December 19, 2010

The Influential Fifteen

Recently someone tagged me in a Facebook note about 15 authors who have been influential in his life.  The challenge to me was to quickly think of my own list of 15, and post it in a note while tagging others.  Normally I'm not one to do such, but once I started thinking about who had influenced me and why, it was just too much fun to pass up.  So I did it.  If you're not a friend of mine on Facebook and would like to see my "Influential Fifteen," I've included the list at the end of this post.

As I read the instructions, my immediate reaction was to think that there aren't that many authors who have influenced me.  I mean, sure there are authors whose writing I enjoy, but authors who have truly influenced me in some way?  Well, it turns out there are, and after I posted my list, I thought of more to add.

When completing the task, most people simply listed names; however, the person who sent it to me gave reasons as to why each of his authors made the cut.  I liked this extra bit of insight into his life, so I did it as well. I wish other friends had done the same. To me, it's fascinating to read why someone decided to include William Goldman on his list as the first author. So when I created mine, I did so with much thought about why each author deserved to be there.  Sure, I could have simply created an impressive lineup of "greats" or best sellers, but just in case someone was interested, and also because it was a bit of an exercise in self-discovery, I gave it more than a quick, passing thought.

And so, dear reader, I ask you this, if you love to read, who has influenced you and how or why?  I'd love to see your list. You can post it in a comment or send it to me in an   e-mail. It truly is interesting to reflect on who is swaying us as we wander through life.

Here's my "Influential Fifteen" (in basic order of when they influenced me during my life):

Mother Goose - OK, I know she’s not a real person, but the nursery rhymes written by "Mother Goose" were hugely influential on me, so she makes the list.  My Mother Goose book was the first one I remember truly loving as a child. The nursery rhymes were the first I memorized and learned to read. Thus began my love affair with the written word. 

Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss - I mean come on. Who hasn’t been influenced by the good doctor?  I dare anyone to tell me they haven’t quoted one of his books or mentioned one of his characters at some point.  I often create my own written or verbal versions of Green Eggs and Ham to fit the occasion. Dr. Seuss gave me the love of whimsical rhyming. 

Arlene Mosel - She wrote Tikki Tikki Tembo (not to be confused with Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling), a children’s book about a little boy who fell in a well, but almost wasn’t saved because his name was just too long (Tikki Tikki Tembo-No Sa Rembo-Chari Bari Ruchi-Pip Peri Pembo). I'll never forget his name or the book. She took a folktale and showed me how storytelling can be fun and memorable.

Laura Ingalls Wilder - She was one of my first introductions to more grownup reading in third grade and I read all her books voraciously. I loved the adventures of her life and fell in love with idea of writing thanks to her.

Edgar Allan Poe - "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore..."  Yes, at one time I could actually recite all the words to The Raven.  He was one of my first horror author loves, and it all started with Vincent Price movies. Once I found out they were based on the writings of E.A. Poe, I had to read everything he wrote. Thus began a darker twist to some of my young writing, something that would be encourage later by another author.

Dante Alighieri - I’ve been fascinated by The Divine Comedy since I was in middle school. Yes, I was an odd child.  I mean really, what 7th grader wants to read The InfernoPurgatorio, and Paradiso?  It was beautiful, complicated, difficult, long, and made me think.  I still love it. 

Stephen King - Oh the hours I’ve spent in Mr. King’s twisted worlds. I was a fan from the beginning with Carrie. I wasn’t old enough to see the movie, but that didn’t stop me from reading the book, and every King book that followed, until around 2001.  I haven't been such a fan since that year, but I'm giving him another shot with Under the Dome. He helped me realize it's OK to let your mind wander to creepy, dark places and express it on paper.

Kathleen Woodiwiss - Do not laugh at this one. Yes, I used to read bodice rippers when I was a teen.  Hey, the instructions were to list influential authors, and by golly her writing was influential on my life at the time. I moved from Little House on the Prairie to historical romances with ease.  It’s amazing what you can learn in books.

William Faulkner - This one isn’t because I loved his books or his writing, but simply because I chose him to base my first college English research paper on when given a choice of authors.  It was there that I learned I love to do research, love to write about it, and I’m good at it. The instructions say influential authors, not authors you love to read.

Maya Angelou - I first heard her recite one of her poems at President Clinton’s inauguration (no snide comments please), and immediately was captivated.  I have to admit though that I most enjoy her poetry when she’s reciting it.  She made me want to write poetry again, something I had given up for several years. I now indulge in poetic freedom. 

James Patterson - Mr. Patterson’s books helped me through a few tough years when I really needed a good thriller to take my mind off of things.  He also made me think I wanted to write thrillers, which I can’t do.  I’ll leave it up to him.

John Grisham - Two reasons he made the list.  First, I just like reading his books.  Second, he’s the person who made me realize that your first career choice, isn’t necessarily your last.  You can always follow your heart and become a writer.  

Julia Cameron - No one said they had to be fiction authors. As a writer I have a strong desire to edit as I go and that’s a bad thing.  Ms. Cameron's books encourage artists in general to just let go and let their art flow. I need that reminder now and then.

J.K. Rowling - I didn’t realize young adult fiction could be so enthralling. She’s also another writer who inspired me to keep writing, no matter what my circumstances. 

Marian Keyes - I thought I should just go ahead and confess that I love stories about messed up Irish families. Ms. Keyes makes the list because she reintroduced me, as an adult, to chick lit. I realized it was OK to occasionally indulge, so I do every time she releases a book.

December 6, 2010

Musica Aeterna

My, what a mixed reaction my last post received.  Some loved it, saying it was inspirational and moved them to take action.  Others told me it was a little too preachy and I should keep my opinions to myself.  It's OK.  I can take it.  I'm not striving to please anyone except myself, but let's see if we can find some middle ground with this post.

I've recently been introduced to the wonderful world of movie soundtracks.  Yes, I knew they existed before and even owned a few, but unless the music in a movie really stood out, I never paid a lot of attention.  Now I do, thanks to a wonderfully geeky discophile in my life.  He's introduced me to music I likely never would have had the opportunity to hear (Perfume - The Story of a Murderer), and has given me music I fell in love with immediately (District 9).  Music has always played an important role in my life, but thanks to him, my horizons have been vastly expanded, and I now hear and feel the music playing in the background of every movie I watch. I notice how it affects the scene, and I understand how it can change the mood.

But after movies have ended, I'm now finding that I want to own many of the soundtracks.  Yes, some of them conjure up images of the movies I enjoyed, but most simply provide outstanding music that works as the soundtrack for my life.  Some songs are perfect for reading, others for writing, some for cleaning house, some for taking photos, and some lull me to sleep when my mind is racing and can't settle at the end of a long day.  There seems to be a soundtrack for every scenario.

Perhaps the best is that lately, I find myself simply sitting with my eyes closed, letting the music flow, conjuring new images and emotions.  It relaxes me, takes my imagination to new places, and allows me to be a little more creative.  There are also times it brings up memories of people from a forgotten or not so forgotten past, and I'm transported to a time that can't be recaptured, but can always be remembered.  The ultimate though, is when I simply drift off, unaware I'm doing so until the music ends and I awaken to silence. 

If you don't pay attention to the music in movies or even some television shows, I encourage you to listen.  And if you really enjoy what you hear, take steps to own some of it.  Let a little instrumental loveliness flow into your life and be the soundtrack for some of your day-to-day activities.  Appreciate what the composers and musicians have created. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to turn off the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean and play a little music from Frost/Nixon.