I recently stumbled upon an online discussion regarding the definition of the word “author.” Someone asked when it is that a writer becomes an author.

One of the participants in the conversation pointed out that fixing a plumbing problem doesn’t mean you’re a plumber. Preparing a meal doesn’t make you a chef. Working on your car doesn’t mean you are a mechanic, and so forth.

This person went on to say that self-publishing a book doesn’t make you an author.

It made me wonder if anyone in this group owned a deck of Authors cards when they were growing up. If so, this is where they saw pictures of Mark Twain, Louisa Mae Alcott, and eleven additional famous authors. This is where they learned the titles of many famous books.  

I remember looking at those cards as a child and thinking you had to be old in order to be an author. I had no plans of becoming old anytime soon. Certainly I would never become an author; I simply didn’t fit the profile.

Then this writing thing happened to me – when I got older.  If it weren’t for my parents’ estate, my younger brother Steven, and a mother who encouraged her children to write, I would not be writing. And thus I would not be wondering when it is that someone becomes an author.  

I haven’t located the Authors deck of cards within my parents’ estate, so I purchased the cards in order to look them over once again and be reminded how the game is played.

If you think about it, writers make something out of nothing. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say they have twenty-six letters in which they make something. Writers simply arrange the letters in ways that people enjoy. Or they don’t.

When the fishing magazine arrives at our house, I know the letters are arranged in a fashion that my husband will enjoy. I don’t really care for the way the letters are arranged in fishing magazines.

He, on the other hand, learns even more about fishing each time he sits down to read the next edition of the magazine. It’s safe to say my husband is a fisherman.

Fishermen spend time near a body of water.  And they know how to pull a fish out of that water. It’s quite astonishing. They know what kind of fish are in the water. They know what kind of equipment they need. They know when the fish may be biting. They know, and they know, and they know.

I know just a little bit about fishing. I know that fishermen will get out of bed at a very early hour to head out for the day. I know they’re willing to drive to a pre-determined destination. I know a fishing trip is a vacation. I know they thoroughly enjoy the hobby. They are welcome to call themselves fishermen.

I think most of us know when it is that a writer officially becomes an author, but thankfully we don’t really need to care. We just need to find reading material in which the author has arranged the twenty-six letters in ways that appeal to us.

My grandsons can write. They dictate their stories to me as I type their words for them. Someday when they’re older, they will read the stories they came up with at such a young age. They will realize there is a writer in all of us.

My Grandma and Grandpa Imm liked to get together with friends to play cards. When my mom wrote a poem for Grandma’s 80th birthday, she included a line about Grandma bidding without even having a bower. Although I knew what a bower was, I looked it up and found it in the rules for Bid Euchre.

I was glad to have stumbled upon that online discussion about authors mainly because it made me think of those vintage cards.  It occurred to me that board games and cards such as Old Maid, Authors, and Go Fish make great gifts for nearly anyone – even the grandparents in the family.  

I remember playing Spoons and the game of Pit with my siblings. There was a lot of laughter, and it got loud at times. A much quieter game is Scrabble which involves coming up with words from an assortment of small lettered tiles. I own a few official Scrabble books and dictionaries which help players figure out how to get the tiles, especially those with a high value, on to the board.    

Children never remember their best day in front of the television. But they will remember times of play and times when they were allowed to help with the work.   

They’ll remember helping their dad with a plumbing project even though their dad wasn’t a plumber. They’ll remember being in the kitchen making food so delicious you’d think it was made by a chef. And any child who is taught how to change a car tire will someday be thankful their dad knew a few things mechanics know.

My mother told me she didn’t realize the best years of her life were when her children were home. She was living through so many nameless moments. So many tiring moments. Mom enlisted our help if we gave her the slightest clue we didn’t have anything to do. There was a cleaning cloth somewhere with our name on it. Or go write something. Or read something. According to her, there was always something to do.

Fast forward to today. Now I’m the one telling people they really ought to find a pen and paper and write it all down. They should write their story. They should not leave shoeboxes full of photos with no identifying words on the back of the pictures.   

Those twenty-six letters can be arranged in many ways and for many different reasons. We can write our to-do list. We can keep a journal. We can write all kinds of things. We can make something out of nothing.

Get busy. There are nameless moments longing to be named. Words that need to be written. Xs and Os that need to show up at the bottom of our notes.  

There are cleaning cloths with our names on them, and we can show off our skills even though we’re not an official housekeeper.  

There are board games that need to be played. We can play Scrabble and learn how many points we’ll get if we figure out how to play the X, Q, and Z tiles. Or we can sit on the floor and play a loud game of Spoons.

Children will learn that although older people don’t look much like a kid, they know a few things about being a kid.   

Every day is an empty page, and we’re right on time for our next chapter.

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