How a Non-reader Became a Writer

May 12, 2016 by

13124754_10154119481475528_878223415921625143_n“Did you always want to write?”

I’ve been asked this question many times. I got to answer it again last Thursday night while speaking at a friend’s book club meeting. I gave my typical answer: “No. I wanted to act.” (I have a steady track record for goals that leave my parents thinking, Great! Now she’ll never get a job.) Truly, I did secretly want to write for a long time; I just wanted to be a big star more.

Unlike most writers, I didn’t always enjoy reading either. In fact, I hated it until about fifth grade. Mom had to pay me to read, and so did my book-loving grandma. For a visually impaired girl who couldn’t read the board at school and had to pull books up to her nose to make out the print, reading was one more thing to struggle over. I loved the stories and the books themselves but not the part where I had to look stupid reading them. Then Grandma started reading me funny scenes from her childhood copy of Anne of Avonlea. I begged for that book almost every time I went to her house. She would read me a chapter then teach me to crochet around wire hangers. One night she said, “You can read my book on your own if you want to” (probably because she got sick of reading it). It didn’t take long to get me hooked. A friend gave me A Little Princess for my birthday and that confirmed my book nerd status. Mom had to forbid me to reread that book again until I read something else first. So I read The Secret Garden.

Grandma must have known that bookworms were in my blood and needed some prodding. I am now the proud owner of the copy of Little Women she received for Christmas at age 13 and an Anne of Avonlea that looks exactly like the one she read to me. I found it in a used bookstore after she passed away and someone else in the family had taken hers.

Reading slowly inspired me to write. I guess I have Grandma and Anne of Avonlea to thank for planting the seed for my future career. Thank you, Grandma!

How did the seeds for your career or favorite hobby get planted? Who do you have to thank? Just for fun, what was your favorite book as a child? Which title did you read again and again until someone forced you to read something else?


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  1. I am dyslexic. My entire family loves to read. Drove me crazy they all kept their noses in books when I wanted to play games!
    In high school my mom started reading Janette (no wonder I love your name!) Oke’s Love Comes Softly series to me. She would get several chapters in, find a cliff-hanger, then hand the book over and tell me I had to read for myself if I wanted to find out what happened next. She did the same with the Canadian West series. By then I was hooked and read through every title she ever released – hmm, I think it is time to start re-reading them all again!
    As for the book I couldn’t read enough, Charlotte’s Web, the first chapter book I ever read alone for a fist grade book report. I must have re-read it 4 or 5 times growing up. For a non-reader, that’s a big deal!

    • Jeanette Hanscome

      My grandmother loved Janette Oke! She gave me Love Comes Softly in high school. The week after she passed away, my Secret Sister at church gave me a Janette Oke book (The Tender Years). Talk about timing! My favorite of hers is a stand-alone novel called A Woman Named Damarus. You should try to find it. It’s a great story!

  2. Peggy Cavnar

    Heavens! I read so many Library books I won the award every year for most books read. Jeanette if you knew how many Novellas I have written you would not be happy with me for not editting any of them! They keep me sane. Love ya.

    • Jeanette Hanscome

      Hi Peggy! I hope you edit those novellas someday! Even if you never publish them, you will enjoy the satisfaction of leaving them for your grandkids knowing they are polished. You could print them out and put them in nice binders, even create a cover. Just an idea :).

  3. julie e

    Oh how I love the Anne books! I grew up surrounded by bookcases full of books and my mom and grandma were avid readers and even did some writing. 🙂 Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins, Dr. Seuss books and Winnie the Pooh were just some of the books they both gave me that encouraged my love of reading.

    • Jeanette Hanscome

      I wasn’t into Nancy Drew, but my friend Jennifer was! I loved the Little House books, and I remember reading some Bobbsey Twins mysteries.

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