Last Saturday I ran a book lunch in Dublin for lots of readers (grown ups, although I do run ones for young readers too). I asked the writers hosting tables at the lunch to think about a book that changed their life.It got me thinking about my own reading history and the books that have made an impact on my life.
The earliest book to make a huge impact was Busy, Busy World by Richard Scarry. I just loved this book. I didn’t travel much as a child – I took my first flight at age 18 – but I travelled in my imagination thanks to this book which takes you all over the world with its wonderful animal characters.
Enid Blyton’s books were also important to me. I adored the Famous Five series and the first full book I wrote (age 11) was called The Magic Sofa and was about three children who have to go and stay with their horrible aunt for the holidays. It was heavily inspired by the Famous Five books!
But the book that has made the most lasting impression on me is Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. When I first read it as a teenager I remember thinking is she really writing about bras, and periods, and kissing boys? Can you really do that in a book? It’s such an honest, open and funny book and I re-read it every year because a/ it’s so wonderful and it makes me laugh out loud and b/ it reminds me what it feels like to be 13.
When I was a young bookseller in Waterstone’s on Dawson Street, Dublin (a shop that sadly no longer exists) I had the great pleasure of meeting Judy Blume. She did several school events for me and after one of the events we had lunch together, just the two of us. I was a single mother at the time and finding it hard to juggle work and looking after my toddler son. I told her that one day I’d love to write a book. ‘Write for children,’ she told me. ‘They’re the best audience ever. And I think you’d be great at it.’
I took her encouragement to heart. The following year my first children’s book, Kids Can Cook was published, a truly life changing experience. Having a book published was the second most exciting thing that had ever happened to me, after having my son. Twenty years on, I’m still writing. It hasn’t always been an easy journey, I’ve hit some pot holes and speed bumps along the way, but overall it’s a good life, a satisfying, life affirming life. And from time to time I like to look back and to think about all the writers and books that have inspired me along the way.
Is there a book that inspired you or changed your life? I’d love to know.
Yours in writing,
This post first appeared on www.girlsheartbooks.com