Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Book Addiction": 
The Reads That Shaped This Writer
by Guest Blogger Laurie J. Edwards

A Reader Gets Hooked

Asking me to choose the book that had the greatest impact on me is liking asking me to choose my favorite child – it can’t be done. My mother’s favorite story is that, when I was eight months old, I would sit in my playpen and “read” Reader’s Digest from cover to cover, turning one page at a time and looking over one side and then the other, before turning to the next page. I may have been imitating my parents, who were voracious readers, but my love affair with books began then and continued throughout my life.

When I truly learned to read, I holed up in my room, ignoring my mother’s plea that I needed fresh air and exercise. My reading addiction led to flashlights under the covers and books hidden inside my school desk. I read an average of 20 to 30 books a week throughout my elementary, teen, and young adult years. I read my way through library after library, and my greatest joy was becoming a librarian with access to free ILLs (interlibrary loans) and no fines.

All of this makes it difficult to pinpoint one special book that turned me into a writer. The book I reread from cover to cover until it was tattered was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. That book influenced my philosophy of life: I wanted to be Sara Crewe, to always be cheerful in spite of life’s hardships, to always look for the best in people, and to use my imagination to brighten any situation. If I had to give one book credit for inspiring my outlook on life and stirring my creativity, A Little Princess would win the award.

From Reading to Writing

The author that I most wanted to imitate, though, was Madeleine L’Engle. When I read A Wrinkle in Time, I dreamed of writing a book that affected readers so powerfully, that immersed them so deeply in a fantasy that they lost track of time and space, and that made them sigh in contentment when they closed the cover, knowing that the ending was not only inevitable, but perfect.

When I began writing, I took Madeleine L’Engle’s quote to heart: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” I strongly believe children have an open-mindedness and a deep, innate understanding of what’s important in life, a knowledge that adults lose as they rush through their days worrying about to-do lists and other people’s opinions. Young readers are storing up knowledge and information they’ll use as adults, so children’s books have the power to influence their life choices.

I still remember the impact Madeleine L’Engle’s quote of Francis Thompson made on my young impressionable mind: “Thou canst not stir a flower / Without troubling a star.” Reading those words made me appreciate the vastness of the universe and the interconnectedness of all life. I realized the ripple effect even tiny acts of kindness can have on the world around me, and to this day, I can’t pull weeds without feeling a vast sadness. I’d rather have an overgrown garden than remove a plant, any plant – even a weed. To touch readers’ lives so deeply that my words positively influence decisions made decades later would be my greatest dream.

I may never approach Madeleine L’Engle’s greatness, but when a teen boy comments on Wattpad about my YA novel Grace and the Guiltless, “I've never been so moved by a book. You honestly made me cry…”  or a young teen girl says, “Reading this makes me stick up for myself and teaches me to boost my confidence,” I feel I’m heading in the right direction. Someday I hope to influence readers the way Frances Hodgson Burnett and Madeleine L’Engle affected me. These writers have taught me many things, but the most important is:
 "Thou canst not stir a reader
Without troubling a heart.”*

*an adaptation of poetic lines by Frances Thompson "The Mistress of Vision"

A Little More About This Book Loving Author

Laurie J. Edwards is the author of more than 2200 articles and 30 books in print or forthcoming. A student in the Hollins University MFA program in Children’s Writing and Illustrating, she also juggles editing and illustration careers, while writing fiction and nonfiction for children and adults under several pen names. As Erin Johnson, she writes the YA Western series, WANTED, in which her heroine, Grace, has been called “the Katniss of the West.” As Rachel J. Good, she writes the SISTERS & FRIENDS Amish series. Visit her at and

Thank you so much for this lovely homage to the books that shaped you, Laurie.


What books shaped your life?


  1. What a lovely, inspiring interview. And I love your book choices. I learned to read at a young age. I just LOVED Oliver Twist, and everything by Robert Lewis Stevenson. And Jules Verne (I could go on!). Thank you for this wonderful discussion!

    1. Thank you for reading and replying, Bobbi!

    2. Hi, Bobbi, What great choices, and I know what you mean about being able to go on and on... It's hard to choose only a few favorites.

  2. I enjoy reading about what books shaped writers' lives. There were many that influenced mine, but two that come to mind are my collection of Grimms' Fairy Tales and my Golden Book of Poetry. To this day, I still love reading children's poetry and fairy tales--and writing them!

    1. Hi, Rebecca, So glad you stopped by! I can certainly see the influences of your early favorites in your writing. Those poems have stayed with you, giving you a wonderful sense of rhythm and rhyme. And now you're telling your own fairy tales.

  3. Beautiful post! It's amazing how important books can be for young readers. We don't always realize that until we happen to look back at our own childhoods.

    1. Reflection is so important for this reason and many others, right Marcia!

    2. So true, Marcia. You never know what books will make an impact on young readers. That's the beauty of libraries, and as a librarian, you have the pleasure of introducing many books to readers. It's such a special job!