This week, I asked the members of the Painted Steps Writers’ Group to share 3 writers that they each emulate – people who they would like to be like as writers in the world. Because it’s not fair of me to ask of them something I won’t do myself, I made up my own list . . . so today, I expand the list of 3 to 10. . . these are writers who inspire me both in their work and in their lives.
1. Anne Lamott – More than any other writer living, Lamott’s work and her way of being in the world inspire me to write more, to live truer, and to be more gracious with myself. Her words have long inspired me both on the page and in the air, and I cannot wait to read her new book.
2. John Green – The Fault in Our Stars was a life-changer for me both because of the way it helped me broaden my understanding of YA fiction but also because it guided me to a more genuine way of living. But it’s actually John Green’s life as a writer – a man who speaks truth, who gives grace, and who shows genuine interest in his fans – that inspires me most.
3. Alice Walker – I absolutely admire Walker’s ability to be an activist both in her art and in her life. Her bold words and brave choices for her books and her advocacy tell me I can fight for things and still be true to my art. Plus, her book We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting for: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness has encouraged me to keep going on many a hard day.
4. J. K. Rowling – Yep, totally love Harry Potter and totally love the “single mom writing on napkins” story of success. But it’s Rowling’s willingness to a huge risk and write outside the world of Harry that most inspires me. To do something new is always hard, but it’s got to be especially hard when you’ve made a kazillion dollars at the old thing.
5. J. R. R. Tolkien – Again, I love The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but I also admire Tolkien for his participation in the Inklings, his community of writers, and his world-building. I will – let me assure you – never write languages for various species in my books, but I wish I was that kind of writer.
6. Gayle Brandeis – Gayle is one of the many writers I am blessed to call “friend, ” and her generosity of spirit inspires me every day. She gives her work to a variety of causes and venues, and she is always exploring new ideas and community – all while writing. Her work The Book of Dead Birds is also one of the books that gave me permission to write outside my own individual experience, and I’m forever grateful for that gift.
7. Cornel West – So first, he’s a brilliant scholar and writer, but he is also an activist and an actor (see The Matrix films). Most recently, he went to Ferguson to be arrested and draw attention to the injustices toward African-Americans there in Missouri and across America. Love that guy.
8. Barbara Kingsolver – Of course, her work in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle inspired a great deal of how I live here at God’s Whisper, but it was actually her book Small Wonder that reminded me of the responsibility my work has to the larger world – to speak truth, to bear witness, to hunt justice.
9. Pablo Neruda – This one is simple – I want to write love as well as he did.
10. Maria Murnane – I admire Maria’s work because it is honest and genuine and because she took it on herself to build the life she wanted by self-publishing Perfect on Paper and building such a fan base that it was eventually re-released by a publishing house. Plus, she answers all her fan mail personally.
If I can be one-quarter as awesome a writer and person as these people, I will be doing well.
What writers do you emulate as writers but also as people? Why do you wish to be like them?