What Books Influenced You?

I acquired my first library card when I was four, and I knew that this was something. I had the power to choose books and take them home to read. My grandmother always said that books were your friends. I have a lot of friends. Just ask the movers. The majority of the boxes from the last move were filled with books. I was thinking about all the books that have influenced me as a person and a writer over the years, and I started making a list on one of my long commutes. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far…

Childhood

  • Bible Stories

  • The Monster at the End of the Book (Grover is still my favorite Muppet.)

  • Green Eggs and Ham (I checked this out of the Woodstock Elementary Library as often as I could.)

  • Charlotte’s Web

  • The Biography of Walt Disney

  • The Wind in the Willows

Elementary/Middle School

  • The Crooked Banister (and all the other Nancy Drew books)

  • The Hardy Boys series

  • Agatha Christie’s books

  • The One-Minute Mysteries (There’s definitely a pattern here.)

  • Stories by O’Henry

  • Alfred Hitchcock Mysteries

  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

  • Anything by Edgar Allan Poe

I started reading scary or woo woo stories in middle school. I read Jaws one summer and avoided the beach. Then I checked out The Amityville Horror from the library and started it. I woke up in the middle of the night, and the cover was glowing. I threw it out in the hall and promptly returned it to the library. (I think the light was bouncing off the foiled cover, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I still don’t know how it ends.)

High School/College/Grad School

  • The Great Gatsby

  • The Sun Also Rises

  • To Kill a Mockingbird

  • Animal Farm

  • Hamlet

  • Gulliver’s Travels

  • The Great Gatsby

  • The Bell Jar

  • Pride and Prejudice

  • Jane Eyre

  • Wuthering Heights

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God

  • Poetry by Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Gwendolyn Brooks

  • The Scarlet Letter

  • The Call of the Wild

  • Oliver Twist

  • Moby Dick

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I have a BA and an MA in American literature. (I got to go to school to read books. The perfect setup.) The best class I ever took was Dr. Magnuson’s “Detective Fiction.” He introduced us to the literary conventions, the genre, and a variety of authors. And that’s where I fell in love with hard boiled, detective novels.

I also took children’s literature as an undergrad, and it was fun to see how things had changed since I was in that demographic. By then, Nancy Drew had undergone a makeover, and she now drove a Mustang and dated boys other than Ned Nickerson. YA was just starting to evolve then, and it has exploded over the years.

What’s your favorite genre? What’s on your list?

What I Learned about Navigating Writing (or Fan) Conferences

I returned from a fabulous weekend at Malice Domestic. I had so much fun networking, seeing friends, meeting readers, and being a fan girl. (I got to meet Anne Hillerman and Chris Grabenstein this year.)

Here are some things I’ve learned to help navigate these events — whether your a writer or a fan.

Comfort

  • You are going to do a lot of walking. Wear comfortable shoes.

  • Dress in layers. Conference rooms are notorious for being frigid.

Be Prepared

  • Make sure you have a bag for things you’ll need: bookmarks, business cards, promo materials, a notebook, and something to write (or sign books) with.

  • Have your elevator speech (1-2 sentences) ready about your book in case you’re asked.

  • Print a copy of all your registration confirmations and take them with you to make sure there’s no confusion.

  • Keep all of your receipts for meals/expenses for your taxes.

  • Read the conference agenda and plan what you want to attend. Some provide “conference at a glance” booklets to help you navigate, and others have an app for your phone.

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Swag

  • Bring an extra bag or leave room in your suitcase for all the swag and books that you’ll collect. I went to the Kensington Books give-away and signing. They were so generous. My TBR stack tripled.

  • Many conferences have shipping centers, so you can send it all home if you need to.

Etiquette

  • Be professional always! You never know who is sitting next to you.

  • Check out the conference’s website for past pictures to get an idea of the dress code for the events. Some are casual, and some dinners are black tie.

  • Don’t start every conversation about your book. Be genuine. Be part of conversations. They’ll be plenty of time to talk about your book.