December 22, 2009

the olive reader holiday grab bag: michael spradlin & carols & ZOMBIES!

  • About the author CS

The Christmas Countdown is on! Tuesday’s holiday grab bag post is from Michael P. Spradlin, author of the essential Christmas classic It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies. Check out Mike’s video and reminsces of his grandma – and make sure the zombie lover in your life is equipped to deck the halls with parts of Wally this holiday season.

I’ve always marveled at the talents of sportswriters. Think about it. Of all forms of journalism, I believe sportswriters have the most difficult task. They are describing events to us which in most cases have already transpired. And as readers the majority of us already know the details: who won the game, or scored the winning goal, or failed in the attempt. And yet we read every word they give us. As writers, they keep us invested and interested with the suspense already taken out of the equation. As an author myself, I find it a remarkable gift.

Growing up in a small farming community in the Midwest, I was the kid who always looked to the horizon. I wanted to know what was over the next hill. What was out there? And luckily I found at an early age, that books could take me places I could only imagine. I loved stories. And my Grandmother was a magnificent storyteller. She could keep me on the edge of my seat for hours, with thrilling tales of her childhood. As a girl, she would tell me, she rode ‘the train’ all over the American West with Sitting Bull and Custer and Wyatt Earp. I was probably too young to figure it out at the time (and I never was good in math, which is why I write) but her elaborate stories were the tallest of tall tales. I didn’t care, I loved them anyway.

And though my Grandmother came to Michigan straight out of the hills and hollers of Appalachia and thus had very little formal education, she knew the value of it. Whenever I stayed with her, I read the newspaper to her aloud while she worked in the kitchen. Whenever we went to town, there were always a few extra coins in my pocket for comic books at the drug store. My Grandmother and then my Mother nurtured my love of stories whatever form they came in.

Then one Christmas my grandmother gave me a gift that changed everything. It was a one year subscription to Sports Illustrated Magazine. I was also sports obsessed in my youth and in the age before cable or the internet and the 24 hour news cycle, newspapers and magazines were our connection to the world. And Sports Illustrated, in my mind, was the platinum standard not just of sports writing but writing period. Each week for the next year, my issue arrived in our mailbox every Tuesday and I read it religiously from cover to cover. And discovered from works by John Updike and David Halberstam and George Plimpton what practicing the craft of writing really meant.

Reading those pages every week helped a small town Michigan kid believe being a writer was possible. So far as I know, I’m the only author to come out of my hometown and it was Updike, Halberstam and Plimpton who sent me to Bradbury, Steinbeck and Fitzgerald. And they in turn sent me on the path to telling my own stories.

I know my grandmother would be so proud if she were here today to see and read my books. And as she always did, she would have taken not an ounce of credit for any of my successes. Instead, she would sit me down, and tell me about the time, as a young girl, she rode the train with Sitting Bull.

Merry Christmas Grandma.