Generally on Fridays, I introduce you to new books and the writers behind them. I guess the birth of my fourth grandchild this week has made me nostalgic. Today, I’m thinking of the writers who blazed the trail for us, and for me in particular.
As a newbie writer, I first fell in love with middle grade fiction because of Betsy Byars. Her Pinballs still breaks my heart and makes me cheer, every time I re-read it. And don’t even get me started on her Blossom Family series or the Bingo Brown series. Is there anyone among us who cannot relate to Bingo’s trepidation about his first “mixed-sex conversation”? I suspect Betsy Byars’ middle name is “voice.”
Jamie Gilson was another influence in my early writing life. In fact, she was so influential that I named one of my main characters after one of hers! It was not intentional but, clearly, Hobie Hanson made such a huge impression on me in Thirteen Ways to Sink a Sub and 4B Goes Wild that when I struggled for the main character’s name in Duke, the name that felt absolutely right was, yep, Hobie Hanson.
Mention Theodore Taylor and most people think, The Cay, but the book that sticks in my writer’s heart is Walking Up a Rainbow. But if that’s not your cup of tea, he has some fifty other titles you could sample.
I so admired Patricia Reilly Giff’s chapter books that I actually typed up two of them so I could get a feel for her master’s touch with pacing, dialogue and humor. Her series, the Polk Street School Kids, not only took my child from reluctant reader to book fiend, it led me to my first published book.
Other writers who inspired me early on include Avi (esp. The True Adventures of Charlotte Doyle), Brock Cole, Karen Hesse (Out of the Dust!), Peg Kehret and Ivy Ruckman.
Each of these authors has left a pencil track on my heart for which I am eternally grateful.