Writers Must Read

I have no idea how anyone who isn’t well read expects to write well.

Reading counts as writing time. It is also the best, most painless way to improve your craft.

From now on, I’m going to start opening conversations with beginners with “what children’s/YA books have you read lately?” I’m going to work the question more into speeches, too.

Thinking about it, the major writing publications, workshops, etc. don’t sufficiently center on reading either. Hm.

You know which author does a particularly great job of talking about reading?

Linda Sue Park, and she’s doing quite well these day.

Another one?

Esmé Raji Codell, and she has a whole planet named after her.

Okay, practicing what I preach: What children’s/YA books have you read lately?

So far this year, I’ve read (and recommended):*

Young Adult: Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking, 2005); Storky: How I Lost My Nickname and Won the Girl by D.L. Garfinkle (Putnam, 2005); Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Cinco Puntos Press, 2004); Out Of Order by A.M. Jenkins (HarperTempest, 2003); See You Down The Road by Kim Ablon Whitney (Knopf, 2004); Comfort by Carolee Dean (Houghton Mifflin, 2002); A Room On Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, 2005); Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young And Latino in the United States edited by Lori M. Carlson, introduction by Oscar Hijuelos (Henry Holt, 2005); The Boyfriend List (15 guys, 11 shrink appointments, 4 ceramic frogs and me, ruby oliver) by E. Lockhart (Delacorte, 2005)(Listening Library, 2005); Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci (Candlewick, 2005); Stained by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen (Atheneum, 2005); Dancing In Red Shoes Will Kill You by Dorian Cirrone (HarperCollins, 2005); Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez (Simon & Schuster, 2005); Far From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters (Little Brown, 2005); Over and Over You by Amy McAuley (Roaring Brook, 2005); Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories For Today, edited by Lori Marie Carlson (HarperCollins, 2005); Don’t Die, Dragonfly by Linda Joy Singleton (Llewellyn, 2004).

Tweener: Last Dance On Holladay Street by Elisa Carbone (Knopf, 2005)(see author interview); Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee (Wendy Lamb Books, 2005); Missing Abby by Lee Weatherly (David Fickling, 2004).

Middle Grade: Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach (Henry Holt, 2005); Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles (Harcourt, 2005); Sketches From A Spy Tree by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, illustrated by Andrew Glass (Clarion, 2005).

Picture Books: The Good Rainbow Road/Rawa ‘Kashtyaa’tsi Hiyaani by Simon J. Ortiz, illustrated by Michael Lacapa (The University of Arizona Press, 2004), Buddy: The Story Of Buddy Holly by Anne Bustard (Simon & Schuster, 2005)(link features interview with author); Hotel Deep: Light Verse From Dark Water by Kurt Cyrus (Harcourt, 2005); Searching For Oliver K. Woodman by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Joe Cepeda (Harcourt, 2005); Looking For Uncle Louie On The Fourth Of July by Kathy Whitehead, illustrated by Pablo Torrecilla (Boyds Mills Press, 2005); Night Wonders by Jane Peddicord (Charlesbridge, 2005); Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein (HarperCollins, 2005)(link features interview with author and illustrator); Once Upon A Cool Motorcycle Dude written and illustrated by Kevin O’Malley, illustrated by Carol Heyer, illustrated by Scott Goto (Walker, 2005); Houdini: World’s Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Walker, 2005).

Resource Books: Bringing Mysteries Alive for Children and Young Adults by Jeanette Larson (Linworth, 2004).

Additional Interviews: Holly Black on Tithe: A Modern Faeire Tale (Simon & Schuster, 2002); Greg Leitich Smith on Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (Little Brown, 2003); Laura Ruby on Lily’s Ghosts (HarperCollins, 2003); Vivian Vande Velde on Being Dead (Harcourt, 2001) and Companions of the Night (Harcourt, 1995).

*books that I read and recommend comprise about 1/10 of the total books I read. This year I’ve read about 10 times as many books as are listed above.

Cynsational News & Links

Speaking of Newbery winner Linda Sue Park, her new books are a contemporary middle grade novel, Project Mulberry (Clarion, 2005)(read Greg’s blog about this novel), and a picture book, What Does Bunny See? (Clarion, 2005). And speaking of Madame Esmé, her latest are Diary of a Fairy Godmother (Hyperion, 2005) and Sing A Song of Tuna Fish (Hyperion, 2004).

Reinventing the World One Reader At A Time: An Interview with Author/Advocate Esmé Raji Codell by Deborah Wiles from BookPage (June 2003).

Linda Sue Park: Teacher Resource File from the Internet School Library Media Center.

I’m blogging lately on spookycyn about the “Desperate Housewives” season finale, complete with its (allegedly) children’s book illustrator character.

One thought on “Writers Must Read

  1. Tanya Lee Stone wrote to say:
    Of course, I’m in total agreement with you and LSP and others who talk about the importance of writers being good readers. All of these books we read become a part of our fabric as writers, infusing us with a broad knowledge of storylines and characters and helping us put our own work in a larger context. I’m reminded of this as I critique, because I find I’m frequently mentioning a book that the author could benefit from reading if they aren’t already aware of it. This vast base of literature, these books we read and digest and internalize, really are the friends that help guide us on this journey we’re all on.

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