What Do Your Favorite Childhood Books Say About You?
By Niki Turner
I recently listened to a recording from an ACFW conference workshop taught by agent Natasha Kern about the influence our favorite childhood books have on our lives as adults, and as writers.
Ms. Kern shared an example of a client who writes suspense/thrillers. His favorite book growing up was "Artie the Smarty." Artie, a little fish, has to use his wits to navigate his way across a pond filled with dangers. Can you see the parallel? He now writes stories where his protagonists have to use their wits to escape the villain's clutches on their way to reaching their goal.
My list of favorites is long. As an only child I was (and am), a voracious reader. Books were my friends. (On a side note, learning that almost every other writer I know shares that same addiction has been such a comfort to the adult me!)
"Gordon the Goat" and "Ballerina Bess" topped my early reader list. (My mother insists I should have had to keep reading Gordon the Goat, which is all about peer pressure, throughout my teen years.)
I have a beautifully illustrated copy of Cinderella that I read and re-read for years, sometimes just to look at the pictures.
I loved "The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes."
Some of my favorite memories involve trips to the bookstore, and frantically searching to see if there was a "new" Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden, or a new Black Stallion book, on the shelves. And the Christmas I got the boxed set of Little House on the Prairie books (still have it) was a fine Christmas, indeed.
There were also the books that "stuck" emotionally, the ones that made me cry: "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm," "The Secret Garden," "Black Beauty," "Little Women," "Jane Eyre." Bittersweet stories, to be sure.
As I got older, the books got fatter, and darker: "Sacajawea," Herman Wouk's "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance."
And then I moved on to romance novels, to my mother's chagrin (this was in the '80s, remember romance novels in the '80s?). And this one is mild... wouldn't even need a brown paper cover to take it out in public.
Is there a theme? Possibly. Nothing quite so straightforward as Artie the Smarty, but I can see a connection, not only in what I like to read (and write) as an adult, but in my motivations, my perceptions of the world, and in some of the choices I've made. (The Country Bunny and I have SO much in common...)
How about you? Did you have a particular favorite, or many?
What was the first book you read that made you cry over the characters?
What parallels can you draw between your childhood favorites and who you've become?
Have you ever thought about the effect your stories might have on your readers?
Niki Turner is a novelist, journalist, blogger, and the production manager for the Rio Blanco Herald Times weekly newspaper. Her first completed manuscript earned second place in the Touched By Love 2009 contemporary category romance contest. She won second place for best agriculture story at the 2013 Colorado Press Association annual convention. She also blogs at www.nikiturner.net. She is the Colorado Area Coordinator for American Christian Fiction Writers and is involved in establishing an ACFW chapter on Colorado's Western Slope, where she resides. She published “Sadie’s Gift” as one of the Christmas Traditions novella collection in 2014. Her next project, “Santiago Sol,” will be published by Pelican Book Ventures, LLC, as part of the Passport to Romance novella collection.