This post is brought to you by a nice, giant coffee that I thought was decaf, consumed with enthusiasm at too late o’clock.. What is this? Energy to write at 10pm?! I’ll take it!
What are the earliest books you remember as a child? Maybe they aren’t the earliest books you remember, just some of the most formative. There’s this tag party going around my corner of Facebook right now about the top 10 formative books of life, or something like that, and funny enough, I’d wanted to post about that here. (And then I should probably respond to the people who have already tagged me to join the fun.)
For me and many writers, those formative stories are a big part of what propelled us down the writing path in the first place. Somewhere between the pages, we realized how much power and purpose words and stories can have, and we knew it was something we had to be a part of. And this has a unique shade when applied to children’s stories. The stories we read as children have the power to instill hope or sew doubt; to stir and provoke good thinking skills, or to cast up structures of straw; to create or destroy. Even if we don’t put any of these concepts into words for years after reading a story, they’ve still left their mark on us, one way or another.
Some books have taken me years to digest. I read The Lost Princess by George MacDonald in high school, but it wasn’t until years later that I was struck by how much I can be like the shepherd’s daughter. I was clearly not a spoiled brat like the princess, but, ouch! that self-satisfied, self-absorbed little country girl revealed a side of myself that was unpleasant (though necessary) to see.
I watched other stories seep into my heart and mind immediately. One summer, I discovered a tiny library while staying with my grandparents, full of George MacDonald’s books for adults. (I think I can say that MacDonald has a unique place in my story psyche.) Now I can’t think of that summer and not also think of both wild, windy Scottish country, people with secrets, children and adults in need of love, and the lush green summer mountains and nights full of lightning bugs and croaking bullfrogs.
Now I’m waiting eagerly to see what stories will be my children’s formative stories. We tried starting The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, another deeply formative book for me, a few months ago. After an encouraging run the first night, I pulled it out the second night and was met with slumping shoulders and, “that book is so boring.” Well then. Who am I to rush literature? We’ll wait a while longer, but I must admit, I hope it won’t be too much longer!
And then of course, I have hopes that some day my writing will be the kind that positively influences readers, children and adults. I look at the characters I create, the circumstances I throw them up against, and I think, I hope you do great things, and I hope you do great things together with your readers. I hope my stories someday show others that they aren’t alone; that they are unique; that there are always challenges, and there will be loss and heartache, but there is also a greater adventure.
Caffeine or no, it’s time for some sleep. But tell me, what are some of your formative stories?