My earliest memory of reading was when my dad read nursery rhymes to me. I vaguely remember him running me through the one about “the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker–just to get me to say “three foul balls in a tub” at the end, which my uncle got a real kick out of. (They’d have my cousin Jeremy go through the alphabet just to watch him put a finger to his chin when he came to “W.” The things adults make kids do for our amusement!)
Mom and I read the Encyclopedia Brown series together, often in the car when my parents sold lamps and lampshades at an outdoor flea market in Summerdale, Alabama. Books were my salvation from boredom. If I didn’t have a new book, I’d reread an old one. I think I read Mom, You’re Fired! several times one summer.
Many Moons was (and still is) my all-time favorite children’s book, but I also loved the Wayside School set and The Face on the Milk Carton series.
I guess you could say I’ve always been a series girl—The Baby-Sitters Club in elementary, Sweet Valley High in middle, and V.C. Andrews in high school—the last of which I stopped reading when Andrew Neiderman (Andrews’ ghostwriter) turned out to be a hack.
I read many a Harlequin romance in my early twenties, which I deemed as research. (I wanted to write for them.) In my late twenties and early thirties, I fell in love with Linda Hall novels—Christian fiction that didn’t resort to caricatures (as a lot of Christian fiction does). I reread her books every so often, but LaVyrle Spencer’s Small Town Girl will always be my favorite. I loved that the heroine was a country music star who had the courage to leave home at eighteen and made it on her own (a la Mary Richards).
If I had to choose three classic novels that top all the others I’ve read thus far, it would be Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. (Ironically, the films that were adapted from these fine works were flawless.)
Sometimes I wonder if it weren’t the heroines of these novels that make them so beloved—a feisty Southern belle who toughened up when push came to push back (ten times harder), and two precocious girls (one of them a writer).
Though television programming has become portable with the advent of cell phones, back then, reading was the perfect portable form of entertainment. At night, when I could no longer see (no Kindles in the late eighties and early nineties), I’d make up stories in my head.
And it all started with an appreciation for poetry, whether it was read or sung to me. What’s more, writing it has helped me appreciate it more.