Sunday Q&A: Inspiration

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Who are authors who have inspired me?

The list could go on and on and on, but there are two huge inspirations. Don’t get me wrong—there are dozens of authors, living and long gone, whose stories I love and whose words have changed my life in some way, but there are two authors who have inspired me more than any other.

First, there is Stephen King, and I’m sure he figures highly on a lot of writers’ lists. Not only is the man by far the most prolific and probably most published author on the planet—with no end in sight, mind you—but, in my opinion (as both a writer and a writing teacher), he has written one of the best, most practical guides to creative writing that’s out there. I have used tips from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft not only in creative writing classes I’ve taught, but I’ve also recommended it time and time again to writers, both already published and aspiring. The first time I read it, I thought, “Wow. That’s how I write. I’m not a freak!” Yes, there are lots of solid books on writing out there, but what makes King’s stand above the others is it’s not a textbook. The first half of the book is very much personal memoir, a good reason for any of his faithful readers to pick it up, but the second part, where he gets into the nitty gritty, is a simple “guide” to writing. What I like about it is that he doesn’t pull punches and he doesn’t get on a high horse to talk academia. He’s in the trenches telling the troops how to survive. I find myself going back to that book time and time again. It’s that good. More than that, though, I love much of his fiction. Misery is and always will be one of my favorite books.

My other inspiration is Toni Morrison. The woman can weave a story like few can, and every time I reread one of her books, I’m blown away. She can paint a picture with words so much that her prose is like poetry. Her stories also cut to the core, and many have touched me deeply, have moved me so much that they have forever altered my way of thinking. Books like Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Paradise—I cannot fathom how anyone could read those books and set them aside, not having changed emotionally. Morrison’s fiction forces you to think about who you are and what you believe, what you value, what you hold dear. Any author able to move me on that level, not just emotionally but intellectually, will have me as a faithful reader for life. She is incredible in a way that few authors are. And don’t get me wrong—hundreds of authors have my respect—but Morrison is at the top for me.

If you have any questions for me, just ask!  I’ll answer them in a future Sunday Q&A!

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