Thank a Vet!

By Charlotte Bennardo

November is Thank a Vet month. While we salute and appreciate our military vets, on Smack Dab we're thanking all those veteran writers who have helped shaped our writing. There are lots of famous writers whose work I enjoy reading, and even admire them. Some though, have a spark that catches my eye and my soul so much that they influence me, like a long distant mentor who doesn't know I exist.

Here are some of my faves:

Marshall Saunders. This Canadian author, a fierce advocate for animal rights, wrote under her middle name because in the late 1800s, female authors weren't popular. She wrote romance and children's books, and it was her book, Beautiful Joe, a story written from a dog's perspective that I love. Reading it as a young girl, I was fascinated how the dog was narrating a full novel. I thought it was amazing, I'd never read anything like it. It influenced my Evolution Revolution series which is told from the perspective of an inquisitive squirrel.

Anne Rice. This world renowned author showed me the beauty of all the history that surrounds characters and stories. It wasn't enough to show the initial historical setting, Anne wove it all through her stories, from ancient Egypt to the 1920s to modern day; and not just the history of one place, but around the world, through many cultures and beliefs and lifestyles. I strive to reproduce the richness that her novels evoke.

Sherrilyn Kenyon. Only in the last few years has Sherrilyn written middle grade novels, with her Chronicles of Nick series. Initially an adult writer specializing in vampire, Greek, and other mythologies, she spread out to middle grade and graphic novels. Her characters are complex, flawed, and magnetic. If asked to pick one favorite character, I simply couldn't.

Mary Janice Davidson. An adult writer, it was her Undead series that showed me how easy it was to write humor. When you can sit in a crowded bookstore and laugh silly over a book, not caring that people are watching, you know the humor is spot on. It was the natural humor of her adult books that made me venture into humor, both in my adult books and my children's. The premise is simple- over exaggeration and pairing two things that shouldn't be paired. This works for kids as well as adults.

Julie Garwood. A consummate and bestselling romance author, I learned dialogue from her books. Like a lot of people, I struggled with making dialogue sound real, making it flow naturally. Whether we're a kid or an adult, the way we speak is vastly different from the way we write. Always taught to write in complete sentences, we all take short cuts, use improper grammar and slang, and generally speak in ways that make English teachers everywhere cringe. Once I learned how to cut the dialogue down, I got better at writing it without struggling.

Dav Pilkey. Yep, Captain Underpants is one of my favorite books/series. It's potty humor and ridiculousness and plain fun. Reading it to my son, I had the hardest time trying to say the words without falling into a fit of giggles. The book fit so well with my boys at that age that I kind of wondered if Dav was a young kid. To keep that kind of freshness in your writing for your audience as you age is something I strive for.

Dr Suess. I generally don't write picture books, but the beloved How The Grinch Stole Christmas is written so perfectly; it incorporates rhyme, rhythm, a moral, silliness, impossibilities made real, and captures the attention of both adult and child. You're just not human if this story doesn't delight you.

The Disney Storybook. Featuring all the best known and loved fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and others, these books kept me so engrossed that my cousin once remarked, "Why do you have to read so much??" They are simply and concisely written, making them perfect for a middle grader to read on their own, or for younger ones to listen to. The stunning pictures added to the wonder.

You may notice that there aren't many current middle grade or young adult authors. There were few when I was growing up, so I had to take inspiration from writers of books for older readers. There are many current authors whose work is just as beautiful and inspiring, so take a look around. While they may not influence my writing, they satisfy my need for a good story.

Photo courtesy of Pexels, Inc.

Happy reading, and thanks, all you vet writers!


  1. I just missed the CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS series with my kids, but they seemed like they'd be so funny. I love it when you forget there's an adult behind a child narrator's voice.


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