Friday Five

1. What were your favorite childhood stories?

I loved any kind of story. I had so many books — I vaguely remember having two encyclopedia-type sets of Peanuts and Sesame Street books. I don’t remember having stories read to me at night, but I loved to read from an early age and would oftentimes hide under the covers with a flashlight just because I loved learning about what was going on outside of my world.

2. What books from your childhood would you like to share with [your] children?

Up until I moved to D.C. last summer, I had kept four or five boxes of my childhood favorites. But I had to part with sentimentality in favor of furniture. But I kept two of those books — “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume and “The Trouble With Thirteen” by Betty Miles — two coming-of-age stories that got me through my pre-teens.

If ever I have a little girl, I am marching straight out and re-purchasing the Ramona Quimby series. And “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” “Superfudge,” “Deenie” and “Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great.” Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary and the authors in the Wildfire book series had such a wonderful influence on me, and I will make sure that my kids are readers — these books taught me so much about families and friends and what the world outside my bedroom was really like.

Oh, and how could I possibly forget the neverending stream of “Sweet Valley High” books, by Francine Pascal? I loved the adventures of twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. Pascal was probably my No. 1 influence as far as writing style and plotline development.

3. Have you re-read any of those childhood stories and been surprised by anything?

When I was moving last year, I picked up and read through all of my books. And I realized how mature the subject matter was, only it was presented in a way grade-school kids could understand and appreciate. Judy Blume went on to write books aimed for an older audience, and I kept every last one of those. I always felt like my favorite writers understood me at a time when no grown-ups did.

4. How old were you when you first learned to read?

I remember being 3 years old and sitting on my canopy bed, reading to myself, although the family argues that I was reading when I was 2.

5. Do you remember the first ‘grown-up’ book you read? How old were you?

My cousin Val had given my mom a shitload of trashy romance novels to read when I was 10. My mom kept them in my closet in a tied-up bag. So I untied the bag and read them all, over and over again. My first and favorite was “Notorious” by Ann Miller. The book is out of print, and I’d kill to get my hands on a copy. And I wrote my own trashy romance novels since the time I was 14, along with a teen-friendly series that I since lost. So, reading has literally shaped the writer I since became.

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