Kindling the Spark

When I taught school, I always hoped to kindle a burning desire in my students to learn more about something we touched on in class—Robert Frost, etymology …grizzly bears.  I’d like to think that somewhere out there in the world at this moment, one of my former students is following a passion that I sparked.  It was my uncle who struck that spark for me when I was a child, and he did it with one small action that he probably forgot within an hour or two.  It has stayed with me for a lifetime.


My uncle, who lived next-door, was cleaning one day.  I’m not sure what he was cleaning—maybe a drawer, a closet, the attic?  He found a French phrase book he’d been issued when he was stationed in France in World War II.  He could have thrown it out, but prophetically, he gave it to me instead.


That tiny book, maybe three-inches square, with its faded blue cover and thirty, yellowed pages, held magic.  The words and phrases written there were beautiful and fluid, and when I used the pronunciation guide to speak them aloud, they transported me across the ocean to another world—a long way for an eight-year-old from Paducah, Kentucky to travel.  I fell in love with the language in that book, and a lifelong passion to learn about France was born.


I memorized that book and couldn’t wait to take French in high school, where I learned not only more of the language, but also of the history and culture as well.  I dreamed of going to France some day.


Life happened and that dream didn’t come true until I was in my thirties.  Ironically, my first trip to France was as a chaperone for a group of high school students.  But I was finally there, and the country was everything I’d ever imagined it to be.  A couple of years later, I talked my husband into going back with me, just the two of us.  One glimpse of the quaint harbor in Villefranche-sur-Mer, and he was hooked.  That was in 1996.   We’ve gone back four times in the past fifteen years.


A few years ago, we rented an apartment in Paris for two weeks.  That apartment sowed the seed of a plot in my brain that became my latest Harlequin Superromance release MOONLIGHT IN PARIS.  From little blue book to fascination with a language and culture and all the way to a full-length novel—the spark of interest bellowed into a bonfire.


My uncle died many years ago without ever knowing what an amazing impact that tiny book has had on my life.  It was the beginning of a wonderful adventure.


So now it’s your turn.  Do you remember the event from your childhood that sparked a lifelong interest?  Share it with me!