Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Inspirations from other writers by Susan Reinhardt

Inspirations in Writing by Susan Reinhardt

My mother keeps the well-worn hard copy of “Cinderella” in a nightstand drawer of her Spartanburg, S.C. sprawling rancher.

It is the book, beautifully illustrated, I read hundreds of times as a child in awe of Cinderella’s gowns. And even her rags as she swept the ashes from the fireplace.

This is the book that launched my love of reading. It is the same book my own daughter, now 12, forced me to read repeatedly from her toddler into her pre-school years.

Throwing that book aside or hauling it to Goodwill would constitute nothing short of sacrifice. Like tossing the heirloom quilts my great-grandmother left behind.

And so it’s tucked in the drawer, pages and bindings loose and tattered, yet waiting for the next generation of ears and eyes.

I also recall a childhood spent with piles of Little Golden Books and my mother’s enthusiastic voice as she chanted, “I think I can, I think I can,” from “The Little Engine that Could.” She would often repeat the words from “The Little Red Hen,” to guilt my sister and me into helping her do chores around the house. As you recall, no one would help the hen bake her bread from scratch.

In elementary school, I read a book that has stayed with me for over 40 years. It was called the “Boxcar Children,” and about three orphaned kids living and surviving on their own in an abandoned boxcar. It feels as if I just read it weeks ago, and that is the mark of excellent writing and characterization.

In junior high I fell in love with Dinny Gordon books. This was my introduction into series reading. And then in high school, I’m ashamed to say I don’t remember reading much more than my English classes required. I even fudged on the books I considered snoozers at the time, but would love to revisit in my middle years.

As an older teenager, books took a back burner and my social life boiled with activity, both good and well…wild!

College was about the same. I didn’t have time for books. They morphed into chores instead of pleasures. It’s hard to admit, now that I’m a writer, that I quit reading for about seven years. I cringe to think of some classics I now wish I’d read.

After graduation from the University of Georgia, I headed down to Myrtle Beach to write for the local paper. I met a man 20 years my senior who reintroduced me into reading via the nearly unmatchable comedic talents of John Kennedy Toole’s novel “A Confederacy of Dunces.” I never laughed so hard in my entire life and have read or listened to the book countless times – the only book I’ve ever read more than once.

I am saddened the author took his own life 11 years before the novel snagged a publisher. At first it became a cult classic then later enjoyed mainstream success and a Pulitzer. I’ve read a lot of humor, it’s the genre I enjoy most, but nothing can match my love with this quirky story of a hefty lunatic and his mother muddling around New Orleans’ culture.

This is the book that took my newspaper career and turned it into a means to an end. I’d keep writing for newspapers, until my own humor books were published. This took more than 20 years, but that’s another story.

This is about books and favorite authors. I’d have to say my three favorites, besides all the ones who blog here, are Toole, Anne Tyler and Sophie Kinsella. Of course then there’s Barbara Kingsolver and way too many more who’ve influenced my writing and infused my heart with the ongoing desire to write.

I had a best friend in college, Julie Cannon. We were sorority sisters and got into gobs of trouble. I had always been fascinated by her artwork, but never imagined she’d become an author, much less such a successful one. I had no idea until long after we graduated that she liked to write.

While Julie Cannon, also a blogger here, may not list me as her best author friend doesn’t matter. She’s mine. I can go to her for anything – from agent blues to the pits of publicity.

There are other authors I’ve befriended, all of whom are extremely helpful. Without these friendships with other writers and the hope and help that bridge the insecurity of this business with the wishful successes, I couldn’t carry on.

And with that, I think all of us find a “best” friend in Pulpwood Queen Kathy Patrick, now leading our pack on this blog. She’s fueled more careers than Oprah in my book.

Susan Reinhardt is author of “Not Tonight Honey, Wait ‘Til I’m a Size 6,” “Don’t Sleep with a Bubba,” and “Dishing with the Kitchen Virgin.”

She is also a stand-up comic and Sarah Palin impersonator. Go to www.susanreinhardt.com to check out the crazy videos.


Karin Gillespie said...

I love Anne Tyler too! Your columns are alwats so much fun to read, Susan.

Jamie Pohlman said...

I devoured the Boxcar Children series growing up. And the Little Golden Books were also favorites. Now, my youngest son begs me to read them.

Have you read "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius"? I think it's the funniest book I have ever read, but I was reading it during middle of the night feedings with my last child, so that could be part of it. I think I'll check out "Confederacy of Dunces."

nreddick said...

Great post, and I plan to check your videos!!! Awesome!

nreddick said...

that's great---Caribou Barbie! Hilarious! If Palin gets elected to something, you'll be on all the shows!!!