Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Fricassee

Well, I'm set. I've just returned from Whole Foods with three pounds of $1.99/lb cherries. If it weren't for Twitter, I'd have forgotten about the one day cherry sale.

Yet another reason to twitterize. Cherry sales.

At any rate, thanks for a week of thoughtful comments. I appreciate knowing that my writing-as-career post has inspired/booty-kicked so many of you! I also appreciate the dissenting opinions on my not-so-rosy book review. Such a subjective business, this. I'm sticking by my overall label of "clunky," though. Just because it's a fairy tale doesn't mean it needs to be clunky.

One of my all-time favorite picture books is The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski (Walker Books, 1997). The artwork beautifully supports the story, the writing is luscious, and I always cry. Always. (Needless to say, I don't read it often. I leave it on my shelf and stroke its binding as I walk by.)

Here is the opening page:

The village children called him Mr. Gloomy.

But, in fact, his name was Mr. Toomey. Mr. Jonathan Toomey. And though it's not kind to call people names, this one fit quite well. For Jonathan Toomey seldom smiled and never laughed. He went about mumbling and grumbling, muttering and sputtering, grumping and griping. He complained that the church bells rang too often, that the birds sang too shrilly, that the children played too loudly.

And when you find out why Mr. Toomey seldom smiles and never laughs, you will know why I cry when I read it.

Ahh, book love! It's something we all share, regardless of the genres we write. Because if we didn't love books, we wouldn't write them.

What are some of your favorites from childhood? And why? have they shaped you as a writer?

(OOOO, this comment box is going to be AWESOME!)

I credit a delightful librarian with planting a deep love for fantasy in my heart. Her name was Mary Beth and my mom worked with her in our town's tiny public library. When Mary Beth discovered I liked "magical-type" stories, she began putting aside the new YA fantasy offerings for me, presenting me regularly, over the course of one sparkly summer, with books that have stayed with me ever since. I was reading urban fantasy before anyone decided to call it that.

The bright yellow "YA" stickers on the spines made me feel oh-so-special, too. A young "adult" was almost grown up, surely.

Mary Beth is probably the one who got me started on Katherine Kurtz's novels, too (which are decidedly NOT YA). Which led me to Terry Brooks. And Patricia A. McKillip. And Tolkien. (Yes, I grew up without Tolkien. Didn't read Lord of the Rings until college. Clearly my town had a tiny library because it was a literary cesspool.)

Books that have stuck with me from tiny to twenty? And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. What the Witch Left. The Incredible Shrinking House. Stoneflight. The Sword of Shannara. The Riddlemaster of Hed. The first Deryni trilogy. And the second. And the third. And of course Lord of the Rings.

Then there was a book I LOVED and cannot remember. Not the title, not the author, not even the names of the protagonists. All I know was awesome.

Brother and sister. A foal that turns out to be a baby Pegasus. Something evil in the night, circling the barn where the baby Pegasus is hidden. Flight on the young Pegasus whose wings are barely born. Oh, I groan to know what this book was!

Then again, I may have totally romanticized it. It might...well, suck. Though I doubt it. Mary Beth only chose the best for me.

Thank you, Mary Beth, wherever you are.

Okay, writerly folks: your turn!


  1. Tolkien - first and foremost, my great literary love, and the books I reread every 2 years or so.

    L'Enlge - A Wrinkle in Time! Oh, the joys of that wonderful, wonderful book that started out "It was a dark and stormy night".

    Lewis - The Narnia Chronicles. What love of fantasy isn't complete without these books?

    Eddings - The Belgariad and The Mallorean series. Love 'em!

    Brooks - Shannara, how, how I loved series after series. Wasn't it neat how he took two separate series and merged them into one? Brilliance! Of course, I think I love The Sword of Shannara the best out of all the Shannara books.

    There are so many other books, my shelves teeming with tome after tome, that I read again and again.

    If not for books, where would my imagination have fled to as a child and young adult and, ahem, older adult? If not for books, how would I have ever begun writing?


  2. I love your passion, Scott. :)

    I didn't mention Narnia because--wait for it--I grew up NOT KNOWING ABOUT THE BOOKS.

    (Yeah. Literary cesspool.)

    There was this cheezy animated version of Lion/Witch/Wardrobe my sister and I used to watch. I thought it was a really cool story. But I had no idea it was a book.

    Then, much much later, I found out. And was further shocked to discover it was an entire SERIES.

    Which I now own, of course.

    And have you seen the trailer for Dawn Treader?! OOOO!!!

  3. I'll never forget when our student teacher in 2nd grade introduced Chris Van Allsburg's books to us. We spent an entire six weeks reading Jumanji, the Polar Express, and others. It was the first time I ever thought "Hey, maybe picture books aren't just for teaching kids to read. Maybe they're for enjoyment!"

    In fourth grade I discovered Madeleine L'Engle and read every book our school library had. In Fifth grade I discovered Star Wars books - which took me through until the 7th grade.

    Then a magical thing happened. My dad found a copy of The Path of the Daggers. He brought it home and thought maybe I'd like it. Of course, it's like the eighth book in the WoT - so my mom and I went to the library to find the Eye of the World. My mom insisted on reading it first to discover if it was age appropriate and suddenly not just me - but my entire family was reading the WoT.

    From there I jumped to Anne McCaffrey, Isaac Asimov, Tolkien, and sooo many others. I would just walk though the SF/F section of the bookstore and find new dazzling things everyday.

    I'll admit - it made me something of a SF/F snob. My friends in the seventh grade started reading this ridiculous kids series called "Harry Potter" and I though "Hah! Look at you and your kids book! I'm reading real stuff - like Robert Jordan and Tolkien." Then I finally broke down and read Harry Potter and LOVED IT.

    You could say that's when I discovered MG and YA Fantasy. Odd that I pretty much jumped from picture books to adult books and then back to YA (though I never gave up adult books)....

  4. Meredith Ann Pierce. AMG, Unicorns. I love the Firebringing Trilogy to this day.

    Then there's Jane Yolen with the Pit Dragon Trilogy, which I think is actually led me to Ann McCaffrey and a lifelong dragon obsession.

  5. Some of my favorites:
    The Lorax, The Best Loved Doll, Charlotte's Web, Hello Aurora, the first Narnia book, many Judy Blume books, S.E. Hinton.

    I got into more fantasy as an adult.

  6. The Boxcar Children was my first read it again and again book. I even read all the mysteries in third grade. I wanted to be them, living in a boxcar and finding treasures at the dump. Imagine how diaappointed I was the first time I went to a dump.So, not the same.

    Then I was onto Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton, Paul Zindel...and as for fantasy, I fell in love with that by reading Lloyd Alexander. I loved Prydain and wanted to go there.

  7. Hi Authoress - Fun post! I was a big-time horse nerd when I was a kid. So I LOVED the Black Stallion books by Walter Farley and anything by Marguerite Henry. Or just anything with a horse on the cover.

    So your pegasus book...hmm...sounds vaguely like "The Winged Colt of Casa Mia"?

    If that's not it, you could try posting it on "Stump the Bookseller." Someone can figure it out!

  8. OMG, What The Witch Left! How could you do this to me, Authoress? The gloves, the boots. The cloak. *Gasp!* (I recently ordered every single Ruth Chew book I could find on eBay for my daughter, and they all came with worn and faded covers -- perfection.)

  9. Rachelle! No way!!! It's how I learned how many miles were in a league. And I still think of the boots when I hear the word "league." :D I think my copy is still at my parents' house somewhere.

    Theresa -- I have tried that site with no success! And unfortunately it's not the book you mentioned. I am completely stumped!

  10. Dang, too bad, Authoress! I guess I did not read EVERY horse book there was.

    I've noticed that I still love books I read for the first time when I was a kid. But if I read a kid's or YA book now, I'm a lot more critical. This goes for movies too. Makes me wish I had branched out more when I was younger!

  11. Here's a great resource for finding old favorite books:

    I read a LOT of horse books as a kid. If the book in question had no words, maybe it was The Silver Pony by Lynd Ward. Lovely illustrations in that one.

    As for childhood favorite... geez. C. W. Anderson's horse books, Berenstain Bears, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rosemary Sutcliff, Patricia Beatty (lots of historical fiction)... At 12, I discovered Dragonlance and adult fantasy.

  12. The Forgotten Door was my first sci-fi/fantasy. I bought it myself with my own money from the Scholastic Book Club. Every other girl in the class bought Sara Crewe and thought I was weird.

    I had a long love affair with Piers Athony and his Xanth books, and had a short fling with Tannith Lee and Roger Zelazny. And I loved the Ringworld stories.

    My all time favorite is a short story by Isaac Assimov (although it probably qualifies as SF) Nightfall.

  13. Three words (which I can't believe I'm the first to say): The Phantom Tollbooth. I feel no shame in saying that it's my favorite book of all time -- and that I still reread it at least twice a year.

    In general, though, certain authors or series have stuck with me more than individual books: Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, Piers Anthony's Xanth series, Robert Asprin's Myth series, Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials, Edward Eager's Magic books, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels, Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby series, Lewis Carroll's Alice books, and anything at all by Beatrix Potter, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, or Chris van Allsburg.

    As for individual books, Charlotte's Web; Ten and Twenty; The Velveteen Rabbit; The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm; and Cheaper By the Dozen are the books which spring most readily to mind.

    I still love curling up with books from my childhood, even though I've practically memorized most of them. I guess there's just a part of me that refuses to grow up.

  14. Favorite childhood books...there are so many! The Secret Garden is tops, something about it touched me every time I read it, I loved it, kept re-reading it into my teens. I also loved Heidi and A Little Princess, and I grew up on Enid Blyton, loved the famous five series, the magic faraway tree books and tons of others by her. I also had mini sized classics like Little Women, Tom Sawyer etc. I read and was terrified by Poe's Tales of Mystery and Terror when I was very young. All of those books affected me in some I'm nostalgic!

  15. Some of my favourite books from childhood are set during WW2 - Goodnight Mr Tom, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Back Home and The Silver Sword. It's still a time I'm fascinated with.

    I also loved Enid Blyton, the Secret Garden and of course Judy Blume, whose books I read over and over.

    The series I wish I'd read as a child, but came to late, is The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. I can't wait to share it with my son.

  16. I'm with Alexa, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series transformed the way I looked at the world as a kid. It was the first time I realized I could write stories that had no boundaries.

  17. Holes. I was so jealous when my older sister got a copy of that book for Christmas instead of me. Surely Santa messed up that year.

    However all was forgiven since that same sister read the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy out loud to me. I cried harder for the "deaths" of the characters in those books than any other I've ever read.

    The Prydain Chronicles.

    A picture book called Mathew's Dragon.

    It's hard for me to remember children books that I read as a child since I never really stopped reading them. One such series is Deltora Quest which I read to my younger brother because it was the only thing he would let me read to him. I ended up loving it too because I underestimated it at first and was pleasantly surprised.

    Roald Dahl's The Witches. The description of the witch's face fascinated me and still creeps me out a little.

    I was a funny kid. I wouldn't read anything that sounded "classic" or "fluffy" like Anne of Green Gables (even though I love that book now), I only read Fantasy or adult books. I've had to go back and read some of the great children's book after the fact because I was so hard headed.

  18. LOL. The Bobbsey Twins! LOL...
    Mmmm Cherry Blossom Land, Volcano Land, ... oh dear what a confession.

    Wind in the Willows.
    Alice in Wonderland
    Little Women
    Little Lord Fauntleroy ("Did you ever know many marquises, Mr. Hobbs?" "I guess not, I'd like to catch one of 'em inside here; thats all! I'll have no grasping tyrants sittin' around on my biscuit barrls!")
    Secret Garden
    Lord of the Rings
    Blinky Bill (Koala)
    Gone with the Wind
    Winnie the Pooh
    Bib and Bub (May Gibbs Oz author and B and B are both gumnuts, there are Big Bad Banksia)

    And I once tried Norman Mailer THE SEVEN MINUTES and never quite got it.

    Of course I did grow up but not quite so my reading list grew so the barriers are now blurred. And there are the books my kids loved, and wanted to hear over and over again, so the list grew.

    We had a record when I was little. Danny Kaye. Hans Christian Anderson... "I'm Hans Christian Anderson I bring you a tale so rare... there once was a table who said "oh how I'd love a chair!" and then and there came a sweet young chair all dressed in a bridal gown... he laughed ha ha in a voice so true - now I did not say I would marry you but I would like to sit down...)

    I cannot belong to a library. I have kleptomanic symptoms, I love it I want it. The pigs lived in straw house, wood house and brick house. This little piggy lives in Book House.

    LOL, sigh, I'll be remembering ones I haven't mentioned all night now.


  19. I don't remember individual books, but I do remember going through series:

    Bobbsey Twins
    Encyclopedia Brown
    Nancy Drew
    Hardy Boys
    Little Women
    Anne of Green Gables
    Hobbit & LotR

    Then... Piers Anthony, Anne McCaffrey, ...

  20. oooo! I just tuned back in to your blog and what a fun one to tune into!

    Little House - I still read them and I'm past 30...past 35 even.

    Many more of the authors already mentioned.

    Loved old fashioned stories - Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.

    I forgot about Ruth Chew! Delight!

    "Christmas Miracle" is beautiful. Another one is The Very Best of Friends by Margaret Wild. Can't read it to kids without choking up.