This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
From the age of six until the age of ten, I moved three times, which meant I changed schools three times. Consequently, my education had gaps and overlaps in it that it might not have otherwise had. One such overlap was that I ended up reading the children’s book, Charlotte’s Web, with three different classes. For those who haven’t read it, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White is about a pig named Wilbur who learns that his fate, like the fate of most pigs, is to become next year’s bacon. It’s about a spider, the titular Charlotte, who comes up with a plan to save Wilbur. The story opens in media res with one of the best first sentences of any book I have ever read: “Where’s Papa going with that ax?”
The first time I read Charlotte’s Web, I enjoyed it. The second time I read the book, I resented it. I resented my parents for moving and inadvertently forcing me to have to retread the same material. I was eight years old and even then, life seemed too short to waste time on repeat readings. The third time I read the book, I loved Charlotte’s Web, and as I wept, I knew I’d be reading it for the rest of my life. Charlotte’s Web is the book that made me want to be a writer.You see, Charlotte the spider is a writer, and it is through her writing that she saves Wilbur. She spins words (“SOME PIG” for instance) into her web that call attention to Wilbur’s value as something other than bacon – his humanity if you will. Looking back, I think this book gave me the idea that words and stories could be enormously powerful. If you write “Some Pig,” people might just believe you. Another thing I love about Charlotte’s Web is that Charlotte doesn’t spin these webs to get fame, riches, or even credit for herself. She writes because she is Wilbur’s friend and because the writing, on some level, is its own reward. Having recently published my eighth novel, I still think this is a good lesson. In interviews, I’m occasionally asked to name a writer I admire. Sometimes I say Virginia Woolf. Really, I ought to reply Charlotte the Spider.
The Collected Works of A.J. Fickry by Gabrielle Zevin is out now.