Friday Fun – Early Writing Influences

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: What writers and stories influenced you early in your life and/or writing career and how did they do so?

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: Nancy Drew was a huge influence on my mystery writer brain. I would say Carolyn Keene, but since Carolyn was several people and I don’t know who wrote which books, I can’t point to a specific Carolyn. I liked Hardy Boys, but didn’t read Trixie Belden back in the day.
JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: Since I started writing when I was a kid, I have to go back quite a way to find my early writing influences, and boy were they many and wildly varied! I was a pretty voracious young reader. I kept to myself a lot, often preferring to spend time with my German shepherd dog, Boomer, than with other kids. I read myself to sleep, often began my day reading (still in bed), and carried a book with me pretty much everywhere I went.

Mostly, I read fantasy – Tolkien, LeGuin, Peter S. Beagle, C.S. Lewis, and Lloyd Alexander. I also loved more classic children’s literature like A. A. Milne’s tales from the hundred-acre wood, Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, and – a special favorite – The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden. And then there were the books that were not quite fantasy and not quite children’s stories, novels like Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell and Julie and the Wolves by Jean Craighead George. As I grew a little older I started to enjoy some science fiction: Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, Herbert’s Dune, and Heinlein’s world of Lazarus Long. From there, it was a quick leap to writers like Douglas Adams, Vonnegut, and Tom Robbins who taught me much about satire, social commentary, and general wit.

Looking over this list of first loves, it makes me smile to see so clearly how these childhood reading experiences have influenced the kinds of stories I like to read and hope to write as an adult. It’s no wonder I grew up to love books that blend real life with the magical, humor with sentiment, and include elements of mystery, surprise, and good overcoming evil. Most of all, I think each of these early influences inspired me to value stories that can not only capture our imagination and pull us into another reality, but also give us new eyes with which to see our own reality.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: I read a lot as a kid and am so grateful for that time I had! My first influences were series of books… Hardy Boys mysteries, Nancy Drew mysteries, Little House on the Prairie. And as I hit my teens it was J.R.R. Tolkein, Stephen King, and John Saul. And thanks to reading Jamie’s entry above, Wind in the Willows was memorable, as were stories about Rip Van Winkle. Time travel, mystery, and other worlds/alternate realities have always appealed to me.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: My first writing influences were similar to my fellow writers. I loved the Nancy Drew books, but before those books I read and loved the Encyclopedia Brown books. Remember him? I just loved how you could figure out the solution to the mystery if you just thought about it enough, or did a little research. I also loved Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. I started keeping a journal after reading that book when I was 11. I read (and reread) The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein, but I also loved Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maude Montgomery.

When I was 9, I was placed in an advanced reading group and we read classic literature. I hated Pride and Predjudice, which I thought was just a bunch of silly girls who wanted to get married (I never really got into that book, not until college, when I loved it,) but I loved Jane Eyre.

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: As far as writing goes, E.B. White – he is my great-Uncle and you can’t help but be inspired when your early reading material are classics in the making. I was also heavily influenced by the Sunday night TV Disney show (those of us who are of a certain age well remember that highly anticipated weekly event.) That show taught me how to pace a story, how to make it entertaining, how to include life experiences, and how to end my writing on a positive and hopeful note. To this day, I’m still a sucker for happy endings.


22 thoughts on “Friday Fun – Early Writing Influences

  1. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Boylin, was an angel. Throughout the school year, she read two novels to us. The first, “A Secret Garden.” And the second, “Last of the Mohicans.” Obviously, even in 1958, our teacher was gender conscious.
    She cut half the lights, those black lamps that hung on steel rods from the ceiling. She pulled the shades halfway. The room darkened. She shut the door. Sitting on a stool before her ten year olds, that beautiful aging teacher with heavy eyebrows and expressive smile, read with perfect inflection. Some kids fell asleep. I sat absolutely rapt in attention. I missed not a word. “The Secret Garden,” even though I was a boy, was the most singular, influential literary event of my young life. It ushered me into the world of the imagination. Listening to the words and I formed the images, I did, not Walt Disney or Looney Toons, but I watched with

  2. intense clarity the world of those novels, and to this day, I believe that experience is responsible for my life as a reader and as a writer. (sorry for the double entry…I hit the wrong key!)

  3. I grew up in a rural area of Alaska without electricity so needless to say, I read a lot! I loved Nancy Drew, Louis Lamour, Wizard of Oz (all of them!), Beverly Clearly– all of her books were so entertaining! I could go so many places by reading that I could not go in real life. Developing imagination early on has ignited a desiger to write later in life.

  4. I was a saver when I was young and bought all my own books. Therefore, I chose them with the considerable care one might lavish on a new house. C.S Lewis with the Narnia series first drew me to part with my pennies. Next, I discovered Michael Moorcock; he was prolific and I was skint because of it. His Eternal Champion stories blew my mind especially the Albino anti-hero Elric. When I then stumbled upon his trilogy wrapped in one binding titled The Dancers at the End of Time, my fate was forever sealed. One way or another, I would become a writer, and that book would be my benchmark.

  5. I had a childhood best friend. Everyone have them. Sadly, we migrated to a new place. I lost the connection. I still remember the first page I wrote back in a dairy was about meeting him after 12 or 13 years. That was when I didn’t write much and I hadn’t a belief that I could write poems and random write-ups that I still write. To find began my target and u started penning down everything about him as a journey to find him and even want to publish this story in first novel.
    There is one writer Sum an Bhattacharya whose writing influenced me. I have been following him for 8 or 9 months or so.

  6. Well, live and learn. I didn’t know Carolyn Keene was several people! I also did not realize so many of you younger people had enjoyed Nancy Drew. I loved those mysteries. However, my most loved books were by Grace May North: Rilla of the Lighthouse, Nan of the Gypsies, and Meg of Mystery Mountain. I have copies of Rilla and Nan. I would love to find Meg…” Anyone know of these books? And the Cherry Ames Nurse books were very appealing to me. At this time though I wonder why. I certainly do not have interests or abilities in that area. I have been able to find original copies of several of the Cherry Ames books.

  7. Shakespeare, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Tolkien…Louis L’Amour, anything and everything when I was younger. Anne Frank’s Diary and the story of Harriet Tubman were particularly inspiring.

  8. What a great list of books! I forgot about Cricket in Times Square – I need to find that again for my 6 and 12 year old. And Paul’s comment about The Secret Garden and his teacher reading to the students – lovely account.

    Encyclopedia Brown reminds me also of the Choose your own Adventure Series. Remember those? It would give you choices of two pages to turn to at significant points in the story. I used to try to make sure I read the story in every possible combination.

  9. Ive always had passion for writing and my father has been the motivating force behind it. he is an artists fond of nature, when i was young, he would always read me stories and encourage me to read as many books as there’s. in my primary i always wrote the best articles and my teachers thought i would make a good writer some day, i fell in love with literature and even took it up in my A’Level as part of my electives, even though i dint pass it that well. with time my writing passion began to fade, it looked like a forever dream that was only a sweet tale, with no more motivation i found it quite difficult to pursue my passion, i just hope i can rediscover it.

  10. I have enjoyed reading all the comments. I started writing when there was so much confusion going on in my life. The first book I wrote and published was entitled “There’s A War Going On, And You’re In It.” This started out by writing thoughts on tiny pieces of paper and putting them in a box. My favorite book is the Bible because once I walk away from what I have read, then comes the afterthought. I have since that time written 3 more books also from an afterthought. I have found that writing for me is therapy. After my bout with cancer over the past two years (in remission), I found that writing for me has become therapeutic. With the neuropathy in my hand, it becomes a challenge to hold the pen and write legibly so I keep using the pen to put my thoughts on those little pieces of paper. I am grateful for your question and look forward to many more.

  11. I’m surprised that Harry Potter hasn’t been mentioned yet! Maybe I’m just young, lol. C.S. Lewis was also a really big influence, I think those were the first books I read set in a completely different world.

  12. I read little house on the prairie and nancy drew as a child. By age eight I found Agatha Christie. The summer I turned 14 I broke my arm and read the ENTIRE contents of the small neighborhood library by my house while in a cast.

  13. Pingback: Weekend Edition – Idea Math for Writers Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips | Live to Write – Write to Live

  14. Harry Potter was such a huge influence in my own writing style and writing habits! Strangely, films were also influential to how I wrote as well as my own personal experiences. I’ve kept a journal for years, so I feel like I’ve been charting my life in a very “novelistic” way for some time.

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