Monday, January 20, 2020

My Favorite Mentors

A popular question I'm asked at school visits is, "What inspired you to become a children's author?" My answer is simple. "All the authors I love to read." And for this month's post, I'm going to highlight three of my favorites. They aren't mentors in the sense that I was their protégé, but they are mentors in the sense that their writing molded and shaped who I became as a writer because I admired their work and learned so much from it.

I'll start with a childhood favorite - Beverly Cleary. I read her books when I was a child, read them to my students when I was a teacher, and recommended them to children when I was a librarian. And why did I find her writing so especially inspiring? The answer is twofold: characters and setting. Her relatable characters are so much like me, and the settings she creates for them comes alive on the pages of her well-loved books. The worlds Cleary created appealed to me so much, that when I was young, I wished I lived on Klickitat Street with Henry, Beezus, and Ramona. All those "book worlds" gave me a wonderful foundation for creating the characters and settings in the books I now write.    


My next favorite mentor author is Kate DiCamillo. The language of her writing is what draws me to her books, especially her book The Tiger Rising. DiCamillo is of course a master at telling wonderful stories, but her stories go well beyond just being amazing stories. When she tells a story, she creates that story by carefully choosing words and then masterfully putting those words together in such a way that the result is almost like music. Because of this, reading her stories aloud is almost magical. Her writing takes story and language to an entirely different level, and it has inspired to strive to reach for that in my own work.


The last author I'd like to highlight is Eleanor Estes. Her book, The Hundred Dresses is an "oldie" but goodie. It has taught me how a story does not need to be complex in order for it to have a huge, lasting, emotional impact on readers. Her use of character, setting, and language are simple and straightforward, but the themes and emotional core of her story run long and deep. It is nothing short of true brilliance. I only hope my writing could come close to making such a lasting impact on the lives of young readers.


Happy Reading & Writing,
Nancy

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