Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where It Began

For those of us who love to write, there are probably a few books that stand out in our early memories as The Ones That Started It, the paperbacks we read ragged that made us want to write books of our own.  For many up-and-coming writers, I suppose these may include the Harry Potter books, the Camp Half-Blood series, or, heaven help us, Twilight.

I didn't have the good fortune of having Harry around when I was growing up in the early 80s.  The first book that I remember tearing through from start to finish was a science fiction tale you've probably never heard of called The Tutti Frutti Connection, by Alan Cameron, about kids who go into an ice cream shop and get whisked into a strange future, or alternate world--some weird place where everyone is bald, wears a shiny jumpsuit, and walks on people-movers.  I sometimes wonder what happened to Alan Cameron and his wacky imagination.

Sara Crewe, I love you
As I grew older, I enjoyed stories about girls: Little Women is fantastic, of course, and I loved Joan Aiken's Wolves Chronicles.  And I adored Frances Hodgeson Burnett.  The Secret Garden took me a few reads to love (my elementary self: Mary is so unappealing! Dickon is such a weird name!), but I was immediately enamored with A Little Princess.  The part where she wakes up from a brutal scolding and discovers that a secret friend has filled her room with plush blankets and a hot breakfast--LOVED it.  I re-read that book until the cover fell off.

Another author that played an important role in my elementary years was Lloyd Alexander.  I tried to read The High King when I was still too young, and it made no sense (also not a good idea to start with the fifth book in a series, but I was already a sucker for the shiny Newberry Medal sticker).  When I finally read the Chronicles of Prydain, I loved them--ditto the Westmark Trilogy.

I totally wanted that cat
A brief aside: in eighth grade, our English teacher had us practice different forms of letter writing--letter of request, letter of complaint, letter of praise.  I wrote to Lloyd Alexander and told him how much I like his books, and he answered me!  He didn't actually write me a letter, but sent me a brochure about himself and his books, upon which he scrawled the answers to my questions in his own handwriting, and thanked me for my letter.  Pretty neat.

My love of fantasy is what eventually brought me to writing.  The stories I wrote back then--two girls on an epic quest with their horses in an alternate world, a girl who discovers she is a mermaid and has a whole mermaid family living in the ocean (leading to an epic underwater quest), two magical girls who must go on an epic quest to recover a magical crystal and save their kingdom (sense a theme here?)--were derivative and unremarkable, and completely enthralling to me at the time.  And as much as I enjoy reading good contemporary YA or literary fiction, I still love writing stories where I can build new worlds with my own rules, and use them to tell stories with underlying themes that matter in any world.

What kind of books did you read as a child?  Can you think of any authors in particular who influenced your desire to write?

1 comment:

  1. I remember the books that I read over and over in early elementary school: A Wrinkle in Time; Judy Blume books; the Narnia books; Charlotte's Web; Black Beauty...among others.

    Happy Weekend!