Make Me Cry

Zeva at beach

I didn’t read much when I was a child. It wasn’t that I didn’t like reading, I was simply too busy making up stories inside my head and then playing them out.

Even as a teenager, I spent endless hours daydreaming rather than reading or doing schoolwork.

But in early adulthood, not being a reader suddenly became embarrassing among my group of friends, and so I gradually started catching up.

But it wasn’t until I became a mother that I really fell in love with books. Initially, I read everything I could find on pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, but I quickly progressed to fiction when I was spending endless hours breastfeeding. I had four children and they all self weaned, so that adds up to a lot of time feeding babies, blissfully happy doing my job, and reading.

I’m not a fast reader. My favourite books are about ordinary people conquering their hard times, their drawbacks, failings, or fears. I like to immerse myself in the character’s lives, to weep for them when they hurt, and rejoice with them when they succeed. They become my friends for a while, so I don’t want to rush through their story. Sometimes I almost dread coming to the end of the book and being forced to say goodbye to them.

It’s because I care about these ‘friends’ that I want a finish to the story that feels real. I don’t want my protagonists to be saved by Superman, James Bond, or some other fantastical magic.  It doesn’t have to be a happy ever after ending either. I’d rather it be more like life. I want them to struggle, and to learn something on their journey, a skill or an understanding that will lead them to a believable but ultimately uplifting ending.

I do read other genres, but to be honest, I generally rate a book well if I have to fight back tears at some stage in the story, and if any section reduces me to a sobbing mess, that book is sure to zoom to the top of my favourite list.

Apparently, I love to experience the wide range of emotions we are all capable of, but I’d really rather avoid feeling heartbreakingly sad, or frightened silly, which is why, I suspect, I love feeling them vicariously through stories where I can turn the page and read on until things get better. Sad events are always resolved faster in a story.

They feel safe.

Yeah, I love a good cry, but please don’t hurt me!

Before I published Absent Children, my novel about a young couple’s journey from the tragic birth of their firstborn, to the birth of their next baby, I submitted it for review to an online critique group. Most of the reviews I received from them were very positive, which made me happy, but I think this one from Liz, thrilled me the most:

I’m wondering, if this goes to print (which I’m almost sure it will) will it come ready packed with a box of Kleenex tissues included?

It delighted me because it meant I’d succeeded in a wish that happened back when I was feeding one of my babies. My heart was broken in one section of the book I was reading, The Bone People by KerI Hulm, and I remember enjoying the cry, and wishing I could write stories that made people cry.

At the time, I was far too busy raising my children and working as a nurse to even contemplate the possibility of that dream ever coming true. Besides, I didn’t have the skills required, or the imagination, and certainly not the determination.

But years later, I did have the time, and I discovered that the basic skills can be learnt. I also realised I’d been imagining stories all my life, and that determination is and has always been there when something is important to me.

And my first book was very important for me.

As well as posting about writing and publishing, one of my plans for this blog is to write honest reviews for the books I read. If you’re a reader, I’d like to think my reviews might help you choose your next book, and I’d love to hear about your favourite books too.

You might also like to be a guest reviewer here, as well, and we could create a world-wide book club, one with no required reading list, but plenty of discussion.





4 thoughts on “Make Me Cry

  1. Paddastoel says:

    As someone who loved to read, almost from birth, I was heartbroken to find that reading and breast feeding did not mix (at least for me). I honestly don’t know how you did it. Later on, perhaps, but not when she was a newborn infant. It was physically uncomfortable (I needed both hands to feed back then) and mommy-brain made it very difficult for me to concentrate on my once-beloved companions. Instead, I found my solace in audio books. Mercifully, or else I would have gone insane.

    Congratulations on the publication of your book.

  2. julitownsend says:

    Thank you for commenting.
    I probably did most of my reading once my babies and I had settled into a comfortable rhythm with each other, rather than the newborn days – it’s so long ago and I don’t really remember, except I do remember spending a lot of feeds gazing lovingly at my new baby which suggests I wasn’t reading.
    However, (lactation consultants will probably crucify me for saying what I’m about to say!) breastfeeding hadn’t become the science it now is. We were told to lay the baby in our arms, stimulate baby’s cheek with our nipple so that baby TURNED his/her head to latch on. Despite the fact that I suffered sore nipples with each baby – they eventually toughened up – and I’m sure the techniques taught now prevent a lot of that pain, I worry that breastfeeding has become a complicated process, needing expert help, the same way birth has. So many mothers worry and stress about whether they’re doing it right. I wish there was some middle road where the mothers had confidence in their abilities, and their nipples didn’t get sore! 🙂

  3. Lynn Love says:

    Hi Juli, having started a distance learning degree just before falling pregnant, I found I would get my text books out when I was breastfeeding my son. A few minutes of quiet to scribble some notes and I only occasionally used his head as a book rest- honest! Loved breastfeeding and mourned a little when that stage was over x

    • julitownsend says:

      Hi Lynn,

      If you keep having babies, you can put off the mourning for a long time. 🙂

      My youngest weaned without telling me she wouldn’t be back for more, so I didn’t even know when the last time was.

      Thanks for popping by and commenting.

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