Monday, September 25, 2006

Question on the Week: What is one book you wished you had written?

Question on the Week: What is one book you wished you had written?
Please send us some new questions! We are running out! We know you're curious!

ANNA: Yes, a very hard question. There are too many to list here. There are some books that appeal to me more as a writer, and some more as an illustrator. For today I'll pick one that the writer in me wishes I could have written, one of my all time favorite novels from childhood, The Fledgling. Just looking at the cover gives me shivers. Looking over the first few lines makes my heart ache. This book captured for me so many feelings about childhood (including an obsession with wanting to fly). I hope that one day my writing will glow with a fraction of the emotion and resonance that this book does.

ALVINA: This is such a tough question--part of me wanted to say Harry Potter because it's a wonderful book, and has been so influential...and yeah, well, there's the money, too. But although so many books ran through my head: Malcolm Gladwell's two books, Bloomability by Sharon Creech, Zen Shorts by Jon Muth, Emily of New Moon or Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Year of the Dog by Grace Lin (it was my story, too!)...I think if I had to pick just one, it would be To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a book filled with wonder, truth, pain, wisdom, and joy. And because it was, to me, as an author's body of work, perfection.

GRACE: Off the top of my head, I would say The Lion and the Red Bird, of which I sang it's praises here. It's my favorite all-time picture book, though really the list can go on and on and on. For novels, up there is The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, which is also on the aformentioned linked list. I'd also say books like Anne of Green Gables, the Ramona books and the "shoes books" by Noel Streatfeild. I could keep going on and on, but the question did say one, didn't it. Oops. Anyway, my basic criteria is: Did I love it as a child? Do I still love it as an adult? Has it withstood time, still in print? Is it beloved by past generations and without any sign of decline for the future? Those are the kinds of books I wish I had written.

You can’t hide who you are in real life when you write fiction – even if there is absolutely nothing autobiographical in the book, your life (and the angle on/approach to life that’s produced) will come through. So – even if were a genius like these writers, I couldn’t have written these books. But we are WISHING here!

Pride and Prejudice,
Jane Austen
Twelfth Night OR A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare
The Tailor of Gloucester, Beatrix Potter
Matilda, Raoul Dahl

Why these 4? Because each is funny with lots of other emotions too and in its way is absolutely perfect. I almost always feel the way Grace described herself feeling after making those cupcakes when I’m done with a book – that gleaming perfect thing has become: this. But as Anna said in the 1,000 Handkerchiefs post sometimes you do have that “this is it” feeling and I feel quite sure that all of these authors had that after these books.

Jane Austen called P&P (which has to be the most DELIGHTFUL classic ever written!) her “own darling child.” Beatrix Potter said The Tailor of Gloucester was her favorite of her books (mine are probably Peter Rabbit or The Tale of the Two Bad Mice, but I think this is the “best”). No one knows what Shakespeare thought about his work (except that he wrote it all in one draft!) and I don’t know enough about Dahl to know what he thought.

As for what I hope to really write: I'd like to write something loved by children AND adults for generations, the kind of books people would read and reread, seeing different things in the book at different times and at different ages. That's how I feel about my favorite books: I didn't even understand Pride and Prejudice the first time I read it, though I loved Lizzie and Mrs.Bennet made me laugh.


Anonymous said...

I have a question about style. In both art and writing, there is often a certain recognizable aspect in a creator's work that is familiar, even when the works are diverse and unique. Most call this the person's style.

What are your thoughts on style?

(For example: How would you describe your own, and how do others describe it? Is style something the creator developes unintentially? Are there those who foster or even strive toward a certain style in their work? Do you ever feel tempted/pressured to confine yourself to others' perception of "your style"?)


Anna Alter said...

Good questions Christy! The answers I'm sure will be lengthy, so a great subject for next Monday's Q of the week...

Anonymous said...

Ah, did I post my suggestion for "Question of the Week" in the wrong spot? Sorry!

alvinaling said...

Nope, this is great! Thanks, Christy--questions that are asked here will be answered in turn during our once a week "question of the week" posted on Sunday or Monday.