Monday, May 23, 2016

When Reading Becomes Writing

When people ask me what books inspired me to become a writer, my gut instinct is usually to say, “Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series.” Lately, I’ve realized that isn’t true. While I loved, and still love, those books, they weren’t the first or only books to get me excited about storytelling.

My real/complete answer isn’t as straightforward as I’d like. I’ve always been addicted to stories. I had books everywhere—in my backpack, by the TV, in the car, by my bed. I brought books to birthday parties so I didn’t have to deal with the inevitable drama of elementary and middle school girls. When I wasn’t reading, I wrote stories about floods that introduced telepathic dolphins to Denver, kids who woke up from a coma in the wrong world, and 10 year-olds who saved the galaxy from a group that was suspiciously similar to the Sith as ruled by Rita Repulsa*.

I read Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Jane Austen before I ever read anything like Garth Nix’s Sabriel or Robin McKinley’s Beauty. While everyone else was reading Harry Potter**, I ripped through The Iliad and The Odyssey, then Kafka’s Metamorphosis. I gulped down all of Shakespeare’s comedies and half of his tragedies. And through it all, I wrote terrible, awful, painful short stories that I thought were pure gold (see previous paragraph).

Some writers never “decide” to write – they’ve always been writing. If I listed every book that made me want to be a writer, you’d be reading for hours and the list would never stop growing. Every month, I find new storytellers who remind me why I bother to be creative in the first place.

It’s true that certain stories stuck with me over the years, but every book I ever read lead me to where I am today. Even Julie Andrew’s Mandy and Gertrude Warner’s The Boxcar Children had an effect on the kinds of things I write. I didn’t care if a few things went over my head or if the main characters were younger than me. I wanted any and every kind of written word.

So, what books inspired me to be a writer? All of them.

Michelle reads a lot of YA, but she's trying to branch back out to include more classic literature (there's a lot she missed as a kid!). She loves Jane Eyre and anything by Maggie Stiefvater, which may or may not be an odd combination. You can find her here on Mondays or every day on Twitter, @redactionaire. 

*You can hear the first pages of this GLORY of a manuscript in my trunk novel from Episode 27.

**Don’t worry, I finally got to HP when I was a freshman in college. But I ended up binge-reading EVERY SINGLE ONE in the matter of a week and a half, and now they're all just "Harry Potter" in my head, not individual titles. 

1 comment:

  1. I envy you for your youthful start in literary pursuits and bravo on the sticking with it.

    I was recently journaling about the why and how I started to write. In this bit of self-discovery, I found I started everything late. I didn’t read for pleasure until I was ten years old. I didn’t realize a mere mortal could write stories until I was thirteen. My writing attempts were spotty for the next few decades and nonexistent in the late 1900s. In the early 2000s, my wife found a few floppy disks filled with short stories and aborted novels I wrote in my college days. Disks that had somehow escaped the burn pile. She urged me to write again. Each subsequent year has made the writing urge stronger.

    I guess this is a generational thing, when you said you got to “HP”, I was thinking Lovecraft or steak sauce. I have to confess I haven’t read the Harry Potter books, yet.