Writing Roots and Memories

Memories! It’s funny what provokes them. This morning as I answered questions on Paul Greci’s blog about why I came to be a writer and whether I had liked writing from an early age, I mentioned the influence of the Albert Payson Terhune dog stories I’d read as a young girl.

A.P. Terhune and his Collies

The memory sent me Googling for the names of other books Terhune had written besides Lad, a Dog and I was stunned at the length of the list… over sixty books! He is said to be “the world’s most prolific and successful writer of dog stories [but] he wrote stories about human beings for more than 20 years before he sold his first dog story….

“He wrote eleven hours a day, six days a week for some 30 years.

“His kennels, Sunnybank, became the most famed collie kennels in the U.S.” The forty-four acre Sunnybank estate, in Wayne, New Jersey was originally the Terhune’s summer home until 1912 when Terhune made it his permanent residence. It is now maintained as Terhune-Sunnybank Park and is open to the public. “Visitors can visit the graves of many of the dogs mentioned in Terhune’s works and view a collection of Terhune’s book and dog awards at the Van Riper-Hopper Historic House Museum.”

Sunnybank House as it once was, an "old rambling vine-clad gray stucco house, red-roofed and trimmed with black-brown timbers"

That’s probably more than you needed or wanted to know about Terhune, but the information touched a nerve for me. Is it because for thirty-five years I’ve bred Shetland Sheepdogs, the breed so often incorrectly identified as miniature collies? Or that Terhune’s father, Edward Payson Terhune, was a Presbyterian minister (so is my husband, father-in-law, brother-in-law and son-in-law)?

Or is it that I’ve just discovered something vaguely akin to roots in the writing world… a fellow writer from a Presbyterian family who loved dogs? I didn’t know anything about him when I was a girl lost in his stories, but in hindsight I am grateful for his influence.

If you reminisce a bit, how far back can you go to find your writing roots? Is there one author or book that inspired you?

16 thoughts on “Writing Roots and Memories

  1. Yes, there was a first book that caused me to like reading. I was a young teen and the book was “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. I also read “Call of the Wild” by Jack London, a dog book. How fascinating to rediscover an author you enjoyed as a young girl!

    • I read both of them, too, although I didn’t read Little Women until I was older… in my teens, I think. Some of my childhood favourites I’m tempted to read again now, but I’m never going to get to the bottom of my TBR pile as it is.

  2. joylene says:

    My mother said as soon as I knew how to speak coherently, I began standing front and center on the hearth captivating my family with stories. In those days it was a mixture of French and English. A storyteller was born, is how my mother put it. My bestfriend says it’s the Irish in me. LOL. Sorry, no Irish.

    • I was always rather quiet and reserved so writing things was always easier than speaking in front of others, even my own family. So you had a head start on me in the storytelling department (and I *am* Irish). 🙂

  3. I loved the Terhune books, too! Books about dogs or horses were always among my favorites.

    It wasn’t authors that inspired me, but characters in some of my favorite books sure did. I wanted to be Trixie Belden or Nancy Drew, and solve mysteries. Other times I wanted adventures like the Boxcar Children had, or to be as strong as Pippi Longstocking. It wasn’t until I was in college that I paid attention to who was writing the books I loved.

    • I didn’t read a lot of horse stories — Black Beauty, of course, but I can’t remember any others. The Bobbsey Twins were among my early favourites, and later Cherry Ames, along with Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew. I think my own girls read those three series, too. The dog stories outran all of them, however. I guess I was destined to be dog crazy right from the start. 🙂

  4. territiffany says:

    Little Women and Little Men were my all time favorites. I loved Jo. And I too read Trixie Belden. I still have many of those books and read them to my daughter as she grew up.She doesn’t write but is a huge fan of reading.

    • Reading with our children is, in my opinion, one of the best activities we can do together. I love seeing how our grown children and their own little ones enjoy books. It’s a precious legacy.

  5. What a wonderful post, Carol! Imagine 11 hours a day, six days a week. Wow!

    I was surprised to learn my paternal grandmother was a writer. She never had anything published, but I was given some of her stories at my aunt’s death.

    Not sure who influenced my writing the most. Erma Bombeck and Phillip Gulley, perhaps. They both tell stories in warm, funny ways.

    • What a privilege to have some of your grandmother’s stories! I remember how my grandfather used to gather us children and tell us wonderful Irish folk tales, but there wasn’t anything written down to pass along.

  6. Paul Greci says:

    Hi Carol, I won’t tell my whole story here since you read most of yesterday. But books that have influenced me as a writer in the last ten to fifteen years are Far North by Will Hobbs, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, and Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson.

    In regards to Terhune’s writing routine: Wow!!

  7. Dave Ebright says:

    Yikes! I’m embarrassed to admit that the only reading I did as a kid (like most boys) was whatever was required for school. I didn’t become ‘a reader’ until I was in my mid 20s – & then it was ‘game on’.

    Writerly influences? Would have to say Mark Twain. Inspiration? Having a grandson.

    What a weak response. Geez.

    • Not a weak response at all, Dave. You were probably typical of a lot of boys for whom reading wasn’t active enough. Now you put the action into stories for your grandson’s benefit. When he’s grown up I know who he’ll say influenced him!

  8. Laura Best says:

    My mother used to read to my younger brother and I. I remember graduating from the Bobbsey Twins to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I loved these mysteries but have never written one. Maybe one day. Who knows?

    • I’m convinced that parents reading to children helps develop their love of books and writing, so good for your mother!

      I notice my grandchildren reading many of the series that were around back when I was a child. I guess it says something about their universal appeal and staying power.

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