Carol Williams says it. Everybody agrees. If you want to learn to write,  then read.

I just read a great book. Okay, I lied. I didn’t read it. I listened to it.

Sometimes life just gets busy and an audiobook is a nice way to do two things at once. I load it on my phone, play it while I drive, and put the earbuds in when doing mundane house chores and whatnot. Listening is kind of like reading. The point is, the old brain is still engaged in literature.

(And in pursuit of an audiobook, it is now possible to check-out audiobooks from city and county libraries using the OverDrive app. You enter your library card number when you sign up then it allows downloads of e-books or audio from the public libraries. They don’t have electronic versions of all titles, but  they’ve got plenty of kid lit to choose from. The downside: libraries take away a possible sale of somebody’s book. I’m cheap. But I digress.)

The wonderful book I heard was Caroline Carlson’s The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot. Carlson gives us feisty Hilary, who wants nothing more than to be a pirate. The VNHLP’s rules strictly forbid girls to become pirates, so they and her father, Admiral Westfield, instead set her off to go to Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies. Along the way she meets Jasper, a real pirate, who recruits Hilary to join him on the high seas to find a buried treasure.

The VNHLP has it all. She has a resolute MC surrounded by marvelous characters including pirates and scallywags, an enchantress, a friendly gargoyle, Hilary’s governess who accompanies her on the voyage, and more pirates. This tale is humorous and smart and full of plot twists. The story is set in the fictional country of Augusta and on the high seas and the whole thing feels very prim and high-society proper. One reviewer calls it a “whimsical, swashbuckling romp into a deeply imaginative world” and says the novel is a spunky as Hilary, herself.

Carlson has connections with WIFYR faculty members. Martine Leavitt, a frequent WIFYR instructor, was Carlson’s adviser at Vermont College of Fine Arts. This year’s Cynthia Leitich Smith interviewed her and shared Carlson’s thoughts on revision here:

In and of itself, The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates is a wonderful tale. Katherine Kellgren’s performance elevates the story even more. Her British accent is pitch-perfect and her variety of voices bring the characters to life.

If you write, you should read. If you don’t have time to read, multi-task with an audiobook. If you want an example of classic story-telling, give The VNHLP a try.

What exceptional stories have you read (or listened to) recently that have inspired your writing?

(This article also posted at

(This article also posted at