Annabel Monaghan’s Nightstand
My nightstand is part traveling exhibition, part permanent collection. When I was younger, I used to daydream about going to bed with a copy of a book that I’d written sitting on my nightstand. It’s silly, but so few dreams actually come true that I keep a copy of the books that I’ve written right where I can see them in the middle of the night. They are part of the slightly dusty permanent collection, sandwiched between two books I wish I’d written:
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. I agree that it’s weird that my favorite book was written by the author of One Hundred and One Dalmations. This book is the most delightful possible story of a girl living in the English countryside with her family. She’s broke, spunky and trying to make a good match for her sister. The father, a failed writer, cannot keep his family afloat. There is a scene where our heroine locks her father up to force him to write… another personal fantasy of mine. I read this book every few years, and it is new to me all over again.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I know, I know. Didn’t we all read this in high school and then see it as a movie a hundred times? The reason that I like to reread this one over and over again is that it is a perfectly paced exercise in the art of yearning. It’s so hard to capture that feeling of wandering the moors, with no cell phone to check, wondering if Mr. Darcy is ever going to appear. Austen does that with such skill and humor that I like to keep this one close as inspiration.
The temporary collection on my nightstand is comprised of what I’m reading now: The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty, which is carried by an artful use of suspense and the softest and most compelling voice I’ve heard in a long time. It’s the story of a man dealing with the loss of his parents and his sister by biking across the country. I know, that description doesn’t sound that good to me either. But it’s great, really great.
And Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, hailed as “the last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need.” I’m reading this because his tips on structuring a story are helpful when writing fiction and, well, maybe I’ll hit the big time and move my nightstand to Hollywood.
The rest of my nightstand is covered with random but critical components of the permanent collection: a photo of my sister and her daughter on a too sunny day, my mom’s tiny silver basket that used to live right by her bed too, and a copy of The BFG by Roald Dahl that I’m hoping to read to my son as soon as he stops thinking it’s scary.
Annabel Monaghan is the author of two novels for young adults, A Girl Named Digit and Double Digit (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and is co-author of Click! The Girls Guide to Knowing What You Want and Making it Happen (Simon and Schuster). She grew up in Los Angeles, pondering traffic and what motivates people to put bumper stickers on their cars. She has since become an avid bumper sticker collector, and, like Digit, displays them only inside her house. Learn more and order your copy of Double Digit here.
Monaghan writes a bi-weekly column for The Rye Record and is lifestyle columnist at The Week. She is also a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Annabel has a degree in English from Duke University, an MBA from The University of Pennsylvania and a brief history as an investment banker. She lives in Rye, New York with her husband and three sons.
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