Monday, February 25, 2013

I Have Never Forgotten

I have always had a knack for remembering stories.

It may have all started with Disney movies, because however many years later and I can still quote all the movies of my childhood. The songs, the words, the character's actions -- I am a one woman show. Or, it may have all started when I was even younger and watching this show called Kids Incorporated. A show I don't remember now but my mom says I would go around singing the songs in that show and re-enacting even when I was two.

Whatever the start, stories have always been a constant in my life. Especially when I love a story. Like those songs, that story stays with me. It influences me in some way. And those are the ones, I believe, that have a lot to teach us as writers.

If we are a writer, then we want to be remembered. We want to make other people feel the same way we did when we experienced a certain story. And, in order to figure out what made the story so important to us, we need to first identify what the stories are -- and then really think about what makes it tick. Understanding how and why and what is going to help your story have that "OMGosh! *flail*" quality that makes someone remember it. (In fact, as a testament, I always look for all three of these books when I go into used bookstores because I like to collect them.)

One of these for me is RUNNING OUT OF TIME by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Jessie lives with her family in the frontier village of Clifton, Indiana. When diphtheria strikes the village and the children of Clifton start dying, Jessie's mother sends her on a dangerous mission to bring back help. But beyond the walls of Clifton, Jessie discovers a world even more alien and threatening than she could have imagined, and soon she finds her own life in jeopardy. Can she get help before the children of Clifton, and Jessie herself, run out of time?

I was in fifth grade when I read this story. It was this story about a girl learning the truth of her world because everything she knew and everyone she loved depended on her.

It was a story I've never, ever forgotten. And when my editor first read Follow Me Through Darkness, I remember her saying to me,"Have you read Running Out of Time?" And of course, that's how I knew she was the perfect person to handle my book. Even if I hadn't seen it before, that book obviously had a hand in creating FMTD. The circumstances are different and the world is different and mine has a lot more kissing than this MG does --- but that book (to everyone who's read it) is always remembered. When you read it, there's a tension that Running Out of Time creates and never loses. That tension drives the story. And honestly, being compared to a book that I read cover-to-cover as a kid and still own four copies of was a huge compliment. (I highly suggest everyone reads it because I still love it as an adult.)

Another for me is DREADFUL SORRY by Katherine Reiss.

Ever since she can remember, seventeen-year-old Molly has been plagued by the same terrifying nightmare and an almost overwhelming fear of water. After almost drowning at a pool party, she flees to the safety of her father’s house for the summer. But Molly’s problems only intensify as she stumbles onto a series of strange connections linking herself to a girl who lived in that Cliffside house nearly a century before. Then the eerie coincidences start to form a dangerous pattern, and Molly finds herself haunted by visions that feel more like memories--memories of a time before she was even born

I don't remember how old I was when I read this. I am pretty sure it was elementary school from the Scholastic Book Fairs flyer they they sent home every month.  But this cover was freaky.

I was a huge Goosebumps fan when I was a kid. (I had them all!) and I loved scary, creepy things. I still do. There's a scene in this book where the girl, Molly, drowns and I can still (like 100%) see it happening. (There's a creepy song involved.) Dreadful Sorry isn't as much in the front of memory as the others and it's not as easy to recall all the little details, but it's still a book I always remembered. That says something.

The other one (which should be no surprise to anyone) is A NORTHERN LIGHT by Jennifer Donnelly.

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown entrusts her with the task of burning a secret bundle of letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers that the letters could reveal the grim truth behind a murder. Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, Jennifer Donnelly's astonishing debut novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.

This is the book that made me want to be a writer. I wasn't a kid here. In fact, I was a sophomore in college. A Northern Light was the first YA book I read—and I didn’t even know it. I found this book sitting on this free table in our main building, picked it up and took it home. When I finished reading it, I was bawling to my roommate that 'I wanted to write a story like that' and she looked at me and said, 'Then do it.' I minored in writing because it was the most beautiful book I’d ever read and I wanted to be able to write like that. It wouldn't be until years later I learned it was a YA book.

If you haven't read this book then I highly recommend it. (All her books, actually. Just go do it now.) There's something about the way she can weave words together that makes everything she writes beautiful. And this story, Mattie's journey to find her life (which isn't in the blurb but should be because she a smart girl trapped in a small town with big dreams) was one I connected with. (For obvious reasons.) I hope that one day something I write makes someone feel the way I felt after I read this book.

Now, this post is hard because I've obviously read A LOT of books. I remember a vast majority of them too, but when I think back these ones come to me with absolute clarity. There's something powerful about stories you don't forget. These books serve as reminds.

They remind about those who have come before me. (And will probably last long after me.)

They remind me how being a kid (or a semi-adult) looking for direction can find it.

They remind why I am an editor and the role I get to play in creating books like this for other people.

They remind me what a gift I have that I get to put words together that could someday never be forgotten.


  1. So awesome you can remember the stories so far back. I loved Northern Light too. And that's one I can still remember.

  2. Great post! I really want to read both of these. Running Out of Time sounds like The Village... I wonder if they have similar endings. (rather, The Village Sounds like Running Out of Time)

  3. Running Out of Time is one of my all time favorites! It was so full of suspense. I read it cover to cover and recommended it to everyone in my class.

  4. Northern Lights is gorgeous! I haven't read the other two you mentioned, but they sound great. I love suspense and I wish there was more in MG and YA... My favorite adult suspense novelists are Gillian Flynn and Tana French. WOW. These powerhouse ladies know how to make you lose a couple of days of your life breathing nothing but their words! Looking forward to your book, Danielle!

  5. I love anything by Margaret Haddix and A Northern Light is wonderful. Haven't read Dreadful Sorry though, so thanks for sharing! :)