Friday, July 3, 2015

Childhood Inspirations

We all know the axiom that "Writers read," but does that mean they were always avid readers? Let's find out, shall we...

When you were a child, were you an avid reader? Why or why not?

Aaron Smith: I read constantly as a child, mostly because I wasn't the type who fit in well with other kids. I was never really a reader of children's books, except when I was very young. I graduated pretty early to reading classic science fiction (Asimov, Heinlein, Dick, Bradbury), the original Sherlock Holmes stories, and the books my father threw out when he was done with them(he saw paperbacks as disposable, while I most certainly did not! So I rescued them), which included Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and the James Bond novels of John Gardner (I caught up on Fleming later). I still enjoy the adult books I read as a child and often go back and reread the Holmes and Bond stories. Yes, I absolutely think it's important for those who grow up to be writers to have read as children. I don't think I'm aware of any of the writers I know not having been avid readers as children. Semi-related to the subject, one thing I don't quite understand is the current subdivisions of books into "children's books," "Young adult," "adult," etc. When I was growing up, there were books for kids and then we graduated to adult literature when we were ready. I don't remember all these phases being so noticeably differentiated back then. But if labeling books in such a way helps writers to sell them and readers to find them, I guess it's ok.

Mandi M. Lynch: Absolutely all the time. Sending me to my room was not a punishment because my books were there. Also, the library was a quarter mile from my house. I was allowed to walk there. Alone by age 10 or 11, with friends possibly sooner.
 
Ray Dean: I was always a big reader... books were exciting and offered me glimpses of other places and other times. But I really jumped in when my classmates started to tease me because I stuttered. Talking with them was a chore and so I spent more time reading.

Rose Streif: I was very much an avid reader.  So much so that my family (who in fact encouraged it) found it strange.  They would be in the other room playing cards and I would be in my room with my nose in a book.  I couldn't help it, for I was a slightly introverted and imaginative child, and books were heaven to me.  My older sister jump-started me into reading for myself (and reading more complex literature) when I was five: she was reading Black Beauty to me at bedtime, and when she came to the last chapter, she put it down and told me I had to finish it on my own.  Evil, but effective.

Stephanie Osborn: Absolutely. I was such an avid reader that my mom used to punish me for ignoring her when she'd tell me to do something. I eventually managed to convince her that I simply never heard her and she was going to have to ascertain that she got my attention, met her eyes, and that my eyes had a conscious, focused gaze on her, before she told me to do something. Otherwise, I was in some other world and never knew she said anything. Given I also had some somnolent activities at the time, that made sense to her, and we never had another problem with it.

Bobby Nash: I don’t know if avid is the right word or not, but I did read, both books and comics. My parents weren’t overly happy about my reading comics and tried to discourage it as often as possible. That  made me want to read even more comics, of course.

H. David Blalock: I was an avid reader of biographies and histories. I was enchanted with the past more than the future because I grew up during the height of the Cold War and there didn't seem to be much to look forward to at the time.

Angelia Sparrow: I was wild about books from the day I realized the marks were the story. I read voraciously. I loved Thornton W Burgess' animal books and Nancy Drew in early grade school and Edgar Rice Burroughs and JRR Tolkien in later grade school. By Jr High, I had discovered Ray Bradbury, and Harlan Ellison and Tanith Lee and Julian May in high school. I still enjoy some of it. Burgess holds up well. Brian Daley's Han Solo trilogy is still quite good. I think you can't write unless you read. You have to be immersed in words to fall in love with them.

Robert Krog: I was an avid reader as a child. I grew up in a house full of books and readers. I was read to quite a bit when I was young. My mother, my father, and my older siblings (sometimes) all read to me until I was old enough to read on my own. I read voraciously. I read in classes with my novels hidden in my textbooks. I read at home when I should have been doing homework or chores. I read late into the night. I wish I had that much time to read now.

Selah Janel: Always. My mother worked hard to instill a love of story in me from the very beginning. She read to me all the time, and when Reading Rainbow began airing she made it a point for us to visit the library every week and look for every title mentioned on the show. I think between myself and my younger sibling, I’ve probably read a good 75% of the titles mentioned on the show and probably 85-90 percent of the books featured on the show. Most of the time when the flyers for Scholastic and other book clubs came out at school I was allowed to buy at least one book, and Mom used it as a way for us to discuss about things I was interested in and might like to read. I still remember the first book I was ever allowed to check out – There’s a Nightmare in my Closet. Summers were spent living at the library, doing the summer programs, selecting stacks of titles to take on vacation, etc. When I lived in Illinois, the library was actually built into the bottom floor of a house and the librarian lived above it. I was so jealous of that, it was such a homey, magical place. I even accidentally got locked in that building over her lunchtime because I was in the back room reading quietly and not paying attention to the time. As a grew older, My parents used things like the Peanuts comic collections as bribery for me doing my homework, and the Star Wars EU became bribe material when I was a teen and hung out at a fancier library in Indiana. It was always an important part of my upbringing – I was expected to read. We may not always agree with what I liked to read, but I was expected to take an interest in books, and that interest soon developed into an all-encompassing love.

Lee Houston Jr.: I'm still an avid reader. My parents read to me when I was a child. To this day, I can still recite passages from Green Eggs and Ham by Doctor Seuss.

Being able to read is an important life skill, regardless of what professional career you eventually choose as an adult. But having a love for literature, which in turn nurtures avid reading; fosters curiosity, the imagination, an eagerness to learn, and a love of live itself.

Erwin K. Roberts: With my family reading tons of stuff to me, most definitely. My family was also a late adopter of TV, first set when I was in the Second Grade. I read lots books and comics. As my reading skills developed I read more advanced material. I went thru just about every science-fiction title available in the children's section of the Kirkwood, Missouri, Public Library and more when available from the St. Louis County Bookmobiles.

Jeff Hewitt: I was a voracious reader as a child. My parents and older sister were, too. There was a TON of reading in my house growing up.

Armand Rosamilia: I was an avid reader. I was punished and had to spend my time in my parent's room to keep me away from my brother so we didn't kill each other.

Chris Kohler: I read all the time as a child, as I had a lot of time on my hands and it kept me from being bored. I enjoyed stuff by Beverly Cleary, Ruth Chew, and Judy Blume (as well as books on geography and dinosaurs) until about age 11 or 12, then I started reading stuff like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and I really enjoyed Frederic Brown. I discovered Piers Anthony around age 14 and devoured those for a couple of years, then started getting into Stephen King and L. Ron Hubbard (the Mission Earth books were sort of dope).

Then in college, my recreational reading was Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Card, Clarke, Harrison, and I'm still working on the rest of them. I haven't really revisited books as I read as a kid (although I re-read some of them several times back then).

I'm not a writer, I'm a comic artist/cartoonist. So much of my reading these days is art books, because I want to be inspired and steal their tricks. wink emoticon I would think that prospective writers should be reading all the time for similar reasons.

Kathleen Bradean: I was an avid reader from the moment I learned to read. (4 years old, for the record) I remember the moment it clicked. I was afraid to go to sleep that night because I thought I might forget how. I read everything I could get my hands on. I took my elder sisters' readers and devoured them. Then I read my parent's novels. My third grade teacher put me into detention when I saw James Mitchner's Hawaii on her desk and said "Oh, I read that!" so my mother came down to the school and gave her hell for calling me a liar.

What series or authors did you most enjoy as a child?

Mandi M. Lynch: All of them. Goosebumps, Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High (didn't like em as much but I read em all), the Jenny Archer series, the Mandie series... Roald Dahl. Matilda is still my favorite book; I have easily read it 200 times.

Ray Dean: Alcott was my gateway drug... Little Women was the first book I stayed up all night to read. Under my covers, flashlight, the whole bit. I don't think I fooled my great-grandparents who I was staying with that summer. They always encouraged me to read and do well in school.  I read her whole series of books and went on to Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Wrinkle in Time, Narnia, Little House, Boxcar Children, whatever I could get my hands on. It's no wonder I hung out in the library all the time and the school staff that I still talk to were all librarians or archivists.

Rose Streif: I skipped most children's literature when I was a child, because it simply wasn't immersive enough.  Books of that sort did indeed exist, but they were not in our home library.  I read a few of the classics, and then started on Stephen King around the age of nine or ten.  But the "Wham!" moment happened at age eleven, when (at the suggestions of my sister, brother, and father, respectively) I read the trifecta of Watership Down, Johnny Got His Gun, and Animal Farm.  My reading and inner life were never the same after that, and I began writing shortly thereafter and drifting towards fantasy and science fiction.

Stephanie Osborn: My gosh, too many to count, I think. Surprisingly enough, many of the series I read had nothing to do with SF: the Little House books, the Anne of Green Gables books, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden (and later Tom Swift, which WAS sort of SF), Sherlock Holmes (eventually; I was given Hound of the Baskervilles before I was old enough to deal with the frightening aspects, and that sort of set me back a bit). Film and TV were what first brought me to SF. Then I discovered the Star Trek novelizations in there someplace, but before that I'd discovered the likes of Asimov, Bradbury, a bit of Heinlein, some del Ray, Madeline L'Engle, and more.

But I also did things like sitting down to read a volume of the encyclopedia, cover to cover. I read the dictionary and Mom's etiquette handbook. Anything I could find to read, and from which to learn, I read.

Bobby Nash: In the school library I discovered Encyclopedia Brown then later moved on to reading my Mom’s Reader’s Digests looking for stories. The only one there that stands out in my memory is called The Snowbound Six. I really should look that one up and give it a re-read. After Star Wars, I read Han Solo’s Revenge, which I really enjoyed. From there it was Conan, The Avenger, comics in paperback form, and whatever other paperbacks I could get my hands on. Eventually I discovered Bova, Bradbury, and Asimov.

H. David Blalock: I discovered the works of Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury as a pre-teen and found out there were those who had a better view of the future than the average person. I followed them and the writings of people like Norton, Vance, Van Vogt, Hamilton, Clement, etc. until I stumbled on the writings of Bierce, Machen, Lovecraft, Howard, Ashton Smith and Derleth. My horizons expanded from the past to the future and beyond. There were no series to speak of unless you want to infer that voraciously consuming the works of these writers constitutes a serial involvement with their work.

Robert Krog: I read my Children's Bible, Fly Away at the Airshow, The Little Red Tugboat, Where the Wild Things Are, and a lot of other young children's books early on. Later, I read dictionaries, most of The World Book Encyclopedia, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Secret Door, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, The Dragon Lance Chronicles, The Pern novels, The Dark Angel Trilogy, A Wizard of Earthsea, The Mysterious Island, The Myth books by Robert Asprin, The High Crusade, The Once and Future King, various collections of Fairy Tales, some Hardy Boys, The Hitchhiker's Guide, and a few novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, such as Pirates of Venus, and Tarzan. At the time, I enjoyed everything I could get my hands on. I was not particularly discriminating.

I read everything I was supposed to read during high school, such as David Copperfield, works by Kipling, etc. I really enjoyed Les Miserable. It and the Lord of the Rings are two I go back to from time to time. They are probably my favorites, though by the time I read Les Miserable, I wasn't really a child anymore. I read the Lord of the Rings in third grade and fourth, as I recall.

Selah Janel: As a little kid I loved nursery rhymes, fairy tales, Beatrix Potter, Nancy Carlson, Stephen Kellog, Tomy dePaola. My reading skills were brushed up on this huge series of picture books my grandparents had – all I remember is they were brightly colored and featured characters like Sam and Jan and the like, and they all had pets, and they liked jam and candy and ham sandwiches a lot. They were really fun, and I read them all a million times, along with things like The Berenstein Bears, Clifford, The Little Witch, etc. As I grew a little bit, I was introduced to Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, The Babysitters Club, American Girl books, James Howe, Chronicles of Narnia etc. As a preteen I loved My Teacher is an Alien, Stories from Wayside School, and I secretly read urban legends and the RL Stine titles that were just becoming popular. I’m sure I read a lot of movie novelizations, too, because that was pretty popular in the eighties, as well.

I loved the Reading Rainbow books – The Rain on Kapiti Plain is still one of the most gorgeous things in the world to me and I can still sing you the songs from Abioyo and Mama Don’t Allow. I always asked about the books that were turned into animated specials on CBS and ABC Saturday morning shows. It still saddens me that there are a LOT of books that were read to me by teachers or I devoured as a middle school kid that I just don’t remember the title to, things that were deliciously weird and surely influenced me, but I couldn’t tell you what they are for the life of me.  It was interesting, because even as a teen, I had a much younger sibling so I would read what she was reading because I could get through those books quickly and they were a much-needed break from heavy school reading. Through her I read most of Roald Dahl’s titles, The Bailey School Kids, and things like Ella Enchanted. It was a two-way street, too. From me she started reading Harry Potter and a lot of my books were handed down to her.

Lee Houston Jr.: About the only books I remember from true childhood (before starting school) are Doctor Seuss and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. As I got older and my reading skills and comprehension developed, I discovered comic books. Then in fifth grade, there was a copy of A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs in my elementary school library. By the end of that book, there was no turning back. I couldn't stop reading if my life depended on it.

Erwin K. Roberts: Dr. Dolittle was first read to me, then I read more on my own. The library had most of Walter Brooks' (creator of Mr. Ed) Freddy the Pig series which often contained satire of more adult subjects. I never had a chance to discover Edgar Rice Burroughs until the paperback boom. Apparently both libraries I partonized had an unspoken ban on his work. Otis A. Kline did not have such a reputation as ERB. So I discovered the sword & planet genre via his works. I read the Tom Swift JR books and collected them for a few years. Then I got some Tom Senior books and found them much better written. I still have a few of the G&D Lone Ranger novels. My favorite Juvenile series, so-called, was the Rick Brant - Science Adventures. I collected comics all the while. I've been in and out of comics fandom since about 1962.

Jeff Hewitt: Writers MUST read, MUST. It would be like wanting to be a swimmer who refuses to swim laps, or even look at the water until they're in. You read to understand what works, to see how other authors address the difficult nature of writing, to see what doesn't work, and why. In the past, composers copied the works of great masters by hand. In doing so, they were able to see how a symphony or opera fit together, by looking at the individual pieces and fitting them together.

Armand Rosamilia: Dean Koontz was the first author I loved to read. Before that was Hardy Boys books.

Kathleen Bradean: My real first love was mystery novels like Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. Then I moved on to Agatha Christie and the rest of the adult library offerings in mysteries. After I'd read everything they had, I picked up Dune and became a science fiction fan. I also loved Jack London, Robert Louis Stevenson, Alexander Dumas and most of all Jules Vernes - stuff that was for all audiences when written but are considered YA now.

Do you still find that you enjoy children's fiction? Do you still enjoy the works you enjoyed as a child? Why or why not?

Mandi M. Lynch: I still read Matilda. And mid grades and YA. And I nanny a 18-month-old so I read picture books a lot. There are some fabulous books out there like the Llama Llama series and Bug Patrol by Denise Dowling Mortensen.

Ray Dean: Yes! Sometimes it is better than I remember... and sometimes I read it and say. I don't remember that... and wonder if I didn't see it or if I'm just beginning to understand it. Perspective changes as well. Like Jo and the Professor in Little Women. I couldn't believe that Jo didn't marry Laurie! I was bereft and sad for her back then. Reading it as an adult, I understood... boy, did I understand!

Rose Streif: Because I didn't read much children's literature as a child, I still don't. This makes my reading tastes seem incredibly pretentious, when it was really a case of early conditioning.  I'll probably get pilloried for this, but I could never make it through the first Harry Potter book, even though I enjoyed all the films.  Having said that, I still adore all the books I read as a child, because most were meant for adults.  Johnny Got His Gun I've never been able to pick up again, because of the difficult subject matter, but it's an incredible novel and I've never forgotten it.

Stephanie Osborn: I think it depends on the particular fiction. Yes, there are some of those I still read. I'm especially still fond of the Anne of Green Gables books. Since that series covered Anne's entire life, then the lives of her children, I discovered decades ago that there was something in there for me, regardless of age.

I recently got my hands on used books of a complete series of which i'd found a few books in my uncle's childhood collection, and had been fascinated with. It was about a jungle boy and was obviously a riff on the Tarzan books. Well, I got the whole series to read to find out what happened...and was rather shocked to discover how derivative, formulaic, and downright racist they were. It was classic pulp, even to the point of using multiple writers under the same pen name to create the books -- but you could still see the somewhat different styles. I found out what happened to the kid, but then I put 'em away and haven't opened 'em again because the cachet was gone -- the older, wiser, more knowledgeable me just wasn't interested.

Bobby Nash: Sometimes I do enjoy reading books where I may no longer be the target audience. There are some amazing young adult and teen titles out there. Part of me is kind of envious as there wasn’t really a line dedicated to teens when I was that age.

H. David Blalock: I no longer consciously read children's fiction, although I do still enjoy the books I read as a child. Some might say I never really read children's books (if you discount the biographies).

Robert Krog: I enjoy of some and some I do not. I read a lot to my own children and I find that some of the things that pass for children's literature is pure drivel, and others are simple, good stuff. I love rereading Where the Wild Things Are. I can recite it by heart. It isn't long. smile emoticon I also really like rereading The Clown of God by Tomie Depaola. I loved it as a child, though I didn't really understand it, and rediscovered it years later. The first time I read it as an adult, it brought tears to the eyes of myself and my wife.

Some works though, don't stand up to adult scrutiny. In books written for teenagers, the typos stand out, as do the one-dimensional characters, the wooden dialogue, and the poorly developed plots. A lot that is written for teenagers is an insult to their intelligence and helps to dumb them down and wither their interest in reading. I won't name names. Some is all adrenaline, fluff, and poor on plot, theme, character, etc. It's good, maybe, for catching the attention of someone who might not otherwise be a reader, but it isn't what classics are made of. I do have some fond memories of books I simply won't ever read again.

There is an elegance in children's stories sometimes, in stories for little children, a straight forward, unassuming simplicity that is more touching, at times, and more meaningful, at times, than anything that can be found in works written for adults.

Selah Janel: I love children’s fiction. I think it still has a lot to say, because it really gets to the core of issues and feelings. Plus, there’s a comfort factor there, whether it’s a title from my own childhood or something different. If I’m really out of sorts I’ll still check out a BSC or American Girl title, and I’ve read my copy of Heidi forty thousand times. I’ve gone through two collections of Beatrix Potter and all my Little House books have been read to pieces.  A few years ago I went through the books a lot of Disney cartoons were based on (not movie novelizations), and my mind was blown. I also just finished the Bunnicula series, because by time James Howe finished it, I was definitely an adult. I still enjoy most of the titles I loved as a kid, because I’m still, essentially, the same person. There are some titles that have made me cringe to go back to. There are some things nostalgia just can’t blind you to once you grow up. For the most part, though, it’s always a fun trip back in time. If a book is truly well-written, it doesn’t matter what age it’s meant for or what age you read it at. It’s going to give something to you and make you feel something. I’ve gotten more from Heidi and Laura Ingalls as an adult than I ever did as a child, and reading the Reading Rainbow books now makes me really appreciate how beautiful those stories are, as well as how hard it is to express some of those plots and feelings so succinctly. They give me memories from my childhood, little time capsules of moments that I might not recall on my own.

Lee Houston Jr.: The ones from childhood I still remember, yes. Being older and single, I don't really pick up children's literature unless it's in regards to my nieces and nephews. I have read and enjoyed the entire Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Got involved with that because my sister wanted an opinion on whether or not the books were “safe” for her kids, and finished the series on my own via the public library.

Erwin K. Roberts: There have been any number of books I read to my kids that I've enjoyed, but would not read for myself. However, I still can get a charge out of both Carl Barks & Don Rosa's duck epics. (My kids and I watched the Duck Tales show together. My adult daughter has the DVD's and is looking forward to the new episodes on the way.)

I have not read a Tom Swift Jr book in about forty-five years. But I pull the Rick Brant books out, now and then and truly enjoy them. That speaks strongly to the skills of the main author Hal Goodwin, an island hopping Marine journalist in WW2. He'd usually been where his stories played out. (Anyone remember Rip Foster Rides the Gray Planet? That's his work, too.) I also belong to the Rick Brant Yahoo group.

The kids books & comics I still like never talked down to the reader. That's also the reason I can enjoy most of Pixar's films, kids, or no kids. Not to mention the Muppets.

Anybody else remember when Gladstone began publishing Disney comics in the 1980's? They said, in add ition to reprinting good U.S. material, they were bringing in stories published all over the world, with one exception. In the United Kingdom, they said, the local publishers enforced a directive that since no one over ten years old would dream of reading their original stories, absolutely nothing of interest to those over ten would be allowed in their Disney comics. Having downloaded and read a few UK Disney comics, I can tell you that the Suits got their way.

Armand Rosamilia: I rarely read children's fiction. I definitely don't write it.

Kathleen Bradean: I didn't like preachy stuff that was written to be "good" for kids, but I loved well-written YA stuff then and now. I go back to novels I loved as a kid. Some I still like. I didn't like Sherlock Holmes until I read A Scandal in Bohemia. That was the first time I'd ever read a female character who wasn't a good mommy, and I was smitten! Irene Adler still heavily influences the female characters I write. However since I can't view a parallel life where I wasn't a heavy reader as a child, I have no idea if that made me a better writer or not.


Based on your reading history, how important is it for future storytellers to be readers during their childhood?

Mandi M. Lynch: An absolute necessity. We need to start kids on a love of books and reading for reading sake as early as possible. Quit with reading only being over-analytical why is the chair blue type shit. Actually encourage enjoyment. If you're 10 and want to read Asimov or 50 and want to read Harry Potter, then do it. Too many people don't touch books after school. Too many people lack imagination.

Ray Dean:
Literacy is huge! I joke about children's books as gateway drugs, but I guess I'm more serious about it than I want to admit. The books I read showed me it could be done. That you can take a bunch of letters and characters and create worlds!


Rose Streif: I cannot stress how important it is.  And I may get pilloried for this as well, but I believe in a Garbage In, Garbage Out principle: if you read nothing but garbage, you will write nothing but garbage.  And those habits can start early.  Everyone progresses along different lines and may even have barriers to overcome, but you must challenge yourself, or accept challenges.  And that doesn't end with childhood.

Stephanie Osborn: Reading is essential for a writer, at any age. Optimally, I think, the young writer-to-be should be an omnivorous reader; this is when we pick up our foundation of literature. It's when we have TIME to read, ENERGY to read, and it is the best chance we have of absorbing lots of "good stuff" to work into our own writing later, as adults. I've tried to play catch-up on adding some classic literature to my mental library, things that I didn't have access to as a child, and it's much harder now, because I have to make time for it. I simply DID it as a child. But I still read nevertheless, because I get fresh ideas by doing so. I'm exposed to different styles, different ways of utilizing a point of view, and more. And I'm inspired to try 'em out in my own writing, sometimes to good effect.

Bobby Nash: I don’t know if you have to be an avid reader as a child to be an effective storyteller later. Obviously, it helps to be a reader because you’re exposed to a diverse set of storytelling methods and styles, but there’s more to being a writer than being a reader. That said, I like to think my reading choices as a kid helped ignite my interest in mysteries and adventures, which informs much of my writing.

H. David Blalock: Reading is critical to the intellectual development of children. Without it, the imagination is stunted, crippled. In an environment that does more to indoctrinate than educate, learning to read is essential to critical thinking. If you cannot read, you cannot form your own informed opinions of things. Then again, if all you read are books on the best-seller lists, you restrict yourself to the same formula over and over. Children's minds need to be stretched, challenged, encouraged to break boundaries of ideas and concepts. Young minds are the future, and the future must not be limited by the past.

Robert Krog: I'm not saying that it's essential. I've known a few authors whose work is good who have confessed that they read less than was required as children and didn't start reading for pleasure until they were adults. That being said, it can't hurt, and it surely can help. The adults who finally picked up books and found a new love are few and far between, and those whose interest in reading died aborning are as common as flies. Everyone I know who enjoys reading now but didn't as a child wishes that he had read as a child. They think they missed out on something, and they surely did. In some ways though, they get to have a second childhood, so God bless them and their newfound love of books.

Selah Janel: You can’t perform a craft unless you’re experiencing it, and the best way for a true storyteller to learn is from the very beginning. Children’s stories are really good ways to get the very basic mechanics of story: plot development, characters you can relate to, building of tension, etc. They also have a way of connecting with young readers, infusing them with that soul that not all adult titles are really capable of delivering. There needs to be some foundation, some appreciation of story and the written word if a child wants to grow up to write and tell stories of their own, or else they’re probably approaching it for all the wrong reasons. Think of how many childhood memories come from stories: the books you were read at bedtime, the weird things that supposedly happened to a friend’s friend that you were told on the playground, the memories and family legends that your parents and grandparents recalled around a dinner table. Stories of all sorts are important to children because they give them a foundation for the world and their lives, something to hang onto when things get tough or if they need a reference for the way they’re feeling.

Lee Houston Jr.: I feel it is very important. While many claim writing is a teachable subject, in the end you only learn the basics (like subject, noun, verb) and must develop the skills and passion to write on your own. One can learn not only what makes good writing from the books they enjoy, but what creates bad writing from the ones they didn't like.

Erwin K. Roberts: I wanted to be a writer, early on. For comics, not prose. I read bunches of both comics and books. As soon as I had an opportunity, for a reasonable price, I bought a copy of Stan Lee's Secrets Behind the Comics, written the year I was born.

Today I do not think it is as important to just be reading huge numbers of books. Reading books is still very important, but with the various new formats  and delivery systems for entertainment other things have become important, too. Those that think they want to write for non-traditional print and other media should also be looking under the hood of the media they enjoy and want to target.

Jeff Hewitt: By reading, we get a look at the building blocks of effective story telling, and that, in turn, should help us in our practice, art, and love.

Armand Rosamilia: It is so important to be an avid reader as a kid and read everything you can get your hands on you have even a passing interest in. I read mostly nonfiction books now to keep learning, and for future stories.

Kathleen Bradean: Some I don't like as much. But that doesn't change the impact they had on me. Did that influence me as a writer? Maybe.