Ten Books That Made an Impact

Facebook has all sorts of challenges going on. This one I accepted from my cousin, Melissa, who challenged me to list ten books that made an impact on me. Though they are not necessarily my favorites, somehow they have all stayed with me – in humor or horror or just pure emotion. Here they are, in no particular order:

Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore

I know it’s a poem, but I’m talking about my book, the one that has materialized every year at Christmastime since I was a kid (actually it’s probably more than fifty years old). It has a shiny red surface, gently worn, and all those familiar verses and old-time swirly pictures that look like they were painted on. That book exudes warmth and anticipation.

Harry Potter  and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

What I remember the most is sitting on the couch with my two children, reading them the entire series out loud, with a British accent. We loved all seven of the books, but this is the one that started them all. J.K. Rowling made up a whole new world for us, with magic and muggles and qudditch. There was Diagon Alley and Hogwart’s, platform 9 1/2 and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (including dirt, grass, vomit and earwax). It was a magical time.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

A masterpiece, really. A rare book, so descriptive and so beautifully written about a way of life – India in all its turmoil – that at the time was so foreign to me. Both haunting and touching, some of the scenes are still so vivid to me.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The writing just blew me away.

City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre

I read this book the first time I went to India. I remember the author describing the smells, the street scenes, and the noises, and I didn’t have to imagine it – I was living it.

Bridget Jone’s Diary by Helen Fielding

This book made me laugh. It’s funny, it’s quirky, it’s loveable. I think I identify with Bridget, as well Fielding’s writing style.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

This was the first of many Stephen King books that I read as a teenager. So creepy…so real. Maybe too real, cause after reading a slew of his books I had to stop. I couldn’t be alone in the house or look down the drain in the bathroom without my imagination getting the better of me! And don’t even get me started about topiaries – I just want to cut them all down.

The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson

Love this character, Lisbeth Salander. She’s vulnerable, she’s strong, she’s a little crazy. But who wouldn’t be after all she’s gone through? Couldn’t put this series down – loved it.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irvine

Another quirky character and some laugh out loud moments. Let’s just say the nativity scene at Christmas has never been the same for me.

Sunshine by Norma Klein

Before Terms of Endearment and The Fault in Our Stars there was this book. A very touching story about a young Mom dying of cancer.

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Stephen King: On WritingI read two books on writing in the last month or so: The First Fifty Pages by Jeff Gerke and On Writing by Stephen King. Two very different books with very different messages. I talked about The First Fifty Pages in one of my posts last month – it reads more like a how to manual or a recipe book which kind of suits me, because for over forty years I have done little without a step-by-step manual. Everything is concrete, this is how it’s done, don’t stray from the recipe for fear of, I don’t know – maybe World War 3 is going to break out or something. Don’t get me wrong, I love this book and I think it has real value.

“Be honest in your voice…” S.K.

On Writing is just the opposite. Stephen King writes about himself from childhood to the present. Half the book is memoir, maybe more than half, and I have to admit I was wondering what all the hype was about. But then came the connection.  Bring out the artist. Just write what you want. Be honest in your voice, don’t write for others or the buck. Write the truth, write well, be smart and it will happen.

“You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot…” S.K.

When I started writing I realized I needed to limit things that consumed my writing time – TV, mindless surfing, and reading. Stephen King gave me the okay to read again, insisted on it actually, saying, “You don’t need writing classes or seminars any more than you need this or any other book on writing. You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.” I like that.

“By the time I was fourteen…the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. ..I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.” S.K.

What a relief. Stephen King (and probably every other author) has been rejected. This is normal. And the creative process takes time. This is normal. Stephen King started writing when he was in his early teens, but his first book, Carrie, wasn’t published until a couple of years after he finished University.

What else is normal? There will always be those who just don’t understand:

Teacher: “What I don’t understand, Stevie,” she said, “is why you’d write junk like this in the first place.”

“Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference.” S.K.

“My wife made a crucial difference…If she had suggested that writing stories …was wasted time, I think a lot of the heart would have gone out of me….whenever I see a first novel dedicated to a wife (or a husband), I smile and think, There’s someone who knows. Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

And whereas many people and books will tell you that plot and outlining and theme are the most important things, Stephen King says he’s never plotted: “I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” I wanted to jump for joy when I read that. The story comes first “…and progresses to theme; it almost never begins with theme and progresses to story.”

Ironically, Stephen King, who writes horror books, makes me feel normal. He’s a writer, I’m a writer. He’s been doing it for a very long time. I haven’t. He’s been through it all: rejection, waiting, acceptance. I haven’t.

What he’s given me is some more tools for the tool box and now it is time to get back to writing.

12 Best Writing Quotes

I Love Deadlines

The best writing quotes are the ones that become tiny voices in our heads, egging us on to keep writing. They inspire, they teach, and sometimes, they make us laugh. Often, they leave us nodding our heads, saying, “True, oh so true.”

Here are the 12 Best Writing Quotes:

 1) “I love deadlines, I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Douglas Adams

 2) “When I say work I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.” Margaret Laurence

 3) “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” Elmore Leonard

 4) “So when you’re writing your novel, don’t just be skillful. Be death-defying.” Harrison Demchick

 5) “The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.” Joyce Carol Oates

 6) “When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.” Stephen King

 7) “I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.” Ray Bradbury

 8) “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” Elmore Leonard

 9) “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Mark Twain

10) “Never judge a book by its movie.” J.W. Eagan

11) “If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea.” David Belasco

12) “Just write the damn thing.” Lois Peterson

Which is your favorite? Did I leave one out? Let me know in the comments section.