Julie Hyzy: 5 Books/Albums/Movies That Changed My Life

Okay, here goes. Life-changing favorites, in no particular order:

1) Book – THE OCTOBER COUNTRY by Ray Bradbury. This collection of short stories, handed to me by my eighth grade teacher, made my final excruciating months of grammar school bearable. I discovered the joy in the short story format and I fell in love with Ray Bradbury. I wrote him a fan letter once, because I thought he deserved to know how much his words influenced (and continue to influence) me and how much his stories inspired me to write. To my everlasting surprise, he called me. At home. To thank me for my letter and to tell me it made him cry. If he hadn’t then followed up by sending me an inscribed copy of FAHRENHEIT 451, I would have believed I dreamt it.

2) Book – A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Have I mentioned that grammar school was tough? Really bad, actually. I was a good student and exceptionally well-behaved. That cost me popularity in a big way. I’d go so far as to say I was probably the least popular kid in my class, unless you counted who was the most picked-on. Then I topped the list. Anyway, I asked to borrow this book from one of my mom’s friends bookshelves and she told me I could keep it. This book saved me. Sara Crewe, the protagonist, had it even harder than I did, and yet she managed to always take the high road and maintain dignity, even when all hope was lost. I read this book at least 13 times. Yeah, I kept count. Named one of my daughters Sara, too.

3) Album – HEADQUARTERS by The Monkees. Best. Album. Ever. I loved this album and played it constantly. Coincidentally, I recently wrote a blog post about my love of this collection, and specifically Peter Tork.

4) Movie – POLLYANNA with Hayley Mills. I saw this for the first time in kindergarten, at a school assembly. I was captivated by the scene where Pollyanna brings prisms in to brighten up Mrs. Snow’s room. Rainbows and optimism, what’s not to love? Pollyanna’s “Glad game” grabbed hold of me and hasn’t ever let go. I tend to drag positives out of every situation, whether people want me to or not. My family has, more than once, asked me to “Stop Pollyanna-ing them.”

5) Book – THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE by Carolyn Keene. This Nancy Drew book, the second in the series, is my all-time favorite because it’s the first one I ever read. I found an old 1930 blue-bound edition in our basement and thought it looked interesting so I started to read. Throughout, I couldn’t believe what a find this was, how exciting, how fun, and I dreaded coming to the end. Seriously, I was counting pages, thinking, “Oh no, only fifty more to go!” “Oh no, only twenty more to go!” When I reached the end of the book and discovered the line: “Readers who wish to follow her strange adventures may do so in the next volume of this series, entitled ‘The Bungalow Mystery'” – I was in heaven. This was a series!! The original book had been my mom’s but she hadn’t gotten into Nancy Drew at all. I did, wholeheartedly. I wound up buying every single yellow-spined hardcover title out there and read them all multiple times. Reading Nancy Drew made me want to be Nancy Drew. Unfortunately, I’m chicken when it comes to danger so instead of becoming an amateur sleuth, I decided to write about them instead. I’d say that changed my life a bit.

Julie Hyzy is the best-selling  author of the White House Chef Mystery series featuring Ollie Paras and the Manor House Mystery series featuring Grace Wheaton. She’s won the Anthony, Barry, and Lovey Awards for her novels, and the Derringer and Phobos Awards for her short fiction. She enjoys eavesdropping, sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong, and going out to dinner as often as she can manage. You can catch her on Facebook or at her website. Her latest, GRACE AMONG THIEVES, is out now.