What are my reading and writing roots?…

on Friday, 20 February 2015. Posted in Writers Notebook

What are my reading and writing roots?…

It is time I gave this some thought after writing/editing/ghostwriting close to thirty books, and heaven knows how many magazine articles.  There were always books around at home when I was very young.  Being “read to” was one of my favorite times.  Receiving THE CAT IN THE HAT COMES BACK from my aunt and uncle in first grade is a memory.  This is because I took it to school as my Christmas gift show-and-tell at school.  I figured it was easy to carry, and no one would want to play with “a book.”  My anonymity backfired.  My teacher decided it would be wonderful if I would sit on her lap, and read the book to the class!  What misery.  Some of the words were unfamiliar, and I sweated blood getting through that ordeal.  So went my first “public performance.”

It was in second grade that I discovered the D’Aulaire’s  book, ABRAHAM LINCOLN.  Such illustrations!  Words I could easily read! 

That book fired my imagination.  I was hooked on history. I became a Lincoln buff, and still am.  Later my class studied Native Americans and Pioneers. When the class visited the library every other Wednesday, I disappeared into the non-fiction section.  Most of my peers were clamoring for Beverly Cleary books, books by authors like Clyde Robert Bulla, Elizabeth Enright, William Pene Du Bois, Robert Mc Closkey.  (I wondered why all authors had such neat names).  Our teacher read us COPPER-TOED BOOTS, a book about Shad Lofft, who lived not far from us in the 1870s.  His daughter, Newbery winner Marguerite de Angeli wrote and illustrated it.  It became a favorite.  And many years later, I knew Marguerite and her family very well….

I read about wars, presidents, inventors, aviators and astronaunts.  But my favorite books were stories of the frontier, and of pioneers.

That’s because our third grade teacher introduced us to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE.  (hence, the cornbread making).  We did many activities surrounding this book, and I discovered a long line of well-used copies of Wilder books in the library's “W” section.  I also noticed my classmates vying for those books on library day.   I asked my parents for copies of my own. They were DELIVERED (pre-Amazon!) by our local glitzy department store for birthdays and other events.

Our local newspaper ran a weekly kids page, all art and writing up for prizes and publication. Our teachers encouraged us to submit and I did from time to time winning a few books for stories like this Halloween one above (my last submission) As you can see my art was published, however our house looked nothing like this!