Archive for the 'Other writers you’ll love' Category

UNDER THE INFLUENCE

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I believe that writers are readers first, and that we’re influenced by everything we read. Certainly your writing style can be influenced by a surfeit of reading a particular author you admire. Perhaps that happens most when we’re young and still finding our own voices, though I’ve noticed that when I’m in the mood to reread several of Georgette Heyer’s books it’s awfully easy to start talking like her characters. Generally to the confusion of any hapless Southern Californian whom I encounter at those times.

But more than style, our reading guides our thinking. A headline in a newspaper or on a news site may suggest a plotline. Someone’s blog may suggest a character. We may enjoy the tone of a book so much that we want that in our own writing. I’m nearly always drawn in by character-driven humor. Some of the revealing dialog in Jane Austen’s book simply cracks me up. I often wish I could go live in Fannie Flagg’s Elmwood Springs and hang out with Aunt Elner. When I’m working on a book, the scenes where I make myself laugh are the ones that usually need the least editing.

When it comes to poetry, though, my influences can be narrowed to just one book, by a rather obscure poet.

book cover

The Collected Poems of Freddy the Pig.

Did you read the Freddy books as a child? All of the animals on the Bean Farm can talk, and Freddy is their leader. I loved Freddy. I still love Freddy. (He’s probably the real reason I became a vegetarian in 1972.) I once read that he is the epitome of a friend. He is staunch and true, intelligent and enthusiastic. In most of the books in the series he solves a mystery, often disguising himself as a person. He simply assumes that no one will realize he is a pig in disguise, and he’s right. If you’ve never read the Freddy books, rush down to your public library and check some out. Should all their copies have been read to pieces, the books are available online; I just checked Half.com and found lots of inexpensive copies.

Freddy is also a poet, and the rhymes from the novels were collected into this anthology.

title page

Marching songs, odes to the features of the face, laments and more, Freddy was a prolific writer of pure doggerel. Almost any time I’ve written something I blushingly call a poem, it follows directly in Freddy’s footsteps. I offer the example below in proof, and to wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving.

TURKEY POEM

Many Thanksgivings have come and gone

Since I stopped eating meat.

Yet every year I manage still

To leave the harvest table replete.

Some years we’ve made Italian food,

Or Indian, or Spanish

And the menu may surprise a guest

Yet still the food will vanish.

I like to think on Turkey Day

There’s a bird still flying free

Who’ll take a moment to bow his head

And say a prayer of thanks—for me.

The Pleasure of Re-reading

2 Comments

Are you a re-reader? Most readers I talk to fall either into the “I never read the same thing twice” or the “I love to read my favorite books again and again” camps. It’s true that there is so much reading available that revisiting books means there’s another book you’ll never get to in your lifetime. But I long ago came to terms with knowing I’ll never read everything, or even everything I would love if I did read it. And I come down solidly on the re-reading side of the equation.

It’s the comfort level, that sense of spending time with old and very good friends. The first time I read a book I’m enjoying the plot, getting to know the people. Time goes by, and I find I’m ready again to spend time with those people and the mood of that particular book. I can pay more attention to details, descriptions when I’m not in headlong flight to discover what will happen next.

Of course, when enough time goes by I often forget the plot details. The older I get, the less time that takes!

Since I’m a librarian as well as a writer, I have literally millions of titles at my beck and call every day. (Of course, as a library user you have that same privilege…but I get them delivered to my desk!) I can always put a hold on an old favorite and be reading it in a few days. My personal collection of books consists almost entirely of titles I know I will want to read again, to immerse myself in that particular world. I’ll be talking here about some of those authors on my shelves, the ones I enjoy over and over. I’d love to hear about the books you re-read as well.