The best books that helped shape me as a writer

Who am I?

I can’t remember a time in my life without stories in it. I grew up in an English/Italian family where everyone’s tales about their lives captured my imagination. Books also opened a window into the wonderful world of stories and my ambition to be a writer was born. I decided to write for children in 1971 after our son was born. Ten years of rejections later, my author dream came true and my first picture book was published. It was a stranger danger story that attracted some publicity, which led to invitations to speak at schools. Inspiring children to go on their own story writing adventure has become one of my greatest joys.


I wrote...

Just Write: An easy guide to story writing

By Teena Raffa-Mulligan,

Book cover of Just Write: An easy guide to story writing

What is my book about?

Writing stories is like having an adventure. Your imagination can take you anywhere. Yet not every kid finds story writing easy. Sometimes getting started can feel too hard. Making it to the end can look impossible.

Just Write can help to kick-start the process. Find out how to come up with ideas, create interesting characters, paint word pictures, and more in this easy-to-follow guide full of activities and helpful examples. Presented in a friendly, conversational style by a multi-published children’s author, it offers a simple process for children to turn ‘I can’t write stories’ into ‘I can be a writer.’

The books I picked & why

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Five Children and It

By E. Nesbit,

Book cover of Five Children and It

Why this book?

This book sparked my imagination. I loved the fantasy element that delivered amazing experiences to five ordinary children, and many years later when it came to writing my own novels for young readers, I found myself writing my own quirky adventures where remarkable things happen in a world that otherwise appears to be as we know it.  

Five Children and It

By E. Nesbit,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Five Children and It as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Edith Nesbit was inspired by her own five children to write this enchanting novel, and its warm and funny portrayal of a magical childhood has ensured its presence in print ever since.

Designed to appeal to the book lover, the Macmillan Collector's Library is a series of beautiful gift editions of much loved classic titles. Macmillan Collector's Library are books to love and treasure. This illustrated edition of Five Children and It features the drawings of H. R. Millar, and an afterword by writer, critic and broadcaster Nicolette Jones.

Whilst out playing in the countryside, five children come across a…


The Diary of Anne Frank

By Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett,

Book cover of The Diary of Anne Frank

Why this book?

I came across Anne Frank’s diary when I was a little younger than she was when she began writing it. It had a powerful impact on me because it was a true story that offered an insight into the heart and mind of a girl close to my own age who had not survived the Holocaust. It showed me that personal experiences written in an authentic voice are an important part of our storytelling culture. They have the power to change readers’ thinking and develop empathy. Like Anne, I wanted to become a published author, but at the time I had no idea so much of my writing life would be spent focusing on fact rather than fiction.

The Diary of Anne Frank

By Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Diary of Anne Frank as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Diary of Anne Frank by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett

"This Drama Play is a wonderful addition to anyone who has a passion for Anne Frank related reading. A dramatization for the stage and ready for anyone, including schools, to use."


The Chrysalids

By John Wyndham,

Book cover of The Chrysalids

Why this book?

My high school English teacher introduced me to the work of science fiction writer John Wyndham when I was in my mid-teens and I promptly read every title by this author and found a new favourite genre. Along with encouraging me to read outside my usual choices, this teacher gave me some invaluable writing advice after I handed in a short story: "Continue to write in this light-hearted vein and you will do well." Unfortunately, it took me a while to follow it and I spent quite a few years trying unsuccessfully to write serious literary fiction.

The Chrysalids

By John Wyndham,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Chrysalids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the community of Waknut it is believed mutants are the products of the Devil and must be stamped out. When David befriends a girl with a slight abnormality, he begins to understand the nature of fear and oppression. When he develops his own deviation, he must learn to conceal his secret.


Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America

By Natalie Goldberg,

Book cover of Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America

Why this book?

Natalie Goldberg is an internationally acclaimed teacher of writing and Zen practice and her autobiography Long Quiet Highway resonated deeply with me. I’ve considered myself a spiritual seeker since the age of 13 and knew from much earlier that writing is an intrinsic part of my creative expression. Yet I had never considered these two important aspects of my life together. After I read this book, my workshop presentations for adults took a different direction where I was no longer teaching what I knew but sharing a learning experience together. 

Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America

By Natalie Goldberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Long Quiet Highway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A moving memoir of a journey of self-discovery through Zen Buddhism
In this autobiographical work, Natalie Goldberg takes us on a journey from her suburban childhood to her maturation as a writer. From the high-school classroom where she first listened to the rain, to her fifteen years as a student of Zen Buddhism, Natalie Goldberg’s path is by turns illuminating, disciplined, heartbreaking, hilarious, and healing. Along the way she reflects on her life and work in prose that is both elegant and precise, reminding the reader of what it means to be fully alive. This ebook features an illustrated biography…


The Artist's Way

By Julia Cameron,

Book cover of The Artist's Way

Why this book?

My daughter lent me this book at a time when I was in a creative slump. For years I had been earning my living writing for newspapers and magazines and publishing books, poems, and stories for children. Suddenly I felt I had nothing more to say, that my writing life might be over. I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t a writer. Cameron’s book offered a different perspective on creativity. I began to follow her program without any real expectation of results. Soon after beginning to produce the daily handwritten morning pages and explore the thoughts and feelings I had around writing, something shifted in me. The ideas and words began to flow again. Would I have continued to write without it? I don’t know. I do know the program is effective and have continued to add further Julia Cameron titles to my bookcase. 

The Artist's Way

By Julia Cameron,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Artist's Way as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"With its gentle affirmations, inspirational quotes, fill-in-the-blank lists and tasks — write yourself a thank-you letter, describe yourself at 80, for example — The Artist’s Way proposes an egalitarian view of creativity: Everyone’s got it."—The New York Times 
 
"Morning Pages have become a household name, a shorthand for unlocking your creative potential"—Vogue

Over four million copies sold!

Since its first publication, The Artist's Way phenomena has inspired the genius of Elizabeth Gilbert and millions of readers to embark on a creative journey and find a deeper connection to process and purpose. Julia Cameron's novel approach guides readers in uncovering problems…


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