Several thousand years ago when people began trading bushels of barley for gaggles of geese, they needed a way to keep track of those transactions. So, those resourceful villagers developed symbols for their products and a funny way of numbering them, then they etched that information into tree trunks and whatever flat stones they could find. Thus, writing was born.

The bards of the day, skeptical of that trendy little development called writing, didn’t believe that the true essence of a story could be relayed with simple squiggly lines scratched onto wood. A good story – an epic story – had to be sung, even dramatized. But countless wonderful stories were lost with the ages, and the bards lamented. So, they took a deep breath and made that brave leap. They became literate, leaving song and verse behind, giving up one form or art for another.

And they didn’t regret it.

I suppose it was because the bards discovered a new way of conveying emotions to more and more people over centuries and centuries. Who would have thought it? Squiggly lines not only captured, but communicated pain, fear, passion, joy, and sadness to someone miles away, years away. Reading and writing expanded the imagination in a growing world thirsty for knowledge. Reading promoted writing, and writing promoted reading.

Centuries passed, and words became more and more powerful. Writers enthralled the masses. Readers grew their minds. The world became the world we know due to writing. We pass along not only information, but stories. Our stories breathe culture into our culture.

So, as you endeavor in this week’s Read-a-thon, reflect back on the wonderful journey which brought that book into your hands. A story anxiously waits to tickle your imagination with little squiggly lines pressed onto paper. Your mind will grow, and so will you.

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Shawn Martin is the author of Shadowflesh.  Visit for a peek into the author’s work.