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Happy coincidence: Six contemporary children’s writers share influences

We asked six contemporary children’s writers what influences their work.

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Louisa May Alcott and other children's writers
Louisa May Alcott

On November 29, we celebrate the birthdays of three iconic writers: Louisa May Alcott (1832), C.S. Lewis (1898) and Madeleine L’Engle (1918). Decades apart, these birthday triplets transformed the way we write for younger audiences. In honor of the trio, we asked six contemporary children’s writers what influences their work.

“The greatest influence on my writing was and is my mother, whose imagination was as wide as the sky. She told stories with paint and canvas, and I do with my pen. I was influenced by the wild stories of her childhood in Peru and the world of paintings and books she surrounded me with as a child. Dr. Seuss was a particular favorite because he showed me that there were no rules, and any limits would be my own.”
– Monica Brown, author of Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match

“Edward Eager, the author of the 1950s classics Half Magic and Knight’s Castle. The lesson? Make your stories about ONE thing and then explore every possible angle of that one thing.”
– Chris Grabenstein, author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

“I had a Russian history professor, Professor Riasanovsky, who made us read our assigned essays out loud to the class. He told us whenever the essay was difficult to read or our voice stumbled, it had to be rewritten. To this day, I read all my books and columns for the Washington Post out loud.”
– Fred Bowen, sports columnist for kids and author of the Fred Bowen Sports Story series

“As a child, reading was an act of total psychological immersion for me, to a degree that’s proved impossible to recapture in adulthood. There were all kinds of elements which drew me into that state – fantasy, adventure, fear, grief, friendship and family – but that experience of total absorption is what I’ve always chased, and it’s what I’m still chasing, albeit from a new direction.”
– Mike Jung, author of Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities


“The greatest influence on my writing is real life. All the humor you need happens all around you, and all you need to do is capture it and put it on the page.”
– Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series

“Aside from reading, the greatest influence on my writing has been family road trips. As kids, we traveled the country for three weeks every summer in a Holiday Rambler travel trailer, and my mom always encouraged us to look, listen and pay attention.”
– Clare Vanderpool, author of Moon Over Manifest

Originally Published