thank you for sharing this with us.

    I can’t honestly say where my love for reading and writing came from. My mom read once in a while, but never very much. I always had a book in my hand or pen and paper writing some adventure I thought back then would rival Trixie Bleden.

    So I made sure to instill the love of the written word in my children. All sorts of genres.

  45. Mechelle Fogelsong said:

    As a reading teacher, I make it a point to require my students to “read” at least one audio book per year.

    Incidentally, I live in a rural area, where local video stores have audio books for rent. Who are their biggest audio book renters? Long haul truckers.