The one collection I can't seem to keep from growing is my word collection.
Yes, I am a word hoarder. Single words, phrases, entire sentences, short stories, poems, plays, novels, and some textbooks live here beside the few remaining cat articles, rocks, shells, and feathers—I think the bones are all gone, nestled into the wild once again. Some boxes and drawers contain a good portion of cards and letters written to me over time. Getting rid of e-mails is painful. The really special conversations have either been printed out as hard copy or stored on my computer and external hard drive as backup. I used to save messages on my answering machine for months.
Part of this hoarding does indeed have to do with the writers/speakers of the words and how much those people mean to me. Keeping their words is having a tangible part of them. The non-personal word collections have to do with the way the words come together as works of art. The words literally look beautiful, often sound beautiful, and usually paint a vivid picture that touches me deeply—whether in a humorous or dramatic way.
This is book fair week at school, a dangerous time for me when I think I should be spring cleaning and instead I keep adding to the piles overfilling my hoard. Reading a great borrowed book is cool, but owning that book is even better. Then I can go back to my favorite words/sentences any time that I want. Plus I can bend down corners and write in the margins, should I so desire. (Though I often don't desire). Past book fairs have supplied me with many new word-museum works of art. I rarely go wrong by buying a book I've never even heard about, especially if it's a Newbery winner. 8-10, 10-12, 12-17—these age categories really mean nothing to me. Great books often transcend age.
I won't be surprised if my word collection grows this week, but I have found a pretty cool way to catalogue some of my favorite word art even without buying more books. Among the piles of journals I have, I maintain a newer one reserved for quotations. Most of my journals have favorite quotes scattered throughout my own mental meanderings, but this journal is not allowed to have any of my own stuff in it. I copy down passages and cite them so that I can easily refer to the original if I want. (OK, truth be told, my words and the random utterings of 6-year-olds could very well find their way into this journal. One area that I do not seem to stay organized in is managing my word files.)
Tonight I copied in some words from a new favorite book: My Name is Mina, by David Almond. Here's a little something that sent shivers up my spine:
"Words should wander and meander. They should fly like owls and flicker like bats and slip like cats. They should murmur and scream and dance and sing" (11).
"I sit in my tree
I sing like the birds
My beak is my pen
My songs are my poems" (181).
I hope Mr. Almond is OK with me sharing some of my favorite words/sentences from his book. You really ought to go read the whole book, though. It has so many more wonderful collections of words.