My early literary influences
Creating a list of ten writers I want to meet is not easy. First, there are so many. Second, I’ve already met a lot of writers from attending trade book shows, conferences, workshops, and book signings. Finally, I worked in a bookstore as an event planner and met even more writers including one of my all time favorites, Ray Bradbury. What a day that was. Today’s list of top ten writers I’d like to meet is focused on those writers who seem to have had a deep influence on me and are from my early reading years. These are the ones who left a large imprint.
Irving Stone (1903 – 1989)
I first read Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy at the tender age of 12. From that point on, reading the book was an annual ritual for the next ten years. I loved the book so much that my parents gave me the deluxe boxed edition with gorgeous full color plates of Michelangelo’s work for Christmas. I went on to read all his work, but his work on Michelangelo remains the beloved.
I had the honor of meeting Mr. Stone one year before he died and cherish my autographed copy that remains stained from fire and water to this day. If I had the chance to visit with him, we’d talk about the artistic and creative processes. I’ve felt the stirring of a longing to drink deeply from the novel once again, this time with the realization of how deeply it influenced my thoughts on the creative process. The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien – (1892 – 1973)
There’s no question that when J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings came into my hands, the books left a deep impression. The trilogy became a huge success in the 1970s but they’d already grabbed me by then. I loved the story and bonded immediately with the characters and their quest. What would he say about world building and character development?
Today my anniversary edition is back on the TBR stack. I want to revisit this author and look more deeply at this story and read more about his intentions with the work. The Lord of the Rings
Flannery O’Connor (1925 – 1964)
Here’s my exception. American writer and essayist Flannery O’Connor is a writer that has intrigued me more and more over the last decade. Oddly, I haven’t read her before. With only two novels and 32 short stories, she’s not nearly as prolific as many of the writers on this list but in those few works she had major accomplishments. In addition she published more than one hundred book reviews. I would relish time spent in deep conversation, especially because of my growing interest in what is often called the sacramental or Catholic imagination. Flannery O’Connor : Collected Works
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835 – 1910)
The travel writer and essayist in me is certain that time spent with Mr. Clements (Mark Twain) would be absolutely delightful–an oh, those stories. It’s hard not to like a writer who comes up with a short story like the Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Then there’s the celebrated novels of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.
As much as I enjoy Twain’s fiction, his nonfiction is equally delightful. He’s grumpy, humorous, satirical, and a bit of a chameleon the way he moves from one shade to another. Prolific is an understatement. He’s the type of conversationalist that you’d wind up and let him spin. Autobiography of Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849)
I love Edgar Allan Poe. Have, ever since I was a kid slouched in the big stuffed chair, eyes glued to the page, as the master storyteller brought The Tell Tale Heart to life. Yes, I did hear that nonstop beat. Didn’t you? As a kid, I simply couldn’t get enough Poe.
Like so many of the writers I glom on to, Poe wore many hats including writer, literary critic, editor, and poet and left a good amount of work for one who died far too soon. I’ve never felt as though I’ve had my fill of Poe. Probably why I’m returning to read him again. I’d love to hear him talk about the source of story, building quiet horror, and, of course, the detective story. Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
John Milton (1608 – 1674)
Milton is an unusual pick, especially since my favorite work is his epic poem Paradise Lost. I don’t read a lot of poetry but I have a real fascination for this one. I first pulled the volume from the bookshelf during my teens. The Paradise bug bit again during my British Lit class with an instructor who had a deep passion for Milton and particularly for this poem. The spark has never died and once again I’m planning a return visit. Paradise Lost
William Shakespeare (1654 – 1616)
When it comes to storytelling, character development, and great plots, Shakespeare’s the man. I grew up in the theatre and sat through many rehearsals and shows from Hamlet to Macbeth to King Lear, from The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew to A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Of course, as a kid I loved the adventurous world of Amazons and fairies found in A Midsummer’s Night Dream.
Shakespeare’s works are so alive. They shimmer and shake with electricity. So much significance is captured in even the smallest gesture such as the washing of the hands in Macbeth. What writer wouldn’t enjoy a chat with the Bard of Avon? Shakespeare: The Biography
H.G. Wells (1866 – 1946)
It’s probably only natural that the stories written by Wells would stimulate the imagination of a young girl growing up during the dawn of the Space Age with a father deeply involved in the space program. We were living out his vision. The Time Machine and The Invisible Man were favorites but The War of the Worlds remains a vivid memory. The sheer breadth of his imagination is massive. What would he say now? That, I would like to know–and more. Five Great Science Fiction Novels by HG Wells
Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851)
Mary Shelley had me as a fan from the moment I opened the pages of her novel, Frankenstein. I was captivated with the story and the ideas it expressed so well. As a writer now, I love that the story’s genesis is that of a dream and, even more, that the story spilled out as the result of a competition among writer friends to write the best horror story. Sweet. She had to have had an interesting bookish life, one that I would love to hear her tell. What stories and ideas she’d have to share. Even more, what would she think about our life today? Frankenstein (Norton Critical Editions)
Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992)
Asimov has long been one of my favorite authors dating back to my early teens. I read so many of his books, loved The Foundation series, in particular the first seven books and the robot series. I always admired Asimov’s prolific output. It was phenomenal. Like many of the writers I tend to admire, he also wrote in many forms.
Even as I write this, I remember my passion for his series. It is so large in scope. With his prodigious output, I know that I would absolutely love to have a lengthy conversation with the man whose books led me to a far universe. Foundation (Foundation Novels)
So that’s my top ten list for this week and my rather bookish walk down memory lane. It’s a shame that the opportunity to meet these writers has passed but I can still imagine what it would be like to listen to their stories, hear how they crafted their worlds, and what their lives as writers were like back in the day. How about you? What were the books that captured our imagination or the writers who shaped your life?
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish here.