NaNoWriMo starts in a couple days, and I’m waffling between two ideas: (1) a fanfic novel that’s already in rough draft; it needs a bunch more information added in and all of it connected together, and (2) a fanfic-based-turned-into-original-idea that isn’t a novel yet but I want it to be. Finishing the first would be great, just so I can say I finished writing a novel, but finishing the second would be better because I could not only say I finished writing a novel, I could also consider – *gasp* – trying to get it published. Which would be really great. Because I love books. And I’d love to have one published.
All that aside, however, since I have a miserable cold and I feel like crap, I shall make a list of books from my childhood that I’ve liked enough to read again and again. Perhaps that would help generate some ideas what to do with idea #2. Because if I did get a novel published, I’d want it to be one I liked. Or at least one I read over and over again.
Three Funny Friends by Charlotte Zolotow: possibly the earliest of my favorite books. I loved that the main character had invisible friends because I had invisible friends, although the end was kind of sad because her invisible friends went away.
Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman. I liked the colors, the artwork, the silly, silly dogs driving cars up trees and wearing hats. Our dogs (and other pets) have always had expansive, imaginary lives, à la Snoopy and his dog house, possibly because of this book. Plus we (my family) quoted the “do you like my hat” routine. A lot.
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. The things that little boy could do with nothing more than a crayon…
The Little Ballerina by Dorothy Grider. I wanted to take ballet. I wanted to be a ballerina. This was the first book that showed me that if I couldn’t do something in real life, I could do it through books. I propped this book against the wall and practiced and practiced for hours, copying the positions.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. The Salem witch trials were very popular when I was in fifth/sixth grade, and this book got passed around incessantly in school. I checked it out so many times that eventually I bought my own copy from the Weekly Reader book club. No idea how many times I’ve read it over the years. Why did I like this one? Maybe because Kit was the outsider trying to fit in but she also did what she believed was right, even if it went against the rules.
***Bonus on this one: many years later, when my daughter was around 4 or 5, I found out that her father was a direct descendant of a couple of real people who showed up in this novel, one being Gershom Bulkeley. Not only did it blow my mind that I’d given birth to one of the reverend’s descendants, it also connected fiction and nonfiction forever in my mind. The lines dividing the two aren’t as clear-cut as they seem.
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson. I really identified with Louise, the big, clunky, capable girl who was overlooked in favor of the pretty, delicate sister. It was so real. The ending fizzled out, though, and I was sad that Louise didn’t get a real resolution to her problem. Maybe that was the point, though: the pretty little girls will always get fussed over while the big ugly ones get ignored.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. Another one I read many times. I suppose it’s an introvert’s dream to live alone, and a future feminist’s dream to be able to make anything she needed and to fend for herself. My aunt and I used to play in the woods behind my grandparents’ house and build clubs and forts and fires and things. Just a couple of girls, doing all that stuff. It was wonderful.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. There was just something about Meg Murry and her glasses. I wore glasses. Most heroines didn’t – and don’t – wear glasses. And the way she was a ‘namer’ appealed to me. I don’t have the quote at hand, but it was her job to ‘name’ Charles Wallace as her brother. I loved (and still do) knowing (and calling) things by their real names. And the tesseracts, the storms, the other worlds were all so engaging. “Bounce that ball in time or else!”
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Another heroine with glasses, and a writer, to boot. Sneaking around and writing down Important Stuff in a notebook was so appealing.
Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene. Goes along with Harriet, most likely. Knowing things and finding out things that other people don’t know, learning the truth, and being able to do anything she wanted or needed made Nancy a wonderful role model. And even though she had a boyfriend, he wasn’t a main part of the story. She did just fine without him, and she never fussed over whether he liked her or not.
Where the Deer and the Cantaloupe Play by T. Ernesto Bethancourt. This came out in my teenage Western phase. In high school in the late 70s/early 80s, I felt like I was the only person in the world who still liked Westerns, and this one really appealed to me with teenagers liking the Old West and gunfighters and all that. Maybe I hoped somewhere there was a teenage boy like Teddy, who shared my interest in Westerns. This is the only book on this list that I don’t own.
Louis L’Amour. Well, I did say I liked Westerns. The first novel of his that I read was “The Daybreakers”, which misled me because it runs a little bit different than L’Amour’s usual formula. It took me a few more books before I realized the stories were all the same: big, strong good guy, self-described as ugly, streetsmart as well as booksmart, who always fell in love with the impossibly beautiful heroine whom he thought would never love him because he was so rough and ugly. But then he would get seriously injured, she’d nurse him back to health (“Of course, I love you, you big lug!”), and they’d live happily ever after, the end. While I still think L’Amour was very good with words – his style was easy to read – these novels taught me about stereotypes, caricatures, and tropes, and when I started crying because I realized I could never be the heroine, I stopped reading them.
That’s a long enough list, for now, at least. Even listing only the books from my earlier years, I’m beginning to see some connections here. Whether it will help me find my own story to write, I don’t know. But it does give me some novel ideas.