Even before I picked up my first book I began writing stories in my mind. Just like the heroes in my favorite cartoons, I stood up for the innocent and persecuted, defeating the enemy with cunning and ingenuity. Animals were ever my companions on these adventures. The earliest were cats, no doubt a result of my attachment to Kimba the White Lion and Felix the Cat. (Yes, I had my own magic bag of tricks.) Felines quickly gave way to canines with the addition of a dog to my home (aptly named Tiger) and horses, a fascination that lasted well into high school.
I learned to read with Clifford the Red Dog and my love of animals and the outdoors took off from there. Any story that had animals caught my eye and I whipped through books like My Friend Flicka and all the works of Albert Payson Terhune. Laura Ingles Wilder, James Herriot and Jack London were also among my favorite authors.
Despite being terrified of the bugs on my first Girl Scout camping trip in third grade, I loved the outdoors and the thought of living in the wild fascinated me. Looking back now, I’d have to say that the three most influential books I read were, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, Julie of the Wolves, and My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George. All three are about kids living on their own in the wild. Knowing this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my two favorite musicals are “Annie” and “Oliver”. I guess I have a thing for abandoned, or downtrodden orphaned kids with good hearts, struggling to survive.
Animal and adventure stories were the mainstay of my reading diet until the beginning of high school. With some trepidation I began reading a book my Brother had given me the year before…and was immediately drawn into the world of fantasy. I finished reading the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy in three weeks, then turned around and reread it, discussing and trading editorial notes with a friend.
It’s not that elves and hobbits were new to me; I had seen an animated version of the Hobbit several years earlier and quite enjoyed it. I loved watching both fantasy and science fiction on TV and at the theatre, but I had never read any stories in either genre. It felt as though an entire new world had opened to me, and my propensity to daydream by popping into books, Gumby style, increased.