Nothing better than the smell of a book

Author and longterm friend of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Leslie Hooton, shares her story about how the library inspired her writing.

At the age of 60, Leslie Hooton's wish to be a published author came true. She is publishing her first novel, Before Anyone Else, with Turner Publishing. It was an accomplishment she dreamt of all her life. A childhood visit to the library with her mother was the start of her dream. In fact, the first memory Leslie recalls in her life is the smell of library books which developed into a life-long passion for reading those books. For Leslie, her library card was the equivalent to her passport to exciting books and adventures. 

Leslie grew up in a small Alabama town comparable to the setting of How to Kill A Mockingbird. A stroke at birth kept Leslie in a wheelchair for much of her childhood but a visit to the library and a library card changed everything. "The library was my happy and safe place," Leslie said. “When I would go it was like a passport to the world."  

The library was a place where Leslie could explore the world and experience things she didn’t think would happen in her real life. Being able to access the world was important to her. It allowed her to be independent and to connect with her thoughts. And it was something her local library gave her the chance to do. 

To Leslie, a fourth-generation attorney, the library was a comforting place; she’d grown up there. Both her mother and her aunt were librarians. In fact, Leslie would spend hours writing in her high school’s library which is also where her mother worked. "I was happiest when I was quiet and writing in the library. I would go to the library before anyone else would get there and smell the books. I wasn't alone." She’d found a sanctuary among books. 

And Leslie continues to read and write. An avid blogger, Leslie has found a way to marry both of her passions: through blogging. Her blog, What Dreams May Come, is about her love of libraries and why she enjoys writing.  

Leslie has been a resident of Charlotte for 30 years. Her favorite Charlotte Mecklenburg Library branch, and the one she calls home, is the Myers Park Library. She says she would spend entire days there if she could. "It was like a full-time job,” she said. “I would go with my legal pad and sit at a certain desk. I would write until 1 p.m., eat lunch, and go back to writing." 

Leslie is a great friend of the Library and she is an inspiration to others. The theme of her personal life story and testimony is apparent: never give up on your dreams.  

Today, Leslie can say that she is a participating member at the Sewanee Writers Conference, a member of the Myers Park Library Board, a lifelong friend of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and, finally, she now calls herself an author. Her book, Before Anyone Else, will be available in March 24, 2020. It is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and will also be in most libraries. 

This blog was written by Julia Zwetolitz, an intern with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.