Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Reading Life if Full of Hidden Gems for Writers

my father reading to my brother Stan
I was born to a SuperReader. My father read at least a book a day for his entire life. When he wasn't reading books, he was listening to them. He read to us kids, too. And I know that exposure, that model, has a lot to do with why I am a writer today.

I am also an avid reader. It's how I learned to love words and story. It's how I learned to write. It's how I'm STILL learning to write. Something I do and have done for years and years is something I learned my father also did: I create files and record favorite lines and passages from the books I've read.

Part of this is just the love of language, the marvel of other humans putting into words something true and beautiful. And it's also an education for a writer.

So for this month's theme of "Hidden Gems," I've raided a few of my MG/YA book files to share with you some lines that have taught me something about creating characters... or show-not-tell... or something. Enjoy!

"Maud’s attention was caught by Muffet’s toenails, which were barbaric enough to erase all other thoughts from her mind. They were dull yellow and curved like the claws of a bear. Maud resolved that no matter how long she lived, she would never have toenails like that."
 - Laura Amy Schlitz, A DROWNED MAIDEN'S HAIR


"There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between."
- Patrick Ness, A MONSTER CALLS





“Why do birds exist anyway?”
He looked at me “You don’t know?”
“I guess I don’t.”
“Birds exist to teach us things about the sky.”
- Benjamin Alire Saenz, ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE 


"She squeezes her lips like a knot with no spare room"
- Jeannine Atkins, BORROWED NAMES





"This is what happens on journeys – the things you find are not necessarily the things you had gone looking for. "
- Ann Ursu, BREADCRUMBS




“I'm sure your teacher likes all her students equally,” Aunt Rae said.
“I don't want her to like us all equally,” Gertie said. “I want her to like me most.” 
- Kate Beasley, GERTIE'S LEAP TO GREATNESS



Henry placed the plastic prison carefully under his chair and whispered, “There was a dragon in my house this morning ,and now it's inside the lunchbox.”
Oscar's eyes opened wide. “How many teeth does it have?”
That's why Oscar was Henry's friend. He asked the right questions.
- Jennifer Trafton, HENRY AND THE CHALK DRAGON



We all have our la-la-la song. The thing we do when the world isn't singing a nice tune to us. We sing our own nice tune to drown out ugly.” Rita Williams-Garcia, ONE CRAZY SUMMER





Readers/writers: do you keeps notes like this, too?
----------------------------
 Irene Latham is an Alabama author of more than a dozen current and forthcoming poetry, fiction and picture books for children and adults, including Leaving Gee's Bend, 2011 ALLA Children's Book of the Year and Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship (with Charles Waters). Winner of the 2016 ILA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, she also serves as poetry editor for Birmingham Arts Journal. irenelatham.com

3 comments:

  1. Love these. I plan to add a few of my favorites in a later post.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I gotta check out "drowned maiden."

    ReplyDelete
  3. Every one of these gems was a gift, Irene.

    ReplyDelete