When I was seven, I read my first book to myself without anyone's help. As soon as I closed the cover, the full power of the written word landed in my lap. I knew then and there that the only thing I'd ever want to do with my life is tell stories, preferably like that one. I loved the main characters with all my seven-year-old heart, and I sobbed at the loss of one of them.
That book was Charlotte's Web.
First published in 1952, it was named the best-selling children's book of all time in 2000 by Publisher's Weekly, at that time having sold 48 million copies in 23 languages.
But for me, it's a single story that launched my love of books and my career as a writer. I'm sure I'm only one of countless people who were inspired to write because of E.B. White's classic book.
And E.B. White is still inspiring me. Now at mid-career as a children's author myself, I've been realizing that creativity and literary drive are very unruly things, sometimes tenuous and crafty and at other times overbearing and belligerent. I've discovered that it takes a steady hand to manage ones literary output, sort of like being a loving parent to a head-strong child.
Or, as E.B. White said in his characteristically beautiful 1952 letter to his editor, "I haven't told you why I wrote the book, but then I haven't told you why I sneeze, either. A book is a sneeze." Well said, thank you E.B.
I'm going to go and do what comes naturally.
Here's a link to the letter I wrote to my own publisher about my upcoming YA novel, The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden.