This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
You see, it felt as though I didn’t read Heidi, so much as experience it. I’ve still not been to the Swiss Alps, I’ve still never breathed in the crisp mountain air or tasted fresh goats milk or slept on a bale of hay, but I vividly remember experiencing those things.
I remember the horror of grief and the sense of abandonment. I remember a fledgling friendship with Peter the goat-herd, and a growing fondness for the Alm-Uncle. I remember crushing homesickness, and fear of the ‘ghost’. I remember finding solace in learning to read and write. I remember the rush of relief leaving the city to return to the Alps. I remember Klara, and the joy of those wobbly first steps.
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I remember those things in the same way that I can remember the feel of the paper of that book between my fingers, even three decades later. Why did Heidi impact me so profoundly?It spoke to my heart. It hooked into very real fears and feelings, and jogged memories that I didn’t consciously realise I had. It moved me. To me, Heidi truly represented an awakening – the realisation that a book can contain a world, and that via reading, I could move into that world and make it my own.
In recent years, reflecting on the profoundness of that experience as a small child, I have realised that my memories of that wonderful book are uniquely mine. Maybe you also connected deeply with Heidi as a child, but your mental picture of her hay-loft will always be different to mine.
As an author, I know that it’s my job to tell a story. I want to tell it to the best of my ability – but I always want to leave some gaps in the picture that I’m painting. A truly incredible book is a partnership between a writer and the reader. The writer only provides the framework, and the reader’s imagination completes the picture. It is the second part of the process – the reader’s role – that brings the reader into the world of my story and that is what brings a story to life.
As a reader, Heidi marked the very beginnings of a lifelong love of reading; for that alone, I owe Johanna Spyri the world. But even more than that, Heidi taught me that a good story is a truly profound conversation between the heart and soul of the author, and the heart and soul of a reader. I may work at this writing gig for the rest of my life and still never produce a single paragraph that moves someone like Heidi moved me … but in some small way, every word I write in my books is inspired by how deeply I experienced that one.
The Secret Daughter by Kelly Rimmer is out now.