Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Dipping the Quill Deeper: The Stories That Shaped A Childhood

by Eva Marie Everson

In the past couple of years, I have given a keynote address at three writers conferences titled “The Three—Make That Four—Books That Changed My Life.” In the presentation, I talk about three books I read in my younger years, one as a young child of about ten, and the other two as a young-to-mid teen. The first book I only recall by its title, Renee. I cannot recall the author’s name or what the book was about, but what I do remember is that this was the first book I found impossible to put down. Renee was what we call a “page-turner.”

Even though Renee is the only book I mention in the presentation, it is not the only book I read as a child, certainly, nor is it the only one to tickle my fancy. I have vivid memories of a lineup of books too long to share in one blogpost. One in particular is still on one of my bookshelves. To Dance, To Dream, by Maxine Drury was given to me by my grandmother and aunt on Christmas Day 1965. This collection of stories about famous dancers such as Isadora Duncan, Anna Pavlova, and Michel Fokine was a perfect gift for a young girl who loved to dance as much as she loved to read. (Note: when I was younger, I had two unspoken goals in life: 1) to be a novelist, and 2) to be a backup dancer for Tom Jones. When Mr. Jones’s TV show, This is Tom Jones, ended, my goals dropped to: 1) to be a novelist.)

More important than my love of dance was my love for God and to know more of His Word. Even as a child, I read countless Bible story-type books for children, many of which I still own. My mother purchased an entire set of Bible encyclopedias—The Bible Story by Arthur S. Maxwell—both for my brother’s and my enjoyment as well as for our spiritual nourishment. If you are remotely within my age group, you probably remember these beautifully illustrated books; Volume 1 could always be found in doctor’s waiting rooms as a little something to keep fretting children calm. 

There was another novel that set my imagination soaring, although I cannot remember the title or the author’s name. But I remember the story well because it was about a young girl about my age, which was eleven at the time) who traveled to Turkey with her father and mother and all the adventures she experienced there. I’d only remotely heard of the Middle Eastern country in history or geography classes, but the words on the pages of this chapter book made me feel as though I’d experienced the same escapades as the main character. I could smell the aromas of the exotic foods wafting from kitchen windows, feel the stones of the streets beneath my feet, hear the clamor within the marketplace. 

My list of life-shaping books goes on because as a lifelong avid reader, loving books has always come as naturally to me as breathing. Books—so much more than television (and I certainly did not have handheld computerized games during my childhood)—filled languid summer days and short holiday seasons. They made sickbeds seem more like magic carpet rides of opportunities and exploits. I never panicked if there was “nothing on television” (we only had three channels, so that was a true possibility) because I had books. Books full of stories and characters ready to sweep me along to other worlds. Books full of words purposefully written to help me become the characters and to arrive at the places mentioned therein. Books that, if I had checked them out from the library, I almost hated to return. But, after I did, I created my own stories out of those left behind in my heart. I became a member of the Swiss Family Robinson, and my back yard became an island in the West Indies. Or I found myself dropped into the rabbit hole with Alice, dealing with all sorts of illusions. I slipped into the barn as Fern to listen to the conversations of Charlotte and Wilbur. I rode the greatest horse in history, Man o’ War, as Danny Ryan hard across the finish line, so much so that sweat nearly dripped from my brow onto the sawhorse in my father’s garage beneath me. 

The stories I read lived far beyond the pages. They survived in my heart. 

Books, books, books. Good books. They shaped me as a child. As a teenager. As a young adult. As an adult and on and on. They gave me purpose. A plan. They molded me in ways I may never realize. They called me to be a writer, to keep producing the words that would produce the books that would shape and give purpose and mold. 

What books are there, for you, that you’ll never forget? Or that, perhaps, you can still find shelved among your many volumes? The ones you’ll never get rid of, ever?


Eva Marie Everson is the president of Word Weavers International and the director of its two conferences. She is the multiple award-winning author of nearly 40 works and has received awards as a speaker and Bible teacher. Eva Marie is often seen at writers conferences across the States. She served as a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild for several years, and taught as a guest professor at Taylor University in 2011. She and her husband make their home in Central Florida where they enjoy their grandchildren. They are owned by one small dog and a princess cat.


  1. As a child, books saved my sanity. I so appreciate your post this morning Ms. Eva Marie. My favorite, "The Old Man and the Sea" (Hemingway). Books still take my mind away to places and adventures far away from my every day life. I pray I can learn to move folks in the same way.

  2. What fun memories to consider! :)
    Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, well worn and a few coverless sit in my basement library as permanent residents.
    "Raggedy Ann in Cookie Land" plus others sit in the living room library near "A Tale of Two Cities" that an excellent english teacher navigated us through in 9th grade.
    Several copies of Merlin Carothers' "Power in Praise" sit on my shelf always ready - one to give & one to keep - as the book that set the course of my life at age 19.
    And a favorite picture was taken of me sitting in one of those small closets that used to be normal - surrounded by and reading a book. Lol

  3. Raggedy Ann in Cookie Land! I think I had that too!