Tag Archives: children

Window to the Past- 24 Favorite Childhood Books

As a writer, it’s interesting to trace the inspirations that have come through life. One undeniably big influence are the books that we consume over time.

I hope to do a three part series, one on childhood books, one on young adult, and one on adulthood, but I figured I’d start young and work my way up. As I started I realized how many books I love, and I couldn’t include them all. But here are a few that randomly sprung to mind.

DISCLAIMER: I haven’t read some of these in a long time, so if I get something wrong, I’m sorry, and also if you’re a parent please review the book before reading it to your kid, because I am not responsible if it goes against something you want to instill in your child because you didn’t double check. I’ve included links to Goodreads where you can find summaries, reviews etc.

The Chronicles of Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia, #1-7)   The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: I have to begin with Narnia, because it’s one of my happiest and earliest memories of reading. My parents took turns reading the first book to me when I was probably five or six and they’ve stuck with me ever since. I can’t deny the beauty of these simple and magical stories.

Where the Red Fern GrowsWhere the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawles: One of the books that made me cry a ridiculous amounts. I love my dog stories, to be sure. A great tale of adventure and friendship between a boy and his pets out in the wilderness.

The Little Prince  The Little Prince by Antoine de Sainte-Exupery: I read this in high school, so I can recognize the values even as an adult. However, even if children might not recognize all of the beautiful life lessons, it has value just as a beautiful and fun story.

Oscar And The Lady In PinkOscar et la Dame Rose by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt: Again a read in high school for French class, but nonetheless beautiful and inspiring. Not sure I’d recommend it for children even though it’s short. A beautiful tale about cancer, young dreams, conversations with God and so much more.

The Hobbit (Middle-Earth Universe)The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: A fantastic tale of adventure filled with dwarves, maps, magical mountains, ferocious spiders, and of course the terrifying dragon Smaug! A great read for people of all ages (though I believe this was a read-aloud for me as a child which probably helped!)

Tuck EverlastingTuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt: a beautiful and potent story on eternal life and love and youth. The thought of this book brings up some warm reminiscence within me, sort of a sweet and meaningful sadness.

The Witch of Blackbird PondThe Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare: I hardly remember anything about this book, and yet for some reason I’ve still held onto it as a childhood favorite. I know I greatly admired the main character, that her struggle against the expectations around her always felt meaningful to me for some reason. A book that seems to prize individuality and difference in a world that says they’re not so important. Definitely a story I’d have to pick up again, but I’m still going to recommend it nonetheless.

Harry Potter Boxset (Harry Potter, #1-7)Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: I can hardly deny putting the books on here that inspired me to want to be a writer. An inspiring and magical reading experience that I recommend to all ages (although later books in the series are a bit dark for young kids perhaps). These books offer stories that not only are captivating in plot, but also hold valuable themes about friendship, love, bravery, and the power of doing what’s right. I could go on for a whole post, but that’s for a later day.

A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #1)A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle: A strange yet oddly captivating story involving an odd mix of science and fantasy. L’Engle writes so wonderfully, and I remember as a little girl being so inspired by the character of Meg as an old sister and as a young girl coming to a bigger understanding of myself.

The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain #1)The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander: For any Lord of the Rings lovers, any kids who like fantasy and legend and adventures I highly recommend these books. They detail the misadventures of Taren, assistant pig keeper, his companions Princess Eilonwy, Gurgy, and Fleudor. And yes, there was a Disney spinoff movie but it’s terrible and the books are fantastic.

Harriet the Spy (Harriet the Spy #1)Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh: Another one of those female characters I remember feeling very similar to and loving. Harriet’s adventures are entertaining, heartwarming, and perhaps even a little heartbreaking too. Definitely a good way to learn about the power our words and actions have in the lives of others and how careful we need to be.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Rats of NIMH, #1)Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien: A book I remember fascinating me as a young child. I quickly devoured the others in the “series” even though they’re not by the same author. It’s a bit of a quirky story really, but I think that’s part of why I like it so much.

A Little Princess A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett: As a little girl I wanted to be just like Sarah. I wanted to have that same level of grace and dignity, kindness and compassion even in the midst of sorrow and hardship. As a young teen I remember feeling motivated to try to reach out to others even while feeling very confused about myself. A lovely and sweet story.

Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #1)Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede– A very odd little thing to throw on here, but I think part of it comes down to my women’s studies class and thinking on what makes me who I am. I loved fractured fairy tales, and this one does fracture a few fairy tales. Essentially the princess runs off to go take care of the dragon herself, only to make a friend and find a happier life there than her boring one in the castle. I appreciated even at that age the princess not needing saving, and the fact that the dragon at one point wanted to be a King even as a woman (because a Queen is a completely different role). Fun and quirky and magical.

The Thief Lord  The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke: Going to Venice last year made me recall this book in a nostalgic way. I think it’s one of those books that made me want to travel, if only to see the magic of the places Funke described so beautifully. A magical story full of adventure, mischief, enchantment, and history.

The Two Princesses of BamarreThe Two Princesses Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine: Ella Enchanted falls a close second, but this was my favorite book by Levine. I related so much to the principle character in never feeling brave enough. Again, I enjoyed the atypical princess story, the inspiration it gave me as a young woman. I would have included Ella on here as well, but I figured this part could serve to glorify the both. A great author with many fantastic books.

The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #1)A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket: Quirky and odd with a failure of a finale (see Snicket…see what I did?) these books were pretty entertaining to me as a child, even if they disappointed me at the end (guess it shows they had me hooked). I loved the vocabulary and random facts I learned reading these. They never failed to make me scratch my head and ponder a little bit what madness had affected the author.

The Complete Charlie Bone SeriesMidnight for Charlie Bone (Children of the Red King) by Jenny Nimmo:  I think part of the reason I loved this story so much was that it had a slight hint of similarity to Harry Potter. I liked the imagination and creativity behind the works, and I adored all of the characters.

The Forgotten DoorThe Forgotten Door by Alexander Key: Alexander Key is an obscure author I fell in love with (though I think it might have been as a teen rather than a child). A fascinating thought on the possibility of utopia, with a unique boy from an alien world coming to earth. It definitely gave me a lot to ponder at the time.

Catherine, Called BirdyCatherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman: I thought I should include at least one “historical” book since I loved these as well. The famous women in history diaries were one, but I liked this one for being more fictionalized, not about anyone real but wondering what it might have been like to be a woman back in the days of arranged marriages. I adored Catherine’s wit and cleverness, her clear dislike for the traditions of her day and longing for more.  A very fun story with a great heroine.

Among the Hidden (Shadow Children, #1)Among the Hidden (Shadow Children Series) by Margaret Peterson Haddix: Haddix is a master storyteller. I love lots of her works, but these ones were particularly suspenseful and interesting. Great dystopian fiction. I remember it brought a lot of pondering for me about population laws and government control and other important things like that.

The Castle in the Attic (The Castle in the Attic, #1) Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop: Again, my love of fantasy playing out. A fun and interesting adventure that followed in a series of books. I think one of my favorite things about this one was that my brother and I both enjoyed it, and I like remembering books that were shared in interest by both of us, because those are doubly special.

Half Magic (Tales of Magic, #1)Half Magic (Tales of Magic Series) by Edward Eager: More oddballs. I guess I was just a weird kid, what can I say. I loved the concept of this book taking little traditional storytelling elements (like making wishes) and playing with them. Summing it up, four kids find a magical item that gives them the ability to make wishes, but only in halves. Misadventures ensue. I have a childhood fondness for all of these books for some odd reason.

The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes, Volume 1The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes by Anne Mazer: One of the earliest books I remember making me want to be a writer. Really a very simple series with several books, but I still know as a little girl I had a diary I filled out with green pen (I think Abby’s is purple) and I would put little quotes on it and I would try to motivate myself to do great things. Cute memories attached in spite of the lesser nature of this one.

Getting to the end of this I begin to realize how many wonderful books I’ve left off. I mean how could I forget about the wonderful Spiderwick Chronicles? Or the funny Bruce Coville alien series? Or the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle? Honestly, there are too many books I loved as a girl to list here. Oh well, this is just a sparse selection, some of the first that come to mind.

What are your childhood favorites? Why do you love these so much? What books made you want to be a writer or inspired you to some future goal?

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The Art of Character Creation

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So I’ll just start out by giving a brief summary of my summer. I’ve been doing two things mostly: watching TV and nannying.

I suppose in a way these two share a connection, though that may come as surprise. I suppose what both have allowed me to reflect a good deal on is the art of molding a person into what we know as a character.

Character creation is one of my all time favorite parts of writing. Most of the time when I develop a person for my writing I come to love them to a point of obsession. They’re like my children, my own creations I know better than anyone else ever could. I know their quirks, their likes, their dislikes, the way they look when they sleep, the food they’d gobble up in a heartbeat, the person that simply brings out the worst in them, their dreams and deepest desires. There’s something so beautiful in that. And that’s why I think some of this summer has been so fantastic.

I’ve done minimal reading. Something about this break has made me frightfully lazy. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned anything about writing.

Though television perhaps may seem a bit of a lower standard in terms of studying writing, there is no denying a writer puts work into each and every episode that airs. And while actors certainly play a key role in helping give that character life, it’s the initial writer who first births the idea.

Unlike in novels or movies, viewers spend a large amount of time getting to know television characters, perhaps one of the reasons it is so important to develop the character to a greater extreme truly showing off their complexities and unique personalities. Most movies give you a 2 hour window into a character’s life. In that time, you might get to know them well, but so much time is devoted to plot that often characters can seem to blend back into the background creating the same generic feel of others in their genre. Not to say I don’t think there are amazing movie characters because there are films that can easily reduce me to tears (the fact that Pixar’s Up is the first one I think of leaves me a bit perplexed but nonetheless provides a good example).

Books are perhaps more in depth than movies often are, filling pages that take hours to read rather than a short movie time span. However, authors too sometimes must cut back on areas of character development. First person often gives a great insight into the mind of the protagonist and yet side characters sometimes end up becoming rather flat. Writing on this makes me think of my English professor’s little rhyme to help us remember character development techniques: what they think, what they do, what others think about them too! However, when the plot is over and done we don’t see the characters everyday normal lives to a great extent. We get perhaps a glimpse in an epilogue of he or she with children or a significant other making their way in the world, but it’s not the same as glimpsing multiple scenes of them raising kids, having fights with a partner, crying over the loss of a loved one.

Television provides a unique lens into the lives of its characters. You spend 45 minutes with them through each episode. And unless we’re talking about BBC most often, there are at least 20 of these episodes in a season, and the show could run for five or more years!

My mother got me started on Bones this year. I started in season 4 or something like that. And though I initially rebuffed the idea of becoming hooked on another television series, I soon found myself all too fascinated by Dr. Brennan and her frank and (sometimes too) honest approach to life, or Angela and how brilliantly she works computers, or Dr. Hodges who never fails to get excited by something gross. And yet part of what gives me such love for each and every one of these fictional people is that I get brief glimpses into their semi-mundane lives alongside the drama of the crime show. I see Cam struggling to mother a teenage daughter, or Sweets confused with his love life, or Brennan’s strained relationship with her father. And every episode, every season there’s a new real life struggle that I get to glimpse the character in to accompany the disgusting discovery of a new crime. And unlike in movies or books I often begin to get a sense that I truly know the character the way I might more as an author. For as writers we discover parts of the character’s normal life, we just don’t always get to include it in our novels.

Bones

Didn’t you say something about nannying? I’m sure I’ve lost a few readers and I apologize. And yes, I did. Nannying has been my second glimpse of creating characters and actually relates rather well to television. This is because my characters live more of an episodic lifestyle than one out of a novel or movie.

My kids’ all-time favorite game we play they call Orphanage. Children for whatever reason often seem a bit fascinated by orphans (perhaps the reason so many children’s stories include these individuals as protagonists). And so, we created a game of three orphans living in a home for other equally parentless children, all of whom find that the place they’re living is anything but ordinary.

There are probably fifteen to twenty other children in the orphanage. And I play all of them. The idea is I’ll slip out, put on a different hat depending if I’m a boy or girl and then step back in to act out my part as one of their compatriot orphans. Sometimes I’ll be having drama with one of the other kids in the place, other times I’ll bring news of something odd going on. We’ve had a bit of everything, from werewolves attacking, to petrified students with a basilisk on the lose (sorry JK Rowling) to strange spells, to aliens attacking. Most recently I’ve taken a page from BBC Sherlock’s book and have started making the children solve a mystery in order to save a fellow orphan’s life.

However, in the process of all this I’m weaving together characters that the children have come to know and love. And because I often play this game for four hours at a time, five days a week, for four or five weeks of the summer, for three years, the tales are often episodic in nature. There are new major plot conflicts, but also minor ones such as a girl rejecting a boy, or another orphan being adopted again, or one of them trying to escape unwanted attention. And in doing so the characters really begin to create a life of their own. You have quirky Nick the beat boxer who never fails to bring a smile to people’s faces as the somewhat goofy comic relief, or sweet motherly Anna who tries to run the orphanage as best she can when the adults fail, flirty Italian Antonio who never gives up no matter how often he gets shut down, or even obnoxious girly-girl Ivy who spends most of her time talking on the phone about her nails.

Both the kids and I have fallen in love with some of the characters. If we lose the list I keep of who’s who, there are always characters they are guaranteed to request, ones they’re sad over possibly losing, ones they fear for when threatened. Just the other day when the latest girl was threatened in order to get them to solve the little homemade treasure hunt puzzle I’d developed one of the kids commented, “No she’s our friend!”

And so this summer has reminded me all the more that making a good character involves truly knowing them. In a novel it can be a bit harder because you may have less time to let your audience fall in love, but I think a key part of character development is truly getting to know each and every person as an author, figuring out how they’d react in different scenarios, knowing more about their childhood background, understanding their interaction with others. My assumption of course is in doing this you help open up the reader to a truly unique person, one that almost seems to have life in spite of how fictional they might be.

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The Things That Change Us

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When I was a child I refused to follow things that were popular. Absolutely refused. I was a bit of a stubborn girl as my mother would surely tell you if you asked her. And that contributed greatly to my choices of what I read and watched and participated in. I tended to be free thinking, wanting to enjoy my own interests without interruption from my peers. There is something both amusing and admirable when I picture my younger self stamping her foot over people encouraging her to pursue something utterly mainstream. So my reading choices tended to largely be books of my own choosing. But being an avid reader I had already begun my lifelong problem of having recommendations. And like all readers the popular books are always recommended first and foremost.

So began my lifelong dance with popular literature. And in particular, Harry Potter.

Second grade was where I largely blossomed into a reader. I became capable of reading to myself, and that development was troubling to behold. I snuck books under desks to read during class and slipped a flashlight into bed with me to keep going on my latest pursuit. And in second grade Harry Potter had just begun to become a phenomenon particularly prevalent in my age group just as I was beginning to figure out the wonderful world of books.

I was absolutely against Harry Potter to a degree where I wouldn’t even talk about the subject. To be honest, I had little idea of what Harry Potter was only that my peers greatly admired it, and therefore I wanted nothing to do with it. Of course everything changed when I went off to France for a semester with my family the next year.

Isolation tends to make me gravitate all the more towards books. And in France I was homeschooled and since I didn’t speak the language had no chance to interact with other children. So, home was my solitude and books kept me busy. But books in English were not so readily available in our small town. And in the library there were few choices. With most of the books already finished I turned to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (they had the British version) to occupy my time. There was much irony in my caving as I had thrown a fit over a Harry Potter journal I’d been given before going to France. But Harry followed me across the world, and it seemed I was incapable of fully escaping even in a foreign country.

My mother read book one aloud to my brother and I. Within the first few pages my resistance melted away, and I was helpless to do anything else but enjoy. We devoured the first and second books together and even enjoyed watching the newly released first movie on the plane ride back to America.

While I could sit and ramble about how amazing the books and movies are, I would prefer to speak more personally about them. Because that little lonely boy in the cupboard under the stairs sparked something deep in me that I had never known before. And that was a desire to write.

I began with copying J.K. Rowling’s ideas, making a school for fairies rather than wizards and creating an orphan character as my protagonist. I remember little about that initial series, but I remember it being the first of my inspiration and that it paved the way for later books to come. Something in Rowling’s works made me come alive and gave me a desire to emulate Harry Potter in changing children’s lives through story. I think if nothing else those books gave me hope of something better, of a world filled with love and light, and in the dark years ahead of me those messages continued to remain both a prevalent part of my worldview and my own writing.

You would think Harry would have cured me of my desire to be unique in my entertainment choices, but to this day I still do meet some resistance when faced with something popular. I’ve certainly become better, but it is a fault I have to work to correct.

Today I’m a total nerd when it comes to Harry Potter. I know what house I’m in (Hufflepuff), know what character has the same Myers Briggs personality (Neville), know what wand I would have (12 1/2 in. cedar dragon heartstring), and even own a copy of Luna Lovegood’s wand from the movie along with two of the books (one in French which I can now read and one in English).

Yes, I’m a nerd, and I love it, and anytime I think about Harry Potter I know that it’s never just a fandom to me, and it’s something more than that. No matter how critical people want to be of the books or movies, I hold onto a few very special things in knowing that Harry Potter changed my life in an impossible way. As I have completed my fourth novel this year I can only look back with fondness at the little third grader who wanted to make her own Hogwarts. Because with her change in mindset she gained a whole new world. And I suppose I keep that forever in sight today, that in opening myself up to something new and different, I can gain something new.

What books or moments have changed you? Do you have any good stories of childhood reading? Has Harry Potter had an influence on you?

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Wishbone: My Roots as an English Major

What’s the story, Wishbone?

My love of literature started at a young age. Though I didn’t realize it at the time I was fascinated by many of the books of the canon. Even before I could read myself I already knew stories like The Odyssey, or Tom Sawyer, Romeo and Juliet, The Count of Monte Cristo, or Pride and Prejudice. But of course at such an early age I wasn’t reading, instead I was watching.

My favorite show as a child was Wishbone, a PBS show about a Jack Russell Terrier that uses classic literature to relate to the adventures of his humans. My family didn’t have cable so for the most part I was stuck with public television or movies. But I didn’t mind too much, it gave me more time to play rather than absorbing screen entertainment. As a result of my few choices I usually was presented with the opportunity to always watch Wishbone. And that started me down the path of loving stories.

I will never forget when I started reading those books for myself. Remembering how they portrayed things in the children’s version always gave me great joy in rediscovering the stories as an adult. It was a new angle, a further dimension to the thirty minute episodes I used to watch. It was a great joy to get to read my favorite stories again.

Alongside that Wishbone’s example of applying literary lessons to real life was one I would continue to value for years to come. When I’d be scared for a presentation at school I’d remember brave heroes I’d read about in books and use them as an example of what I wanted to act like. When I was bullied for being a book nerd I’d remember Hermione Granger and how her cleverness paid off in the end. If I struggled to find comfort in my circumstances I’d think of Sarah in The Little Princess and how she always found ways to be happy, and in turn to share happiness with others. Books are full of inspiring people and circumstances and thanks to Wishbone I learned some of what it means to apply a book to my own life.

So, here I am years later as an English major, continuing to read and write. I hope one day I can share with others that love of books that I first gained as a child. I know my own children will grow up with books all around them, constantly being taught that when life gets hard a book can be a great friend to keep you company.

Thanks for all you taught me Wishbone. I miss you!

Where did you learn to love reading? What childhood memories stand out to you? Did anybody else watch and love Wishbone?

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“Do the Voices!” and Other Adventures in Reading Aloud

During the summer I have one of the coolest jobs out there. I get paid to…be a mom! Well, sort of. I work as a nanny for a family with three kids. I get the joy of feeding them, making them get dressed and do their chores, taking them to various places in town, and keeping them from killing each other. Though certainly tiring, I love my job and certainly enjoy the time I get with the kids.

Recently I enrolled the kids in a summer reading program, and as a result they have been desperately trying to get their hours in so they get their prizes! It has been a good way to motivate them to read. Alongside their own reading time I’ve been enjoying reading aloud to them to help rack up even more hours.

My selection for the summer: Inkheart. And it is a fantastic book to read to children. There are evil villains, great plot twists, funny moments, and loveable heroes.

For anyone who hasn’t read it, the basic plot is the story of a young girl who finds herself trapped in the middle of an adventure straight from a book. I fear anything else might spoil the story.

So I of course have had the joy of reading it out loud, just as my mother did to my brother and I when we were children. While exciting, reading to the children has reminded me of the different predicaments of this form of reading, but also has reminded me how magical it can be. Here are the things I like best about reading out loud.

1. Doing the voices- While some people just read in a monotone voice, I have always been a person to both do and appreciate different voices for different characters. In Inkheart I use soft little girl for Meggie, deep man for Mo, sort of a cockney accent for Dustfinger, an obnoxious shrill voice for Elinor, and the rest I have yet to get to. Of course, this keeps the kids interested and makes it clear to them who is speaking if there is no indication.

2. Being dramatic- I love giving the kids looks when something sinister happens emphasizing foreshadowing to them. One of my English teachers always used to say foreshadowing should make you want to play ominous music. I usually change my tone when I narrate to indicate that something bad is happening, or will happen. Likewise at funny parts I like to laugh and playfully give them a smile so they know I find it funny too. I like letting them know I am involved in the story with them.

3. Talking about it afterwards- I love having a group discussion about it. One of my kids started discussing what they imagined a character would look like. As a child my brother and I would often speculate about this after reading a book with our mom. It’s still fun for me to do.

And of course there are problems alongside the joys. The top ones I run into.

1. Not being able to skip ahead- When I read I tend to skim, skipping over lengthy descriptions. While I love Inkheart one of its biggest weaknesses is the loooong explanations of how things look, or what the weather is doing, or how someone is feeling. While it is nicer for an older child, some of my younger ones get restless after a while. When reading by myself I can skip it and if I miss something go back, with the kids it’s hard to skip on the moment. Fortunately, I’m also reading a bit ahead of them on my own, finding parts I really do think are less important that I can skip.

2. Having to stop- I can’t read as far as I’d like to. Admittedly I can read by myself later, but sometimes I’ll get little hungry stomachs right in the middle of something exciting. I’m just glad I’ve read it before or I would be really frustrated.

3. Doing two things at once- Unfortunately the kids can’t always sit still while I read. Sometimes they bump into each other. Sometimes they’ll start playing with things. And sometimes they just get annoyed at each other and start fighting. Having to try to be on top of them while enjoying the book is a challenge.

There are many different things about reading aloud that make it different than reading alone. While there are many aspects I like, there are also ones I don’t enjoy quite as much. Still, the adventures of reading out loud and reminding myself of my childhood have been fun .

Do you like reading out loud? Did you enjoy having books read to you as a kid? Have a favorite book you remember someone reading to you? Please feel free to share!

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What To Do When Children Are Surpassing You?

It was a Saturday afternoon as I was strolling through Costco. I was glancing at the various displays from giant packs of batteries, to fancy furniture. But as my family passed by the book section something caught my eye.

A table was set up. And at it sat someone with books in front of them.

A book signing? Really? In Costco of all places?

I stared for a moment, surprised. I was wondering who it could possibly be, and if I’d heard of them perchance. And then I finally looked at the face of the writer sitting at that small table in the busy Saturday rush of the store.

She had glasses. Straight brown hair around her face. A posture that indicated not too many books were getting picked up. But those things were not what I noticed most. No, the writer sitting there looked younger than me. In fact, she looked to be a child.

For a moment I thought there was a mistake. Maybe the writer had left their child there while they went to go to the bathroom…um…or…

I couldn’t come up with possibilities. I simply was puzzled by this little girl sitting at the table looking bored. And then I finally took a glance at the signs to see if I recognized the author.

I don’t remember her name, but the biggest words on the signs were: Twelve-year-old author.

I took a moment to simply take that little fact in before I began to bemoan my family with the horrors of being surpassed by children. I am twenty! I am in the prime of my life! And yet somehow I have yet to publish a novel and this little girl has (though admittedly it could have been self-published).

What do you do when life seems to be slipping away and suddenly children are rising up to take the spots on bookshelves that you have dreamed of for ages? Is there a good way to get over that horrifying blow that you are frankly running out of chances and other younger authors are taking them in your place?

I don’t have a true answer. I guess it just takes perseverance. Keep trying. Never give up. Even after twenty rejection letters. It may sound redundant and silly but that really has to be the key. If twelve-year-old girls can do it, why can’t you?

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Being an Influence

“One day I’m going to write a story about us,” the girl across from me exclaimed. Her young eyes sparkled and for a moment I began to catch a glimpse of the dreams held deep inside.

I put my spoon and yogurt aside and looked at her for a moment. “Yeah? What would it be about?”

“It would be about a girl and her big bruin and they have lunch in the library.”

“Yeah? Do they go on adventures?” I asked, barely able to contain a smile.

Blue eyes looked at me quizzically for a minute as though pondering how I could ask such a question. “No.”

“Oh. Do they do anything exciting?”

She paused and considered for a moment. “Maybe one thing. I also want to write a story about a good witch who goes to the beach. At the beach she falls in love with a bad wizard!”

“Come on, finish up your lunch and we can go play Zombie Island for recess.”

She smiled at me and dug into her food. I just sat there shaking my head. In all my life I never pictured someone mentioning me in a story. And yet that Thursday afternoon I encountered someone who was somehow inspired by me.

Our writing class has been talking all about influence this week. And indeed each of us has a variety of different elements of influence in our lives. However, I have come to realize through this little girl that I am an influence on others. When I was young a variety of people changed my life through their inspiration. I dreamed of writing thanks to the people around me. Now, I can do the same back.

I can easily picture myself at third grade, just starting to engage in writing. I remember my parents, teachers, and friends giving me encouragement to keep going. I needed those people and might never have come so far without their guidance. And now, I can return the favor.

I keep thinking back to her smiling little face. I keep wondering if maybe, just maybe, she has the potential to become a writer. She is imaginative and I have hopes for her. And if I can encourage her to go for her dreams, then I have done my job.

We are influences everyday to the people around us. Whether to children or peers, others are looking at us. As a writer you have the ability to reach an audience. You have the ability to speak into someone else’s life. I encourage you to do so. Don’t just have an influence. Be an influence.

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