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Monday, August 30, 2010

Who are your writerly crushes?

I think I develop a new writerly crush every time I read a really really good book so I have tons of them, including all of the authors I blog with here. But I will try to limit it to a few *cough* ten *cough* here.

My first big writerly crush was Sylvia Plath. She seemed to speak directly to my soul with her poetry. I spent much of the beginning of high school trying to emulate her. And failing miserably.

My next major writerly crush was on Francesca Lia Block, whose books I discovered at the end of high school. I love the Weetzie Bat series and The Hanged Man best. She writes about very real, very painful issues from not fitting in to rape, abuse and anorexia--all things that I and/or people I knew were dealing with as teens. But she wrote these stories with such lush language and imagery that they read like a fairytale. I still strive to master language the way she does. And I wish I could write magical realism like she does as well.

I was actually lucky enough to take classes from two of my biggest writerly crushes, Irvine Welsh and Joe Meno. I admire Irvine's work because he writes about the real world and pulls no punches. He writes in the dialect of his characters and he doesn't hold back when it comes to realistically depicting a situation, even if that situation is totally ugly. Joe Meno wrote what feels like the bible for kids who grew up punk in Chicago in the early 90s like me: Hairstyles of the Damned. But in that book, Joe does what Joe does best, which is gets to the heart of the character. He writes emotion and character quirks better than anyone. He just captures the human spirit on the page in every single book he puts out.

I also have major writerly crushes on those that create new worlds so masterfully. Something I would love to do and am trying to do in a project that is set aside right now, but I will get back to soon. I'd love to write something otherworldly or dystopian, but I fear I'd never get it down quite the way the masters like JK Rowling, Melissa Marr and Scott Westerfeld do. I am amazed at how lost I can get in the worlds they create, worlds that become as vivid and real as the one I live in every day. I only hope I can take the more fantastical story ideas that I have and do them some sort of justice. But those are three of the authors I will read over and over to gain inspiration.

Two of my biggest writerly crushes write the kind of fiction I do best, contemporary, realistic stories that are raw and gritty and just REAL. That's what I wanted as a teenager, stories that reflected the things that my friends and I were going through. Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins do exactly that. I could only dream of writing stories as important and compelling as Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak and Wintergirls. Every time I re-read Speak I know why I write. And Ellen Hopkins blows me away on multiple levels. Not only are her stories powerful, realistic tales that teens need, she does them in free verse. That's another thing I'd love to try my hand at some day, but fear I'd fail as badly as I did when emulating Sylvia Plath. So I guess I'll keep writing my edgy contemporary YAs as regular narrative. But the other thing that makes me admire Ellen so much is the way she constantly takes a stand about censorship. Her books are so important for teens to read and when someone tries to take them out of the hands of the readers that need them, Ellen speaks up. Yeah, that's huge writerly crush material for me.

Last, I just want to mention my newest writerly crush, Julie Buxbaum. I'm currently working on a book that is a little older, about a bartender mother who is approaching 40 and her daughter who has just finished her first year of college, so I wanted to read some adult fiction as I haven't in a while. I asked for recommendations on Twitter and was pointed to Julie Buxbaum's After You. It was such a powerful story about grief and the ways in which we overcome it and the writing was just SO good. Julie writes spot-on dialogue, she nails vivid little bits of description, and she weaves backstory in so well, which has always been one of my biggest struggles. So I've been using this book re-teach myself about writing. Those are my favorite kinds of writerly crushes, when I can be blown away by their words, but also learn from them.

What about you? Who are your writerly crushes?


Jan Blazanin said...

SPEAK is one of those powerful books that leaves me in awe. And last summer I was in the right place at the right time to meet Ellen Hopkins, who is an interesting person and a great role model for writers.

Melissa Marr said...

*crushes right back* You know I love your writing. I both cried & cheered when I read IWBYJR; I felt things I didn't want to as I read BALLADS. You're the real deal, dear & I'll look fwd to reading the next books.

I think we've talked abt our mutual LHA awe, but yes, oh yes! Both SPEAK & WINTER GIRLS are freaking brilliant, heartbreaking, amazing books. She's seriously kickass.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Aww thanks for the mutual love, Melissa. It means so much to me! And yes LHA is totally kick-ass,

Jan, Speak really is and that is so awesome you met Ellen Hopkins! She is a great role model!

Kathy Charles said...

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson blew me away.