I’ve been on a book binge. Most of the books I have read are either middle grade or young adult. Why? Because I’m working on a middle grade novel and this is part of my research. I know, I know…great excuse to curl up in front of the fire with a book! But, the one piece of advice I have heard over and over is that if you want to write, you need to read. It could also be that I am a writer because I love to read.
In the past three weeks I’ve read five middle grade books, two young adult books, and an adult best seller. Several have been 2014 Newberry honor books (I read Kate DiCamillo’s award winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures earlier in the year), others have been recommended by conference faculty, and some have been the result of listening to an interview of an author, or a recommendation from a friend. I learned something about the craft of writing from each book I read.
At the last children’s writing conference I attended, dinnertime conversation one night centered on reading. One younger writer said he wasn’t sure which books to read. He thought it was a great idea, but wasn’t sure where to start. I suggested Newbery award and honor books. My goal over the past year or so has been to read all of the award and honor books from the past 10 years. My bucket list includes reading (or in some cases, rereading) all the books on the list—from 1942 to the present. I am devoting a book shelf to these award winners and using them as my reference library. Not for ideas about what to write, but as craft resources. These books teach me about character development, plotting, building tension, effective climaxes and resolutions—all things that will help me improve my book.
Does all this reading take away from my writing time? Not really. I usually read in the evening, a time when my creative juices aren’t as active. It has, however, taken away from my sleeping time since I can’t seem to make myself quit reading when I’m totally engrossed in a book.
So as fall turns to winter, take some time to grab some hot chocolate, wrap up in a blanket and let the world of children’s literature draw you in. Next up for me? The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes one of this year’s Newbery honor books.