Friday, November 19, 2010

Why Writers Matter

Confession: I've forgotten most of the titles, characters, and even major plot points from the million books in my junior high school library.

Books, books, books = a glimpse of heaven?

But I still remember "Pop-eyes," a breakfast mentioned once in one of those books: bread with a hole cut out of the middle (using a drinking glass) and fried with an egg to fill the center, topped with stewed tomatoes. This sounded so cool, I had to try it and it has since become one of my favorite comfort foods.

I still remember Caitlin: a romantic trilogy about a girl who thought she needed to be in control all the time, until she crippled a little kid in a car accident. I may be remembering some of the details wrong, but I remember Caitlin's abrasive, snobby personality--and that it was the first time I realized the snobby girl is just as insecure as the shy one. Everybody needs love, even if we're taught different ways of attracting it.

I remember being grossed out by a line from Jurassic Park that some boys in the library showed me just to see my reaction.

I remember having my library books confiscated in math, science, and yes, even English classes.

I remember being the weird kid who--people actually noticed--had a different paperback book every day or every other day.

I remember Anne of Green Gables dying her hair, hating her freckles, but secretly liking her nose. I remember her insisting that Ann with an e was more elegant than Ann without it. I remember Gilbert Blythe pulling her braids and hanging out with Josie but secretly loving Anne all the time.

I remember Elizabeth Bennet being witty and strong and a little irreverent in private. I remember Darcy being a jerk and then turning out to be a nice guy after all.

I remember Brittany being raped, and learning how to live all over again afterward.

Books shaped my life and, at various times, saved it.

Writers matter. The words you put down to explain, describe, embellish your reality matter. Writers help to shape the generational discussion! But they also influence a little seventh- and eighth-grader girl to think about the nerd, the snob, the jock, and the emo kid in a more compassionate, accepting way. They teach her fun new recipes and weird social rituals she would otherwise not be privy to.  They give her hope that someday she won't be the odd one out, that it gets better.

So I have to say thank you.

Thank you to the writers who reached me in the frailty of my adolescence. Thank you to the writers who are just beginning, but who will yet reach my children. It's not easy, but it's important.  

You're awesome. Consider yourselves validated.

If you're looking for other ways to make a difference, Angela Ackerman has one opportunity for you kidlit lovers. Read my interview with her, and then head over to the Critter Palooza! It won't be a party without you.


  1. I love this post. Writers and the books they wrote are some of the things that defined my childhood. I wouldn't be who I am today without everything I've read.

  2. Thank you for a beautiful post! Anne of Green Gables is, well, a young girl's personified youth. I was a freckle-faced kid and soooo identified with Anne (I also like my nose!)

    I remember summer trips to the library in my small town. Kept rejecting The Purple Palamino because I didn't like the cover. Having exhausted alternatives, I finally read the book and, WOW, it was one of the best books ever. Learned a valuable lesson that stayed with me.

  3. I luv this post! Books have been my best friend through so many times. They've spoken to me in so many ways.

    My daughter is reading The Secret Garden for the first time and I'm thrilled to see how much she's enjoying it. I feel like I'm reading it for the first time through her eyes. So much fun!

  4. I'm totally with you guys! I'm loving the book love. :)

    It's also what keeps me going as a writer, the thought that my books might reach someone someday in just the way they need it.

  5. I love this post too Katrina, and it is so true!!! Books have helped shape my life as well!!! What a honor it would be to help shape others. By the way, your Dad grew up having what you called "Pop Eyes" here - we just called it "egg bread" and it was a regular thing in our household. Isn't that funny!!!!??? I guess it wasn't one of his favorites!!! And Secret Garden was my FAVORITE book when I was a little girl! Thanks for mentioning it C.R.


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