If little boys are made of–
- puppy dog tails…
Then, what are writers made of?
- the visible and invisible creatures that traverse the woodlands’ borders?
- the fading spots of fawns?
Maybe. But I think what writers are actually made of is:
So what are writers made of?
- and atoms;
- and stories;
- and ideologies;
- and spirit;
- the places we’ve inhabited;
- and the persons whose ideas and words inhabit us.
We do not make ourselves. We are communal. We are influenced by people and place, especially by the words of writers, the teachers and in books.
We learn everything–how to talk, what to wear, where to sleep, when to speak and why to keep quiet–by imitation. We learn to write, too, by imitating others. Sure, good writers develop their own voices. But first we imitate, like children learning to talk. Maybe we eventually become conscious of our influences and perhaps we don’t.
I want to acknowledge my literary genealogy–those who influenced me. I want to honor those who befriended, mentored, instructed and taught me. I can’t explain how or why these connections occurred, just as I can’t explain why I was born the oldest of four children in a particular family in southeastern Minnesota.
I’m celebrating mine. This is my off-the-cuff, short-list of influences (of course there are many more, but those are for my biographers to discover, right?)
Mentors & Teachers (primary school through most recent):
- Faith Fritsche Swanson; Curt Hagen; Clete Pfeiffer;
- Michael Dennis Browne; Wendy Rose; Patricia Fargnoli; M.J. Fitzgerald; Maxine Kumin
Writing Friends and/or Writing Group Members:
- Susan Thurston; Keith Harrison; Al Hunter;
- Alice B. Fogel; Mimi Schwartz; Sandell Morse; Edith Milton;
- Kathryn Solomon; David M. Carroll
Writers whose workshops, personal conversations, comments, correspondence have inspired/encouraged me:
Writers whose river (oevre) I’ve gone swimming in (from earliest to most recent)
- King James Bible; Martin Luther; The Lutheran Hymnal (I had to memorize vast sections of these books during 9 years of parochial school);
- Robert Louis Stevenson; E.B. White; Beverly Cleary; Laura Ingalls Wilder; Judy Blume; e.e. cummings; Madeleine L’Engle;
- Charlotte and Emily Brontë; Jane Austen; English Romantic Poets; Shakespeare (I majored in English when Shakespeare was the man);
- Virginia Woolf (and Virginia was the woman); Mary Oliver; Robert Bly; Rainer Maria Rilke; Seamus Heaney; Galway Kinnel; Lucille Clifton; Sharon Olds; Wallace Stevens; Jane Kenyon; Emily Dickenson; T.S. Eliot; Anne Sexton (yeah, I was a poetry nut);
- Edith Wharton; Eudora Welty; Conrad Richter; Vladimir Nabokov; Leo Tolstoy; Fyodor Dostoevsky; MFK Fisher; Ruth Reichl; Patricia Hampl; Annie Dillard;
- too much European or North American history writing, especially concerning wars, famines, and revolutions resulting in human migration;
- Czeslaw Milosz; Henry James;
- ancient and medieval wisdom/spiritual writers and philosophers;
- and I’m also always reading contemporary literary memoir and fiction, when a book/author is highly-recommended to me by writing friends/peers/mentors, and still reading and re-reading the classics of literature.
And you, with your posts and comments, influence me, too.
Who influences you?
Please share the names of writers you’re loving to read or learning from right now!