Recently, a fellow author asked me who were the inspirational authors of my youth? Before I even imagined writing, I read. But if I’d thought to emulate a favorite author, it could definitely vary depending on the day. I might have chosen, Jane Austen, or Orson Scott Card, or Willa Cather, or…well, it’s a very long list.

But it made me think, if I had to choose a book, the first book I remember having an impact on me as a reader, the first book that might have made me think, dare or dream of writing, it would have to be Christy by Catherine Marshall. Marshall based the book on her mother’s life and journey as a young woman, leaving behind a comfortable life to teach the poor of the Smokey Mountains. The experience challenged her and changed her. It changed Marshall’s readers as well, myself included.

It’s the kind of story mothers would probably like their young daughters to read today, but I think it’s been a little lost in the growing sea of literature for pre-teens, teens and young adults. Don’t get me wrong, there’s so much great writing out there now, it’s like a renaissance in those genres. But great stories are always great, no matter how long ago they were written and that’s definitely the case here.

A more recent example is Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden. Nothing Daunted is also written about a relative of the author, and her friend who, in the 1800’s, journeyed beyond their comfort zone to teach in what was to them a wild new area–in this case, Hayden, Colorado, near Steamboat Springs.

Like Christy, these women faced challenges they never imagined and found within themselves courage and faith they never expected. Their lives were changed for the better.

When I was 13 I spent a good chunk of my summer sitting on that porch swing reading Christy (it’s a BIG book and I’m a slow reader). I think I may have cried when I finished it, as if I’d been parted from a dear friend. I went on to read more Catherine Marshall (A Man Called Peter, about her husband, who was chaplain of the senate, is also a wonderful book). Still, Christy stuck with me. I should be so fortunate to ever write something as timeless and touching as that story.

I have a lot of little girls in my life now and I often give them books. As they grow into their teen years I look forward to sharing Christy with them. I hope they love it as much as I did.

And I hope my older, author-self, might someday write something that challenges, inspires and encourages them and others. It would be my gift to my 13 year-old self who discovered a world of adventure during a sultry Midwestern summer, inside of the covers of a good book.

ps…the book cover above is the original from 1967. It’s my favorite and, yes, I think I still have it somewhere! 

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