Writers Are Teachers, Too!

No, I’m not talking about how an experienced author can teach a newbie.  Nor how a quilting expert can pass along pearls of wisdom that make a book more realistic.  I’m talking about the things a reader can learn from books…even fiction.

In Robert Heinlein’s TUNNEL IN THE SKY, a group of high school seniors are taking a survival course.  Their final exam is to be dumped on an unknown planet with only the equipment they can carry in a backpack.  Somehow, they are “lost” for a few years and have to survive more than expected.  From this book, I learned a lot of survival skills, including how humans react when their “world” has a catastrophic change.  I also learned that it’s not always the more technologically advanced person who survives.

Books are also a great way to “visit” other countries and cultures…as long as the writer is accurate.  One of my favorite authors was Betty Neels.  She was an English nurse who married a Dutchman after WWII and most of her books were set in British or Dutch hospitals,  One thing that always amazed me (besides the different spellings) was that on the day of surgery, all the patients got a “cuppa” tea before the procedure.  In America, you can’t have anything to eat or drink for at least six hours ahead of time.  I thought the Brits practice “old-fashioned” nursing until I met some nurses from England and asked them.  They confirmed the practice and we had a fine time comparing the differences in nursing practices around the world.

A bit of my philosophy in life was formed by authors I read when I was younger.  My early SF days formed my belief that Man MUST go into space as a species or perish.  In my “rebellious” period, back in the ‘60’s, I lived by John Galt’s creed in Ayn Rand’s ATLAS SHRUGGED.  “I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”  Well, it made more sense when I didn’t know any better.

You get the point, though.  Fiction writers don’t just entertain; they teach.  How many battered women have found the courage to leave an abusive relationship from reading a romance?  Who has been lured to a far-off country after reading about it in a book?  Shoot, I’ve even gotten a few good recipes from some authors who “share” the character’s world famous recipe.

So, fellow authors, proudly wear your other hat.  Never let it be said that we are “just” writers.  We challenge the mind, explore the far reaches of the universe, mold society’s destiny…and get paid the big bucks for it also.  Right!

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10 thoughts on “Writers Are Teachers, Too!

  1. Big bucks? Where??!!! 🙂

    I so agree about reaching an audience in more ways than one. Not only do we entertain, but also present a message and teach. We may never know who or how we reach others, but we do.

    Oh, and I DO wear my other hat proudly! Just ask anyone I work with and they ALL know that I’m a writer. I practically shout it from the rooftops. hehe

  2. You can’t take a lot of what appears as fact in books as accurate, but I have learned a lot, too, from books and readers. My favorite two letters from readers over the years both came from England. One had just read OPERATION: HOMEFRONT, where the hero is a soldier who gets deployed to the Middle East at the time of the first Gulf war. The reader had lived in London during WWII, and her husband had been in the Royal Air Force. She talked at length about his absences and her fears, and how she could relate to the heroine of my book. It was only first-hand view of the bombings that I’d ever had, and I learned a lot from it.

    The other came from a woman who’d read THE TAMING OF REID DONOVAN. The secondary storyline was the hero’s difficult relationship with his father; he hadn’t known him growing up, and when they did meet, things went very badly. But ten years later, they’re both making the effort to have some sort of father/son relationship. This reader’s stepdaughter was estranged from her family, and she said the book was the push she needed to contact the daughter again and find out what they could do to bring her back into the family. I was so touched.

  3. I enjoy sitting in the bully pulpit of authors. For me, it’s a way to learn about the common views of humanity. I believe everything in the book, to an extent. I consider the information presented then enter into that writer’s reality, where everything they say is gold.

    If you tell me by eating a burned banana the heroine can live forever with the hero, I’ll believe it. I won’t necessarily eat the banana hoping for eternal life but I try to think about where such a legend originated and may even research cultures that use medicines enhanced with bananas.

    I figure every author’s imagination is guided by their own brand of logic. It’s up to the reader to sit in their class, enjoy the journey and discover what shaped that logic. Kinda like a puzzle. I know, pretty geeky, huh? 🙂

  4. And I’m expecting some great stuff from you, Sandee. Think what world-building you can do using North Africa as a template.

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