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 Inferno, Purgatorio, 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.