Secret Ingredients – 1

I’m starting a new series on here about the books that influenced me growing up.

These are the books that shaped my brain. Gave me my fears, values, and passions.

The Secret Julie Ingredients!

E.B. White

I can remember reading The Trumpet of the Swan and being delighted over watercress sandwiches.

I can remember the sound of Stuart Little‘s toothbrush, his brother on the rowing machine, his adoration of Margalo, and laughing like a goofball at the dentist scene.

Don’t let anyone tell you not to write dialect. If it’s done well, it’s brilliant. What? You don’t think Dental Patient is a dialect? It totally is. I bet you’re fluent.

And then there’s Charlotte’s Web. My god.

I am as earnest as Wilbur. I swing the sword of truth like Fern. And, I am the Giving Tree that was Charlotte.

Our first literary death, yes?

The first time I finished a book sobbing. The first time I saw for real what words on a page could make me feel. Could gut me. Could break me. Could give me hope.

Some people have asked – Why this book? Why are you writing Ferals & Blights?

My secret-inside answer is E.B. White. I want to give children characters they can step into and step up to. I want to help them navigate the scary world of adults and Bad Things that happen. I want to help them find hope and strength within themselves.


How about you? What books draw a straight line from childhood to your heart?




9 thoughts on “Secret Ingredients – 1

  1. we’re in synch! i’m leading the next writers’ meetup and it’s going to be on this exact topic. i’m going with national velvet. it’s such a weird, wonderful but fucking weird book. re-reading it as an adult, i’ve finally realized it’s NOT a kids’ book. i first read it at age 10 or 11 and got maybe 70% of it. and didn’t even realize the weird was actually weird (it’s panned madly on goodreads). but what i did get, i bought into with all my soul.
    i think it shaped as a writer, a horse kid, and a dreamer.

    1. Now I’m going to need to read that book because I love the weird wonderful dreamer that you are! It’s amazing to me how much what we read shapes who we are and how we think. It’s almost a magic system. Hmm…there’s a story prompt in there, I think. 🙂

  2. Well, it’s not a kid’s book, and it’s lame because everyone picks it, but…

    I did read it as a kid, a lot.

    I’m just lying if I don’t say Lord of the Rings. I read it over and over, cooped up for hours in my room, as a young boy. It’s pretty dense reading for a young person, and I confess that in those early years I only skimmed the song verses when I came to them (with a groan).

    But there it is. I shouldn’t feel ashamed of that just because so many others point to this book, right? I saw it first! Hehe, or something.

    1. Not only do a lot of people pick it, but some people become scholars in it! I think it’s a fabulous choice! I have a few quotes from that one in my writing grimoire. Definitely a person-making book.

      I love that image of you reading it over and over. It took me until an adult to finally get past the fifth page, and then I loved it. (less so the verses, even now.)

    2. i wish i’d read it as a kid. i’d love to compare my kid’s perspective of it to my adult’s. i found ‘The Two Towers’ first, at age 18, and fell deep down the rabbit hole, even though it was clear i was coming in media res.
      now i want to go read it again now, which is stupid because i already have too many books going at once.

      1. Me, too! I tried so hard, but what was with all the describing? Maybe that was to get us ready for such a richly developed world?

        There was a recent twitter discussion about comparing Dune and LOTR. I think they overlap in odd ways, and now I want to do a re-read of both to be able to compare them properly. Ya know…in my spare time…

  3. I wish I read a lot more children’s books growing up. I remember reading “novelizations” of “Return of the Jedi” and “Hook.” I remember seeing the movies and loving them so much. I would always try and follow along with the movie to see what was added to the book.

    Other than those two, I don’t remember reading a lot of books. I regret it now because I get bored way too easily if a book doesn’t grab me on the first page.

    1. I was very lucky to grow up with libraries in my elementary schools and one within walking distance when I was a little older. Plus, my mom was a big reader. She didn’t read TO me, but I saw her reading all the time. I sometimes wonder if my kids aren’t as big of readers because they only saw me on the computer, even though I read at night after they were in bed.

  4. You know I didn’t start reading for enjoyment until high school and that was probably to avoid required reading. The short stories that struck me as a child were from Hans Christian Andersen. The characters were so real with needs and wants. The promise of happiness and the tragedy of that promise denied or possibly transformed into something more. Also, to this day, thinking too much about the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams can make me tear up.

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