The Three Books That Made Me Want to Be a Writer
So these are my favorite books, ever. If you are receptive to sincere recommendations, pick one of these. You won’t regret it.
Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells (home state: Louisiana!) is THE short story that made me want to be a writer. When Wiletta recalled the night Vivi beat her children with a belt, I found myself hurling (hurling!!!) the book across the room because I couldn’t imagine bearing that kind of guilt. “Sweet Jesus, I seen they whole lives in front of them, how they would be when they was grown. I seen it all just by lookin at them….and it froze my blood.” That’s what a good book does…it affects you visibly, emotionally, and psychologically. As a writer myself, the best I can hope to do is simply write something that makes someone say, “Wow, she’s been through the same thing I have.” This, my friends, is the book that inspired that little voice in my head to say, “You need to tell your story too, Dawn,” and that story became my first book. You’ve likely heard of Wells’ other, more famous work, Divine Secrets of the Yaya Sisterhood, and it is also a favorite, but make no mistake, Altars changed me.
When I read about the possum under the bed, I thought the woman was psychic. Jill Connor Browne (home state: Mississippi!) and I have apparently led parallel lives because I too have chased a possum out of my house, but unlike her, it scarred me for life. Her sexual innuendo leaves married and single girls alike in tears of hysteria, laughing at secrets that aren’t really secrets…what it’s like to deal with a varying assortment of men (including The Five Men That You Must Have in Your Life At All Times). The Sweet Potato Queens are outrageous. If you haven’t been fortunate enough in your own life to have an inner circle of girlfriends, all with different and intriguing personalities, then let the Sweet Potato Queens be your girls. I wish they were MY friends! They make me laugh out loud every time we spend time together. Reading JCB makes me want to record my own friends for posterity. She really is that funny.
I keep two copies of Liz Gilbert’s (home state: Connecticut) Eat, Pray, Love: one sits on the table next to my bed and the other is perched next to my computer when I write. And even when I’m not writing, I am studying how to write like her. Even the way she structures her books is unique: the 108 tales that match the 108 (which adds up to 9) beads in her magic balance necklace divided into the 3 sections of her book, each section having 36 stories (which also adds up, of course, to 9), written the year she was 36…um, mind blown. The shifting pace of her storytelling, her quick wit and on-point one-liners are masterful. Eat, Pray, Love was a blockbuster to me way before it was a blockbuster on the big screen. And she wrote it as if she and I were sharing her story over a cup of coffee and a muffin. I found myself nodding in affirmation at her pain as I read. I’ve been trying to mimic her prose since her book’s first run. She is a genius with words and a master storyteller. I have read everything she has ever written.
“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”
― Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees