You Should Read This: Turn Not Pale, Beloved Snail by Jacqueline Jackson

Cover of Turn Not Pale Beloved Snail by Jacqueline Jackson, recommended by Cat Rambo

From the introduction by Jacqueline Jackson: "This is a book about a lot of things, all clustered around the idea of writing. I've written it because it's the sort of book I wish someone had written for me. From third grade to seventh I filled dozens of notebooks and a fat briefcase with an assortment of stories and poems, but I never saw a book about writing for kids except textbooks."

This may well be the first writing book I ever read. My grandmother met Jackson at a book festival and had her sign a copy for me. The inscription reads: Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance! Keep up your writing — you’re already choreographing the steps!” I have treasured this book for decades and it still, somewhat improbably, even retains its dust jacket.

What: Turn Not Pale, Beloved Snail is a writing book aimed at children. Jackson is an experienced YA adult writer, but this is less about writing for children than it is about being a kid who likes to write.

Who: While this is a great book for the nascent writer in your family, any writer will benefit from Jackson’s insight into what hooks a reader as well as her examinations of her own work.

Why: This book is full of joy in writing, a spirit so strong it can’t help but inform your own.

When: Read this with your kids if they’re thinking about writing. Or read it if you’re thinking about writing something aimed at kids and want to remind yourself what the reading experience is like for them.

Where and how: Read with a pen in hand, if only to jot down the many fiction recommendations Jackson makes (or if you forget, they’re all collected in an appendix.) It’s a reading list that shaped my own middle-grade reading, leading me to L.M. Boston and Tove Jansson, among others. Try the exercises as you go.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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