Recently I asked Gallagher about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m a relatively new author. My two middle grade books from Random House (Twist My Charm: The Popularity Spell and Twist My Charm: Love Potion #11) came out within the last nine months.Visit Toni Gallagher's website.
As I was working on my books, I attended conferences, panels, classes and retreats. One bit of advice was always proffered: “To be a good writer, you have to read. Read everything, good or bad. Read books like yours. Read books not like yours. Read in your genre. Read outside your genre.”
Well, I have one question for the people tendering this advice. When in the world are you able to read? I have a job ten months out of the year (I’m actually one of the Executive Producers of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Bravo), so it’s almost impossible to find time to write, much less read.
So let me tell you some of the things I’ve started to read.
Of course I want to read middle grade books, so I’ve begun Raymie Nightingale by Newbery Medal winner Kate DiCamillo. Her eloquent simplicity makes me want to be less verbose. However, if I’m less verbose, am I still me?
At one point, when the Caitlyn Jenner hullabaloo was at its highest, a reality TV friend suggested I write a book about a transgender kid. Well, guess what? It was already being written. It’s George, by Alex Gino. I’ve had it since December and hope to start it this weekend.
So what will I actually finish in the near future? It’s a book for grown-ups: John Irving’s In One Person. (Coincidentally, it also has a transgender theme.)
I will finish this book for two reasons: 1) to not suffer ridicule from my book club, but more importantly, 2) John Irving had a hand in making me a writer.
You see, I read The World According to Garp when I was pretty young - perhaps too young to read some of the things in that book. But I was a huge fan, and wrote him a letter.
Imagine the thrill when he wrote back!
The letter [inset left; click to enlarge] has been framed and on my wall ever since – high school, college, apartment, condo. It’s now on my website. He told me the next book he was working on (The Hotel New Hampshire!) and said I “sounded like a writer.” My heart still pounds wildly thinking of those words.
And it was really pounding when I got the chance to see him speak last November. Afterwards, when I was waiting for a friend to finish a cigarette in the parking lot, he walked by!
I leapt at him! I showed him my letter, and he was amused to see that it was handwritten. He was with his family so I kept it short, but it was so exciting to meet a childhood hero. I felt like a kid again…
…which puts me in the right mindset to get working on my next middle grade book.
So much for reading! Time to write.
My Book, The Movie: Twist My Charm: The Popularity Spell.