Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful for Inspiration

In my literature class, we've been talking about allusions, particularly with poets making reference to artists who came before and paved the way. In part, an allusion allows the writer to acknowledge her influences, to thank a mentor, to show literary genealogy.

I am so proud to write stories for young adults. I wouldn't be doing it, though, if not for these artists, whose influence is lasting and ongoing:

1. Judy Blume: During my middle school years, we spent part of every summer at my grandparents' house, 20 miles from my friends. I always brought a JB book with me--DEENIE and TIGER EYES were my favorites. I fell so completely in love with the stories I didn't notice the loneliness so much.

2. S.E. Hinton: I remember being completely blown away the first time I read THE OUTSIDERS, but TEX is my all time fave. It just felt so real. Reading Hinton was my first lesson in characterization (Paul Zindel, too. PARDON ME, YOU'RE STEPPING ON MY EYEBALL! is a good one).

3. John Irving/William Goldman: OK, technically not YA authors, but these guys taught me about plot, narrative structure, and how to manage reader expectations. In their books, you grow to know the characters so well, but what happens to those characters is constantly a surprise.

4. Sarah Dessen: I picked up a copy of DREAMLAND while I was writing my first YA novel. Dessen tells such a good story you don't notice the impact of the emotional journey until everything comes together in the final pages, and you realize how skillfully she's led you to that point. Her books are always so well structured, allowing the reader to become fully immersed in her heroine's world. (I'd put Meg McCafferty in this category as well--her book SLOPPY FIRSTS is just about perfect.)

5. Susan Isaacs: If you haven't read the book SHINING THROUGH (watching the craptastic movie version doesn't count) then grab your Borders coupon (50% off today!) and buy it! I've read ST four or five times over the past twenty years and I still don't want to put it down while reading. Why? A complex heroine you desperately want to succeed. A love interest that is quite her match. A familiar setting (WWII New York) that turns unfamiliar (Germany in the grip of the Nazis). All of Isaacs books taught me about how to engage a reader on multiple levels, and how to make it all work.

(I'd also like to add a few other YA authors whose artistry continues to inspire: Jandy Nelson, K.L. Going, Simone Elkeles, Jennifer Echols, Kody Keplinger, and Maureen Johnson. Thanks!) about you guys? Which authors do you give thanks to?


  1. Well, it's not Thanksgiving for me but I will play anyway!

    1) Maeve Binchy, Margaret Atwood, Ann Brashares: For writing books that made me want to write too
    2) JK Rowling, Ally Carter, Rosemary Clement-Moore: For making me think my writing is crap (but wanting it to be as good as yours!)
    3) Frank McCourt, Helen Fielding, Louise Rennison: For making me laugh until I cry
    4) Jane Austen: For writing male protagonists no real male could ever live up to! :-)

  2. Awesome list, Holly! I also loooove Maeve Binchy. And yeah, no one can compete with Mr. Darcy.

  3. Judy Blume was my favorite growing up! I haven't read her books since I was in middle school; I think it would be fun to go back now and read a few! One of my favorite writers is John Green. He's just amazing...he's like a rock star to me!