From this post by Seanan McGuire at tor.com: Finding Poetry in Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin
We are the product of the books we read as children and young adults. They shape the vocabulary we use to shape the world we live in: they spark interests and ideas and ideals that we may never be consciously aware of harboring. Sometimes we’re lucky. Sometimes we can point to the exact moment where everything changed.
I completely agree. I mean, not necessarily about being able to point to an exact moment or a particular book, though that might be so as well. I’m thinking here about the overall thesis that the books we read at about age fourteen set our taste and ideals … I don’t want to say in stone … let’s say, these are the books that are most likely to have a profound and lasting effect on what we view as the ideal for stories, for themes, and for characterization.
Obviously McGuire identifies Tam Lin as a seminal work for her own image of what is best in stories. (I didn’t check, but yes, she was fourteen when she read this book.)
I was older when I read Dean’s Tam Lin and for me it was okay, but not that important. Fire and Hemlock is probably my favorite Tam Lin retelling, and honestly that is far from my favorite of DWJ’s books.
The author I point at as most seminal for me is Patricia McKillip — everything of hers, but I specifically remember reading The Riddlemaster of Hed for the first time. I remember sitting in a hallway in school reading that between classes, and I don’t really have a lot of clear memories from that long ago.
Also Robin McKinley. Also Patricia Wrede, and sure, Diana Wynne Jones, and CJ Cherryh, and RA MacAvoy. But particularly Patricia McKillip.
McGuire’s post is also about poetry; about discovering poetry in fiction.
Although I did not sit down and write a sonnet every day, as Seanan McGuire apparently did after reading Tam Lin (and now I kind of regret that I didn’t think to try something like that!), I would say that you can’t read McKillip without discovering poetry in fiction, because McKillip’s prose IS poetry. That had a huge impact on my writing, I think. Much more so in some novels than others; particularly in The City in the Lake. But I hope it’s always there to some extent. That’s why I’m pleased and flattered whenever anybody compares my writing to McKillip’s, which I’m glad to say does happen now and then.
Also, after reading this post, I do sort of feel like going and getting my copy of Dean’s Tam Lin off the shelf. I’m almost sure I still have it in my library.