We all know every writer started as a reader. Recently a writer friend of mine shared that the book she read in middle school that kicked off her interest in writing for children was E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. I agree that book is a serious favorite of mine too. I named my first two-wheel bike Charlotte after all. But for me, if I have to narrow down from all the books I read as a kid, (everything from To Kill A Mockingbird to Salem’s Lot) the one book that inspired me the most was Watership Down by Richard Adams.
The blurb from Sparknotes does not do this novel any favors:
Watership Down is the tale of a group of rabbits in search of a home. Fiver, a small, young rabbit, has a gift: He can tell when things are going to happen and he can sense whether they will be good or bad. Fiver foresees great danger to the rabbits’ home warren.
The book is So. Much. More. Maybe part of my affection stems from the fact that my favorite teacher in middle school passed along her personal copy to me, encouraging me to dive deep within its pages to find the story beneath the story. Shout out to Mrs. Monroe @Summit Hill Junior High for lighting the fire within this little girl. Honestly it took her a couple weeks of pestering for me to give this book a chance just because the back cover blurb was so lame.
Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. And so began my love of reading and writing stories that are more than what they seem on the surface, stories with nuance that warrant a second, and third reading.
Richard Adams wrote Watership Down in 1972. From his Amazon Author Page:
Richard George Adams (born 9 May, 1920) is an English novelist, author of Watership Down, Shardik, Maia, The Plague Dogs, Traveller, Tales from Watership Down and many other books.
He originally began telling the story of Watership Down to his two daughters during a long car journey, and they insisted he write it down. When Watership Down was finally published, after many rejections, it sold over a million copies in record time in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Watership Down has become a modern classic and won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 1972. To date it has sold over 8 million copies and been translated into many languages, including Finnish, Hebrew and Chinese.
One of my favorite interviews with him is from The Telegraph, originally published in 2014, in which he tells us that when his publisher accepted the manuscript (after rejections from seven other publishers) “This blew a trumpet in my heart.”
Great line, right? It’s the same feeling I get when a four or five star review for any of my work hits Goodreads!
Another of my favorite Adams quotes is from an interview with Alison Flood of The Guardian just last year, where he said, “I do not believe in talking down to children. Readers like to be upset, excited and bowled over.”
Nothing wrong with a little heart-pumping excitement or a good, cleansing cry while turning the pages of a book.
Which book started your author journey? Share in the comments!
Matheson in 2008, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
There are a handful of writers who I adore. Writers who sent my imagination soaring when I was a young girl and made me want to become a writer. Writers who influenced me as I developed my own writing style. Richard Matheson is one of those writers. He passed away peacefully yesterday surrounded by his loved ones.
A science fiction and horror short story author and novelist, if you haven’t read his work, you’ve certainly heard of it: I Am Legend and What Dreams May Come were both made into popular movies, neither of which reflect the actual content of what Matheson wrote.
And especially proud of his elegant mane.” ~Bill Peet
One of my favorite picture books as a child: HUBERT’S HAIR-RAISING ADVENTURE, and I still love, love, love it today. My kids will even request it as one of their pre-bedtime books. All thirty-eight pages. Over two-thousand words. A dozen characters. And . . . it rhymes.
Rhyming picture books get a bad rap. Lots of writers and agents I’ve spoken with at conferences and corresponded with via blogs say the same thing: rhyme is a hard sell, no one likes to buy it. Some discourse on the topic can be found here and here.
It basically comes down to too much bad rhyme makes the gatekeepers wary of all rhyme. Plus, the fact it’s difficult to translate into other languages which limits potential sales. Not a good selling point for business-minded publishers.
I don’t write rhyme these days, but I do appreciate rhyme done well. I’ll even shell out my hard-earned dollar to purchase rhyming books for my family and as gifts for my friends’ kids. Some favorites over the years include: SOME DOGS DO by Jez Alborough, ROOM ON THE BROOM by Julia Donadson, and ZIN! ZIN! ZIN! A VIOLIN by Lloyd Moss.
There’s nothing more magical than the cadence and lyricism of a beautifully illustrated, impeccably rhymed story. How about you? What are some of your favorites?