Pay It Forward: Books That Inspire

Pay it Forward

Hello, everyone! We have a slightly different week for you—a week of paying forward all the many blessings we here at Pub(lishing) Crawl have had. A week of talking about who and what we’re grateful for—and a week of giving back.

PoisonThe idea came about after we heard about a book called Poison by Bridget Zinn. We we so, so, so inspired and moved by her story—and by what her husband is doing for her—that we just had to participate.

For those of you who haven’t heard about Bridget or her book, she was a librarian and writer who finally reached her dream of publication. But she passed away last year without getting to see her book release. Her final, beautiful tweet to the world was, “Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect.”

Many of us here at Pub(lishing) Crawl cried and cried after reading Bridget’s story—and we all realized how very, very blessed we are. We thought the best way to count our blessings would be to give some back. So today, we’re going to give thanks to the books that inspired us to enter the writing/publishing business.

But first, a bit about Bridget’s book Poison:

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

If you want to help spread the word, please head here fore more information or simply tweet/Facebook/whatever about it. It releases tomorrow!

So as mentioned, today we’re talking about Books That Inspired Us—specifically, books that inspired us to enter the publishing/writing world.

Rachel Seigel

I don’t think there was a specific book that made me want to be a book seller—though The Phantom Tollbooth has been my favourite book since I was 9, and is the first book I truly remember loving that much. I certainly remember liking Roald Dahl and Beverly Cleary when I was younger, but this is definitely the key book that inspired my love of books and reading. When I first started selling children’s books, this was my go-to book to sell to customers while I built up product knowledge of more than what I read as a kid.

S. Jae-Jones (JJ)

It’s hard to pinpoint just one book; I had always been a reader, and I’d always devoured books. But I think the turning point for me was when I reread His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman my freshman year at college. Because I had always been an voracious reader, I knew I would be an English Literature major. I was good at writing papers and analysing books, but reading no longer had the same enjoyment for me as it once did as a child. On the off-chance I read for pleasure outside of school, it was generally adult fiction, which I liked, but didn’t LOVE. I wasn’t as transported reading adult novels as I was when I had read Madeleine L’Engle, Lloyd Alexander, Tamora Pierce, or Brian Jacques for the first time.

And then I reread His Dark Materials. I first read them at Lyra’s age—eleven or so—and thought they were great books then. But when I read them as an adult, I understood just how intelligent and thoughtful children’s books could be, that layers and levels of interpretation and meaning existed in children’s fiction just as much as “Lit’ra’chure”. I was transported again, but not just transported—intellectually and emotionally stimulated. I decided then that I wasn’t going to keep reading Grown-Up Books because of some vague notion that I had to; I was going to read children’s fiction because I loved it. And once I started working in publishing (a bit by accident, really), I knew that children’s lit was what I was going to focus on.

Jodi Meadows

Though I’ve always been a storyteller, I didn’t realize that being an author was a legitimate job until my teacher read Wait Till Helen Comes (Mary Downing Hahn) to the class in seventh grade. I’m not sure what it was about that book, but for some reason it made me realize that writing could be a job. Like, there were actual people who wrote books. Books didn’t just appear by magic. And if I wanted, that could be my job. From that point on, writing was the only work I ever wanted to do.

Kat Zhang

I feel like a broken record talking about The Golden Compass (Northern Lights, originally), but it was a book that made twelve-year-old me ache for the story to be real. I loved the world. I loved Lyra. I wanted to write magic like that. So you can imagine how blown away/giddy I was when What’s Left of Me, about seven years later, was pitched as The Golden Compass meets X 😛

Jo Volpe

Wow, everyone has choices that have me thinking “Oh!  THAT ONE, TOO!!” I do feel like there isn’t just one book for me, but if I had to pick only one series, I would have to say Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series, starting with the Alanna books. I loved them so much! I read them well into my adult years (and they keep coming). It’s what really opened my eyes to fantasy and that other worlds are out there to enjoy, all you have to do is pick up a book. I wanted to be part of something like that.

Erin Bowman

This question! So hard to pick just one book, but I’m going to say Tuck Everlasting, which I read in middle school. I loved the entire novel, but oh my gosh that ending! I was shocked by Winnie’s choice—broken and slain and sobbing—and yet still so very satisfied. I think that was a pivotal moment for me, realizing the extent of emotional impact a novel can have, how an ending doesn’t have to be all sunshine and rainbows and happily ever after to still be immensely fulfilling. Before reading TUCK, I was content to just be a reader, but that novel made me want to create. And create powerfully. I wanted to punch a reader right in the heart and leave them breathless.

Julie Eshbaugh

For me, the first book that made me really think about what it means to be a writer was Lolita. That book opened my eyes to the power of writing—the way it could pick you up, turn you inside out, and make you see the world and everything in it through the eyes of a fully formed person who wasn’t even remotely like you. Reading that amazing book threw a switch inside me, and for the first time I recognized writing as something very very special.

Leigh Bardugo

It’s tough for me to point to a single author or book, but when I was around seven or eight years old, I had to write to an author for a school assignment and I picked James Howe. I’d just read Bunnicula and I was obsessed with it (the Carpathian mountain region!). Anyway, I was the first person in our class to get a reply—two single-spaced, type-written pages on thin, onion skin paper. It was really like magic—a missive from the Realm of Writers—and I think it changed the way that I thought about authors and books. It wasn’t just that he seemed more human. It was as if by answering my questions he’d connected me to that magical world where people made books.

Amie Kaufman

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. My librarian told me in grade six that it was her “desert island book”, and I spent my very first book voucher buying an omnibus copy of the whole series. I still read The Dark is Rising every Christmas. It swept me away, and set the standard for storytelling that I’ve looked to ever since.

Marie Lu

For me, the most pivotal book (and book series) was Mattimeo by Brian Jacques, which was the first Redwall book I read. I even remember the exact moment I saw it in the school library and the exact thoughts (“Is the whole story italicized? Oh wait, just the opening journal entry.”) that ran through my head the instant I opened it—that’s how much it impacted my eleven-year old world. It honestly felt like a bolt of lightning, that introduction to the world of fantasy (and later, sci-fi). I’ve been happily reading and writing F/SF ever since. 🙂 I had a similar moment with Watership Down by Richard Adams, but Mattimeo and the rest of the Redwall books were my firsts!

Susan Dennard

Susan DennardFor me, reading Lloyd Alexander when I was in fifth grade (I think it was The Illyrian Adventure first) sparked a deep knowledge in me that I had to work with books. I was already a big reader, but something about the swashbuckle and sweeping scale of Alexander’s books hit a deep, deep chord in me. I new from that year onward that I wanted to be a writer—but I also thought being a librarian would be pretty amazing. Anything with rustling pages, bending spines, and exciting adventure was where I wanted to be.

You guys tell us: What book (or books? Author?) first sparked your True Love with the written word? We want to hear if you guys have any stories about inspiring books!

And as mentioned, in honor of POISON and Bridget Zinn, we’re running a series of giveaways. Today, you can win a copy of ANY of the books mentioned above! From a book by Lloyd Alexander to The Phantom Tollbooth to The Golden Compass—any of our inspiring books is up for grabs. Just enter via Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

PoisonBridget Zinn’s first YA novel, Poison, releases this week from Hyperion! Bridget died from cancer in May 2011 at the age of 33, but now—nearly four years to the day from her diagnosis—her novel is at last reaching readers. On her behalf, her friends and family (and now us! Total strangers!) want to celebrate her accomplishment and help get her book into the hands of readers. Please help us spread the word about Poison and give thanks for all our many blessings.


34 Responses to Pay It Forward: Books That Inspire

  1. Brooke Mar 11 2013 at 7:04 am #

    Lacrimosa by Christine Fonseca. AMAZING writing!

  2. Sally L Mar 11 2013 at 7:07 am #

    Matilda, by Roald Dahl: “Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”

    This was one of the first books I read as a child, and this is why I continue to read.

  3. Jessi Mar 11 2013 at 8:27 am #

    You know, my inspirational book isn’t your sort of typical books. Sure, I read Matilda, Golden Compass series, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a kid. I loved them. But the first time I can really remember thinking “I want to do this!” while reading reading Michael Connelly when I was 12/13. He writes legal/crime fiction, and they all take place around the Los Angeles area where I grew up. It was great going along with Harry Bosch, the gruffy, cynical detective that’s the anti-hero as he solved a case, caught the bad guy, AND described neighborhoods I recognized so clearly. He knows how to capture your imagination with cases while painting a vivid portrait of the city.

  4. Juliana Haygert Mar 11 2013 at 8:54 am #

    There are so many … I guess the most recent one is Daughter of Smoke and Bone – beautiful writing, surprising story!

  5. Steph Mar 11 2013 at 9:18 am #

    I read about this book and Bridget’s story last week, and it makes me so sad for her and her family. :((((

    I love that you guys featured this book, I will definitely be reading it tomorrow, when it comes out.

    Hmm…book that inspired me. It’s hard to say, but I remember having a “OMG, this man is a genius” moment when I read Stardust first, and although Neil Gaiman’s writing was so clearly out of my league (and let’s be honest, STILL is), it totally inspired me to write more seriously.

    I read books that make me go “YES!!! I need to write” all the time, though. 🙂 That’s the wonderful thing about books…there is never a short supply of inspiration and awesomeness. <3

  6. Kerry Mar 11 2013 at 9:57 am #

    The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder first sparked my fuse to write. I was very young, probably 5th or 6th grade, and I would read a chapter to inspire myself then break out my binder and pencil and let my imagination loose. Funny but that creative process still works for me today!

  7. Stormy Mar 11 2013 at 11:11 am #

    So many of the books mentioned above inspired me as well–Tuck Everlasting, The Dark is Rising series, and His Dark Materials just to name a few–but the two books that I keep personally very, very close to my heart are Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan(which is sadly out of print), and the Chronicles of Narnia. I think I read the Narnia books at just the right time in my life when I needed to be swept away into another world, and they’ve stayed with me ever since then. I read Winter of Fire in 6th grade and even after that first rereading, I knew I had stumbled onto something special. It just sparked something in me.

    • Jes Mar 11 2013 at 11:29 am #

      Hey Stormy –
      I know Winter of Fire is out of print, but I was able to track down a couple of used copies on Amazon a couple of years ago (one for myself, one for my local library’s YA section). I’m sure you can still find a copy online if you don’t currently have one!

  8. Holly Dodson Mar 11 2013 at 11:19 am #

    I’m really glad you guys featured her book today. That’s honest to goodness what I love most about this whole YA author community we have. The support is inspiring all on its own. I just pre-ordered it and can’t wait to read and spread the word.

  9. Jes Mar 11 2013 at 11:26 am #

    I’m with Jo on this – Pierce’s Tortall books have pride-of-place on my favorite bookshelf, and they get taken down for a read-through to this day. Pierce’s take on YA high-fantasy has influenced my writing enormously, but it was her take on how to present strong, relevant female characters that affected my development as a person (as opposed to just as a writer).

    Other early books that stuck with me include The China Garden by Liz Berry and Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan. The later introduced me to the idea of post-apocalyptic fiction as a base world for fantasy, while the former’s approach to mythology would eventually lead me to Neil Gaiman (an absolute favorite author of mine whose grasp of characters is so finely-tuned that I will likely spend my life trying to master and replicate it).

  10. Alexa Y. Mar 11 2013 at 11:43 am #

    I am absolutely in love with this post! I think it’s a wonderful idea, and I’m pretty excited that you guys will be doing this for the week.

    For me, the book that made me think it was possible for me to write my own stories was Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone. I remember reading that book cover to cover when I was in the 6th grade, and just feeling inspired to start writing stories of my own.

    I did lose momentum in college and while I was working at my first job, but I’ve found it again, thanks to Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (YAY!). I was inspired by Sarah’s novel and her writing journey.

  11. stephanie garber Mar 11 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    The Chronicles of Narnia! Those books felt like magic on paper the first time I read them.

    Thanks for the giveaway, and this post. I read about Bridget Zinn about a month ago, after seeing her book on Amazon, and I’m so glad all of you are sharing her story. It made me cry too.

  12. Gwen Cole Mar 11 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    I think it would have to be Watership Down, by Richard Adams. That book started everything for me, including the love of reading.

  13. Laura Mar 11 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis, Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, and the Trumpet of the Swan by EB White. Great books.

  14. EM Castellan Mar 11 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. AMAZING.

  15. Kim Mar 11 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    To be honest, I haven’t always wanted to be a writer and I was pretty avidly against reading in my middle grade years. I’m dyslexic, but I have an amazing mother who went way, way, way out of her way to get me help. For some reason, once reading stopped being fairly impossible, I read biographies. When I came across one for Einstein, who was dyslexic, it was the first time I really felt like I could do anything I wanted, too.

    In high school, I was doing a shared writing project thing with some of my friends, but it was just for fun. We weren’t really thinking about what could happen next, though all of us would’ve liked to be artists. Then I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s the Great Gatsby. At first, I was totally SparksNoting it — because I didn’t like my English teacher, and it was funny that she always had a “deep” understanding of the book when I hadn’t actually read it. Then I found out the Fitzgerald was dyslexic and decided to actually read it. I was blown away, if he could write like that — before anyone knew what dyslexia was and without any help with it — I was just amazed.

    Then I started to read YA books and realized that was truly what I wanted to do with my life.

  16. Diana Mar 11 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Just one? Just one!?

    If I had to pick one book that inspired me above all others, it would be Fly by Night, by Frances Hardinge. I read it once when I was WAY too young to understand everything, and then again a couples years ago. Before I read it the second time, I had been writing, but Fly by Night opened me up to the fact that there was a difference between writing and…Writing. Such a glorious book!

  17. Emma Mar 11 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Firstly: Harry Potter, of course. I thought I had discovered literal magic when I read them at age 8.

    But secondly, the Emily of New Moon books by Lucy Maud Montgomery. They are absolute perfection and I even wrote a blog post about my love for them. Can’t recommend them enough, they are haunting and beautiful and heart wrenching.

  18. Katlin Collins Mar 11 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    I would have to say “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B White inspired me. I mean, I wrote silly little things when I was younger, but when I read it in 3rd grade it sparked something. E. B. White raveled up one of the most beautiful stories, in my opinion. It’s just absolutely lovely.

  19. Emily Mar 11 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    I’ve always been a reader, and the love for words and magic started with The Magic Tree House series. When I read those for the first time I actually begged my parents to build me a tree house because I wanted to go to those awesome places.

    But what really pushed me toward being a writer was Harry Potter. At nine years old, I fell in love with everything about it; the characters, the magic, the adventures. I wanted to be able to create something like that of my own.

    I’m so glad you ladies promoted POISON! I’ve just ordered it and I can’t wait to read it. Bridget’s story is absolutely heart wrenching, but I’m so happy we all have her book to share.

  20. cait Mar 11 2013 at 10:15 pm #

    I’ll be really cliche here and say, yes, it was Suzanne Collins for me. I was a ferocious reader before I picked up THG, but she really made me fall in love with the actual way words were put together.

  21. Robin Hall Mar 11 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    This is a hard one because so many books inspired me-but I think I’ll have to say Katherine Patterson’s Bridge to Terribithia. It made me feel so much. I think it was the first time I bawled reading a book. I’m so glad you posted about Bridget’s book. I posted on her last week–such a bittersweet story (that also made me cry).

  22. Jessica S. Mar 12 2013 at 12:21 am #

    I honestly don’t remember the very first one because I was reading since I was young. But the one that has always, and will always, stuck with me was the Harry Potter series. Although I already loved reading before, I think it made me truly love the power of words, writing, stories, and reading. Even today, I have so much in my life that stemmed from it.

  23. Natalie Aguirre Mar 12 2013 at 7:15 am #

    Loved reading your choices. The series that inspired me to write is the Harry Potter series. So many books inspire me that it’s hard to pick the first one. I always loved to read.

  24. Gina Rinelli Mar 12 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    Oh, Bunnicula! Such memories! That was the first book I read that made me ugly cry, and I was still so little! I read it on a night I was grounded and I wasn’t allowed to leave my room, but I was such a crying snotty mess during the middle of it my parents ungrounded me and made cinnamon rolls. They had to bribe me with cinnamon deliciousness to finish it, because I was convinced the other animals were evil and would starve the bunny and I would never forgive myself for reading such a cruel, cruel book.

    Spoiler alert, I felt better after finishing it. But I still get a scowly feeling every time I see it on a shelf.

    My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George was the first book I read so many times I lost count.

  25. Jasmine Stairs Mar 14 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    It’s happened many times, but a big moment was when a friend introduced me to the Farsala Trilogy, by Hilari Bell. I’d been reading mysteries, and then just stopped reading for almost a year. Farsala reminded me that I loved books again. And FANTASY! And smart pro tags! And traitor heros! And girls with anger problems! Oh it was so good.

  26. Erica Mar 17 2013 at 2:26 am #

    For me it was Harry Potter which soon branched off into my love of fantasy and I discovered Katherine Roberts – her books were just so inspiring and well done.

  27. Kate Mar 17 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    There are SO many books that have inspired me. However, I think that Divergent by Veronica Roth was probably the first book to inspire me. That and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

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  29. Hamed May 22 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    Up until I was 15, I’d only read detective books. All the big names; Poirot, Marpel, Sherlock, Marlow, Maigret,…
    Then came a trip to this book fair in Tehran and my friend, whom I don’t know where he is now, gave me this book:
    ” New York Trilogy” and then there was light!
    I’ve never been in NY, True but whenever I hear the name, I can only imagine it through those gray words. Those words that made you believe whatever bizarre thing that Paul Auster carve into our mind.

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