Monday, April 30, 2012

Robin McKinley – The Writer’s Writer

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Texas Library Association’s Annual Conference in Houston, where I got to spend two glorious days talking about books with librarians, industry folk, and my fellow authors.

And an interesting thing happened – in two completely separate conversations, with two different author friends of mine, a name came up that has long been near and dear to my heart. But it’s not a name I hear very often: Robin McKinley.

One of my author friends remarked that her favorite first line of a book was from Robin McKinley’s THE BLUE SWORD. (The line, in case you’re curious, is: “She scowled at her glass of orange juice.”). 

A second author friend listed McKinley’s THE HERO AND THE CROWN as one of her favorite dragon books of all time.

My experience with Robin McKinley books began when I was in sixth grade, and my teacher assigned us THE BLUE SWORD. I was instantly in love with the book and with its heroine, Harry Crewe. It was one of those rare books where you discover something different every time you read it – and I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I lovingly reread it. It’s still one of those books that I pick up every now and then, just to remind myself that books, and the people who write them, are awesome.

But more than just being awesome, THE BLUE SWORD was one of the books that made me want to be a writer. I had fallen in love with books before then, but I had spent the majority of my time hoping I would grow up to be the book’s heroine. It wasn’t until Robin McKinley came along that I actually fell in love with the way that a book was written, and shyly wondered if I could possibly create something like that one day.  (The other books that inspired my career choice were Tamora Pierce’s THE SONG OF THE LIONESS QUARTET books – they were assigned to me by that same sixth grade teacher. Man, did that woman know her YA lit!).

And judging by the comments by my fellow authors at TLA, I am not the only writer who has been inspired by Robin McKinley.

Why do I bring her up in this blog post? Well, I know how amazing it is to stumble upon a book you love, and then make the glorious discovery that the author has a huge list of books that have somehow escaped you, but which you will now proceed to devour. And just in case Robin McKinley has managed to allude you until now, you may want to pick up THE BLUE SWORD or THE HERO AND THE CROWN or CHALICE or any one of her seventeen amazing creations and give them a shot. Let’s see if the woman I now think of as “the writer’s writer” can inspire you too!

For more on Robin McKinley:
Visit her website 
Check out her list of works
Follow her on Twitter 

About the author of this blog post:
Cory Putman Oakes is the author of the YA fantasy THE VEIL (2011, Octane Press). She grew up in California, where she attended UCLA and graduated with a B.A. in Psychology. She also graduated from Cornell Law School and worked as a lawyer until she decided to become a writer. Cory now lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, Mark, their daughter, Sophia, and a bunch of animals.


  1. Wow what an amazing moment. I love going to conferences and finding these bits of surprises and thanks for showing off Robin McKinley's work!

  2. I love finding books that inspire me! Not only to read more books but to write!

  3. How on earth have I not heard of Robin before now?? Thanks for helping me climb out from under my rock.

  4. I had a similar experience myself. My 8th grade teach assigned us Beauty by Robin McKinley, and I fell. in. love. I've been an avid reader and rereader of her books ever since! And yes, she was one of my big inspirations to be a writer and specifically a YA writer. Love that you're getting the word out about her awesome books!

  5. The Hero and the Crown was one of my favorites too! I loved reading about a strong female character in a time when there weren't many. Kudos to you for featuring her!

  6. First time I've heard of her, too :)