15 Authors (and then some)

Paperback Writer...
Image by ChernobylBob (in Buffalo until the 18th) via Flickr

There’s a meme going around Facebook (and probably elsewhere) in which we are invited to name 15 influential authors in 15 minutes.  It reads like this:

The Rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors (poets included) who’ve influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what authors my friends choose.

I’m posting it here because it feels appropriate to the blog and because this blog imports as Notes in my Facebook anyway.  (By way of “tagging,” I found this through Victor David Giron, of Chicago’s Curbside Splendor.)

I confess I cheated a little and reordered these alphabetically.  I suppose, subconsciously, the order in which these names occurred to me probably says something about how important they have been in my development as a writer, but as I moved down the list, I kept thinking, “Oh, but she’s a bigger influence than he is, and he should really go up here, and she belongs down there because technically I discovered her later….”  (I really am this obsessive about making lists, which is why I don’t like making lists.)  So I decided to just run them alphabetically.

It’s also interesting to note how many, many names I’m leaving off this list.  Horror writers, just for one set of examples, have actually been a major part of my life, from Poe to Stoker to Lovecraft to Matheson to King to Rice to Barker….  Yet I’m not as conscious of their influence on what I write now as I am of the 15 listed above.  (Which is to say, the 15 above are much more “literary,” and I’m a pretentious idiot.)  It also doesn’t account for the authors who have stuck with me even though I’ve read only a single book by them (so far):  Mark Z. Danielewski, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jackie Kay, Alan Moore, Toni Morrison, Alan Warner, Irvine Welsh.  Nor does it account for the authors who just missed the cut and, on another day, probably would have been on this list:  Sherwood Anderson, Rick Bass, Anton Chekhov, Stephen Crane, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jennifer Grotz, Jesse Lee Kercheval, Alice Munro, Bill Roorbach.

And then there are the 15 people who’ve had probably the most immediate impact on my experience as a reader and a writer–the writers and poets I’ve had the great privilege of working with in workshops over the years:

The Algonquin Round Table in caricature by Al ...
The Algonquin Round Table in caricature by Al Hirschfeld. Image via Wikipedia.
  • Allegra Davis
  • Crystal Elerson
  • Wayne Lee Gay
  • Natalie Giarratano
  • Eric Grizzle
  • Kristen Keckler
  • Bethany Lee
  • Michael Levan
  • Andy Mortazavi
  • Susan Muegge
  • Bri Pike
  • David Shattuck
  • Terry Smith
  • Will Tyler
  • Ryan Werner

This list, too, could easily be longer, but each of these writers has produced work that, even when it was still rough and getting pushed through the meat-grinder of the workshop process, moved me in a way that their work stays with me even now.  And each has personally offered me insights into the writing life and/or my own work that has improved the way I write.  These folks deserve a list all their own.  These folks also are publishing now or soon will be, so keep your eyes open for them–I’m convinced they will be part of the next generation of great literature.

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