Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Who Have Been the Most Influential People in Your Writing Life?

Writing a book is a serious commitment. It's something that just about everyone thinks about doing at one time or another, but actually sitting down to devote hundreds of hours to one task takes a big dream and lots of elbow grease.

Whether we came to it early in life or late in life, chances are there was someone along the way who crystallized that feeling of, "Hey, I want to do this" or, better yet, "Hey, I can do this."

Who is the most influential person (or people) who set you on this path? Was it an author, a mentor, a loved one?

My most influential writing personages have been Roald Dahl, who made me want to be a writer when I was a kid (I subsequently moved onto other dreams), and my wife, whose support was there whenever I battled the Am I Crazies.

How about you?






207 comments:

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Danielle said...

Stephen King! He was the first author I loved (and still do). My parents because they never told me I couldn't and never censored what i read.

JDuncan said...

My grandmother. She published three mystery novels when she was alive, and got me started on this whole long, crazy path. Her inspiration has endured for all of these years. She also got my first writing effort at age 14 critiqued by Eve Bunting, who at the time was in her writer's group. She gets the dedication in my debut, hands down.

Christopher Ing said...

You, Nathan. You.

Nah, in all seriousness, my parents because they always liked good stories in TV and movies. This is followed by my 10th grade English teacher, who made us do several creative writing assignments and made me realize that not only could I write, but I liked it.

Joseph L. Selby said...

Gary Gygax, whoever was responsible for writing the comics that used to come with He-Man figures, Robert E. Howard, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Tad Williams, and my seventh-grade religion teacher, Brother Stephen Chappelle.

Trish said...

Anne Lamott heavily influenced me. And Daphne du Maurier and Charles Dickens and C.S. Lewis. The personal history of a writer intrigues me and I find myself more connected to everything they write as a result!

@realbrilliant

Shiloh Walker said...

Oh, that's hard to say... early on? My mom and dad always had the subtle influence-they made sure I always had plenty of books to read and reading was crucial for me. We didn't have much money, but they always made sure I got to the library, that sort of thing. And my dad intro'd me to books early in life.

When I started writing, they weren't the sort of parents who'd knock it down, either, thank God. Sadly, those parents do exist.

As far as writers? People like Nora Roberts, Lynn Viehl-their work ethics are phenomenal. They don't just put out fantastic books year after year-they are also stand-up, straight up people-they don't pull the diva crap, and sadly, after being in this business a while, I've learned a lot of people do start pulling that diva crap...which is tedious.

Misa said...

Lani Tupu.

Not an author, but an actor (and a very talented painter), he played a character who captured my imagination... and inspired me to put fingers to the keyboard.

Without that spark, I wouldn't be writing. You can't really get more influential than that.

ashley-lynch said...

Chuck Palahniuk.

Up until I discovered his work, I never knew how much fun you could have bending the rules.

J.J. Bennett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ninidee said...

There have been many people who have assisted me and helped me become a better writer. The first person who made me believe that I was any good at it was a college professor. I wrote a poem about a ladybug that I didn't think much of at the time,but at the end of the year he advised me that he selected it for the annual Literary Magazine. I was shocked.It was in that moment that I began believing in myself.

J.J. Bennett said...

My Dad. He pasted away last year and he made me promise I would finish and write my book. He died of cancer May 18, 2009. He hoped I would dedicate it to him... I will! :)

Patty Blount said...

With tears in my eyes, I must answer my mother. She taught me to read before kindergarten, which was a feat when I was little. Nobody went to daycare or nursery school.

I'd always dabbled in writing stories here and there but it wasn't until she encouraged me to write a book that I actually did.

Just last week, an agent I queried requested a partial MS and mom's was the first phone number I called. She was just diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer and does not have much time left. Wouldn't it have been wonderful to have a book in the stacks before the inevitable? But the agent emailed the next day that she didn't love my story.

At some point, I'll land an agent, publish a few of my stories.

But my mom, the one who encouraged it all, won't be here to see it.

Talei said...

My mother definitely, best storyteller I had growing up! And after that my sisters, we used to try and out scare each other with our own stories late at night!

Lisa said...

Ernest Hemingway, Marguerite Duras & E.B. White. For me, it just doesn't get any better than: The Sun Also Rises, The Lover, and The Trumpet of the Swan.

sarah said...

Zoltan J. Kosztolnyik - my history prof - who told me the best thing to do to help with my writing was to not stop reading. I have to remind myself of that sometimes when I find that I been spending more time writing and no time reading.

r louis scott said...

James Michener wrote a book called "The Drifters" and I ran across it when I was about 13 or 14. It really opened the eyes of a kid in a small upstate New York town to the big wide world. Later in life (much later) I was inspired to start writing again after a *cough*cough*hack*hack* year hiatus after reading the first book in a series by Jack Whyte called "The Skystone", his very gritty and realistic concept of the Arthurian legend. Now I have probably a million words on my hard drive and will hopefully start querying this summer.

Chuck H. said...

Robert Heinlein was my inspiration to seriously consider writing. But the one who got me to actually start a novel is author R. M. Kinder. She taught creative writing at the college I was attending and encouraged me to get serious. I lay all the blame on her.

JenGriff said...

My husband! He was the catalyst, the spark, the muse, and he still is--every day. LOVE that man! Who else would encourage me to throw a Galapagos tortoise with an inheritance and a sumo wrestler into my plots?

April said...

This is so weird. I posted about this this morning, and then I read ANOTHER post about it...and now yours.

Anyway, I'd have to go with my AP Lit teacher. You probably won't have time, but I have more on my blog. She taught me a lot, not just about writing but also about reading. I often think about her and wish we were still in touch.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Easy-weezy. My husband, better known as The Beneficent Mr. Hall, said, "Follow your dream."

It may have been the merlot talking, but since then, stone cold sober, he's made it possible for me to do what I love every single day. And sometimes, he even likes what I write.

Rwriteur said...

As a dreamer, J.D. Salinger wowed me with his irreverent prose. As a professional, notables from the world of TV kept me inspired -- Marshall Herskovitz, Ed Zwick, Dianne Houston, and so many others.

Jane Opal said...

My grandma started reading to me when I was really little. My love for reading developed quickly, and when my eyes were opened to the possibilities of writing during fifth grade, my love for writing took off, too. I started thinking about how I could make my own stories and how I could make the stories I knew better. My english teacher, Mrs. B., has also been a huge encouragement to me over the past few years.

MJR said...

My mother, who was part-owner of a bookstore when I was growing up. Think of the children's bookstore in the movie YOU'VE GOT MAIL--that's what it looked like.

Bane of Anubis said...

My mother -- for reading all the early garbage and still persevering... and for being the constant editor who still wants me to change my anymores to any more.

tomaq said...

"The Martian Chronicles" was the first book that made me say "I wanna do this," so I have to blame Ray Bradbury.

But what about people I actually know? I got a lot of encouragement from a high-school English teacher. Thanks, Mr. S. Wish I'd told you when I had the chance.

Another teacher who I *did* get to say thanks to when I had the chance was the late whirlwind of energy & ideas, Phil Klass, aka William Tenn. OK, a lot of his advice was cautionary, but he took me seriously when it mattered.

Teachers cannot be underestimated.

Kate said...

My dad. Who is also a writer, even if it is in secret. He was the starting running back on his HS football team, led the region in rushing yards, and received a full athletic scholarship to college for football. And won poetry contests in his spare time. He's always encouraged me to write.

Also, my 8th grade English teacher, my senior English teacher, and my creative writing teacher, Ron Rozelle, author of Description and Setting, Into that Good Night, Warden, The Windows of Heaven, and others. Lots of special teachers in my life. I'm really lucky.

bridgetcarle said...

I blame Stephen King and E. Nesbit for the formation of my twisted, supernatural-obsessed mind. Like Danielle, I read SK at an early age, pretty much simultaneously with Nesbit's Enchanted Castle and psammead adventures. The discovery of LOTR in middle school didn't hurt, either.

As for getting me off my behind to try my own hand at writing fiction, I blame/credit my former boss. She left our academic office and began writing novels and short stories. Good ones. This amazed me in a you-mean-real-people-in-my-life-can-write-novels kind of way, and it triggered my envious, competitive nature, making me want to try it, myself.

I give major credit to my husband, though. For almost two years now, he's taken charge of our kids and shooed me up the stairs to my office so I could write for hours on end. He's let me sign up for expensive writing courses, even in tight times. And, best of all, he's read everything I've written and given me encouragement, occasionally infuriated me with (necessary) constructive advice.

Maya said...

My sister, a fellow struggling writer. She took me to my first writer's conference. It was the first time i ever thought getting pubbed was actually feasible.

Ashley said...

I recently bought a bunch of Roald Dahl books because I remembered loving them as a child. I also loved Judy Blume. I could read her books every day. I remember reading the book Tiger Eyes over and over again. Writing for me really began in my teenage years. It helped me cope with family chaos and insecurities. A few of my close friends encouraged me to keep at it and I've been trying to ever since.

Rob Crompton said...

A couple of novelists from way back - Keith Waterhouse and Stan Barstow. Great story-tellers. But the two people I feel most indebted to were Harold Aykroyd, my old English teacher at grammar school whose enthusiasm for language, poetry and literature was infectious. And Mr Evans my teacher in the final year of primary school who loved reading and who inspired a minor character in my forthcoming novel.

Anonymous said...

Lately it has been Ray Bradbury. But Julia Cameron really knocked me off my proverbial pins when I read The Artists Way. I started saying, "Yeah, that's what I want, to write, and I've been doing it in my head all my life!" So after reading her several works I have begun to write it all down.
Nearly every author I read encourage me to write, the good ones because I want to be like them and the bad ones because I think maybe someday I could do better! www.amylmaris.com

Marian Allen said...

Wanda Sarbo, my 10th grade English teacher, submitted one of my stories to a contest. It got an honorable mention, and taught me the concepts of submission, rejection, and survival of the blow.

The late Dick Stodghill taught me a MOST valuable lesson when he said, "Don't take yourself too seriously, but ALWAYS take your work seriously and require everybody around you to take respect it, too. This is a hobby, it's your work."

But my earliest influence was Thumper. Yes, the one in Bambi. When he said, "I made that last part up, myself," I said, "He can't do that!" any my mother said, "Somebody made this whole thing up. It's their job." Enlightenment! My life was never the same, after that.

Carol Riggs said...

My high school English teachers! I wrote my first essay as a sophomore, got encouraged by Mr. C, then took two writing classes from Mr. R. Mr. R even taught me how to submit manuscripts, so I could start my rejection slip collection! Writing opened up a whole new, exciting world for me. I LOVE it.

Nancy Coffelt said...

When my 6th grade teacher read "A Wrinkle in Time" to our class, I knew I wanted to try to make up something so cool that it made a bunch of 12 year olds forget everything else in their lives other that that story.

Still working on that.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stephenisham said...

For me I think it was Louis L'Amour. He may not be the greatest writer, but he's an excellent story teller. When I was in Junior High, and High School, I remember devouring his books and thinking about and wanting to someday write my own novels.

AmyRoseDavis said...

My dad -- he's the source of this genetic weirdness that gives me the stories in my head.

My mom -- she may be my biggest fan.

My husband -- he keeps nodding and smiling and encouraging and pouring me a little more whiskey.

Writers -- Shakespeare, because he taught me that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Dickens, because he demonstrated that a novel can be messy and still life-changing. David Eddings, because he showed me how to make characters banter. Jane Austen, Jack London, Robert Jordan, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, C. S. Lewis.... The list is too long.

Anyone who has ever put quill to parchment, pen to paper, or fingers to keys and FINISHED something inspires me.

Mira said...

oh shoot. Too personal.

I'm on a post and delete run.

I'll try again later.

Amethyst said...

My oldest sister for taking me to the library for the first time. And after my sister, my mom took me every time I asked her (before I learned how to drive).

The book that started it all? -The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The book that crystallized it? -Bill Peet: An Autobiography

Thanks Nathan for this post. I haven't thought about this in a long time. Sometimes it's nice to look away from the industry for a moment and remember why we started and why we still write. :)

meg said...

what wonderful comments.

I'll keep it short. L'Engle, McCaffrey, Norton, Engdahl for starters. Thank you to the world of change--the world of sci fi who let young women imagine the world that exists around us today!

ryan field said...

A professor in college, Dr. Jean Atthowe.

Natalie Whipple said...

My mom taught me I could do anything I wanted, and I don't think I would have ever tried without her influence.

C.S. Lewis opened my imagination as a kid. I fell in love with fantasy because of him.

My husband and best friend are fountains of endless support—they reads everything I write and tell me I'm amazing. I would have given up without them.

And, *cough*, my agent has pushed me farther than I ever thought I could go. I don't think I'd be as good a writer without him. So thanks:)

Matt Zbrog said...

Charles Bukowski's unconventional honesty.

Bret Easton Ellis' visceral morality.

Chuck Palahniuk's bizarre tapestries.

Kurt Vonnegut's hilarious genius.

J.D. Salinger's technical and thematic mastery.

Franz Kafka's heartbreaking labyrinth worlds.

Natalie Goldberg's detail in craft and process.

Flannery O'Connor's gothic delivery of faith and morality.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's perfect sentences and paragraphs.

And those are just the most influential writers. Music, Film, Family, Friends all play a part... What an unfair question. How do you stop!

Kathryn said...

My high school writers craft teacher who approached me one-on-one and told me to forgo taking calculus the next semester and instead do an independent literature course with her (since I'd already done all of the English courses in high school and there were none left for me to take). "You'll fail calculus anyway." She even got permission from the principal to let it count as a legitimate credit! I'll never forget that. I wrote like a maniac for that course. It was awesome.

jjdebenedictis said...

Miss Snark.

Oh, wait; she's been my biggest influence when it comes to seeking publication, not writing per se.

I can't pick one writer or person--I've been reading since childhood, and apparently I stuffed enough words in they started spilling out again.

Dawn said...

Gary Braver (thriller writer) was the first to tell me I *could* and *should* write. Since then I've had awesome mentors - and the support of my amazing husband.

Marilyn Peake said...

Personal mentors were two wonderful people I met in high school: a woman from a local newspaper who interviewed me over lunch in a restaurant and gave me my own column reporting teen events (that was a very exciting job interview for me back in high school, being taken out to lunch and all!) and my high school creative writing teacher. The first books I read that seriously inspired me to want to become a writer were John Steinbeck’s novels. Back in high school and college, I tried to read everything he’d ever written. My husband and family are extremely supportive of my writing career, and that helps me tremendously to set aside the time I need to write.

Ermo said...

My sister, who has published a book of poetry, and my wife.

pensees said...

Truthfully, it was Stephenie Meyer. I figured since she was a stay-at-home mom who had a dream and just started writing, why couldn't I?

And BTW, Nathan, you may have other dreams now, but you ARE a writer. Don't forget it. ;)

Cyndi

Stacy McKitrick said...

My husband always encouraged me, but I would have to say it was the Best Buy ad for laptops that made me "GO FOR IT".

There's not one single person, really. Many authors have been an inspiration to me. But it took something inside of me to finally make the leap. I'm glad I did.

Levonne said...

Frank McCourt was tremendously influential because he published Angela's Ashes when he was "retired." (It's never too late to write something great!) And of course the rest is history. I think he is an excellent writer. He inspired me in my writing of my childhood memoir. I love him and miss him. Nathan when you have a few minutes, would you stop by and take a look at my two blogs? A Camp Host Housewife's Meanderings and Levonne's Pretty Pics. Thanks much!

That Guy! said...

J.R.R. Tolkien was the author I wanted to be, but Stephen King made me believe I could do it without elves. Not that there's anything wrong with elves.

Aimee said...

When I was a little kid writing my little picture "stories" my mom was a great support. But when I started seriously thinking about writing as a career, she kind of thought it was a bad idea. My friends have actually been a good support. My sister loves the idea of me as an author, but whenever she reads my work, she gives the HARSHEST critiques of all.
I don't have any authors in particular that have helped me, but some books have influenced my work. Yann Martel's The Life of Pi and Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness are the biggest ones.

Melody said...

A lot of people - and no one. It's interesting that way.

But, honestly, Shannon Hale's blog opened my eyes to the idea that publishing a book was possible. Sort of, "I can do that!"

And last fall, I was at a Dani Johnson conference and someone told her that they wanted to publish a book because "they knew that's what they were supposed to do." And she gave them a *look* that I'll never forget. And I wondered, well, why haven't I? So here I am. Serious now.

Jansen Schmidt said...

As with several others already posted - my mom. She used to read to me every night at bedtime even well after I was able to read for myself. We'd read together, out loud and I never wanted her to stop. Then, I became a teen-ager and although we stopped reading together, we always read the same books into our adult lives. When she passed away last year I was going through her things and found some of the books we used to read. Those precious books are now in my library at home. When the big day comes and I get the call that my book will be published, you can bet Mom's name will be boldly printed on the Dedication page. Love you mom. Always.

Lisa Marie Miles said...

It was a college writing professor, Judy Shaw. I was a terrible student in high school, and decided to take a writing class when I was 25. It was the only class I ever got an A in. She told me to keep writing. And I have:)

Rachel @ MWF Seeking BFF said...

In the broader "what writer made m feel like I could write too" sense, AJ Jacobs. I love his books and they are the kind of books I read and think "I should have written this!"

But in a more practical sense, a young literary agent reached out to me once because she had read some things I wrote, said she thought I had a "fresh and provocative voice" and was interested in seeing if I had any book ideas. She was the first person who made me think, oh, wait, I could actually DO this??? In the end, she passed on my proposal and didn't become my agent, but I feel forever indebted to her for being the first person to plant the idea in my head that I could write a book and wasn't just dreaming. It's one thing when your mom and husband tell you, but another thing when an actual third party shows some faith in you.

patlaff said...

I wrote my first novel (the script for a graphic novel) as a way to keep track of the bedtime story I was telling my then 6-year old son. I've written three prose novels in the six years since in hopes that I can one day leverage my success from one of them to get that first one published. My two sons are the most influential people in my writing life.

M.R.J. Le Blanc said...

Well my mom first, she used to take me to the library every week when I was young. She was a good sport about coming home with nearly 30 books (I'm not kidding), but it certainly helped to fuel my love for books. A few authors - J.R.R. Tolkien, Guy Gavriel Kay and Anne Bishop to name the ones I can think of - and books I either enjoyed or didn't enjoy. My 6th grade teacher who nurtured my writing and drilled in me the importance of organization. And a singer who I've been listening to for five years. He's always doing all manner of projects that interest him, he doesn't restrict himself to just music. I love his determination and his work ethic - and especially his music. Makes good writing music!

Brittany said...

Everyone seems to be saying their teachers or favorite authors, but I'm saying Holly Lisle. I haven't read her books, but I own two of her writing clinics and I'm taking her course, How to Think Sideways. I've also read all the writing articles on her website, and I love her teaching style.

J. R. McLemore said...

I definitely have to mention my wife who has supported my dreams of writing and getting published. My literary inspiration, however, comes from Cormac McCarthy, T.C. Boyle, Christopher Moore, and Stephen King...to name a few. :)

Magdalena Munro said...

My husband! It's a privilege being married to a former English Lit. professor and comes with plenty of perks. The biggest perk is his constant motivation when I feel dejected (as in last week when an agent rejected my manuscript). He has finished a novel himself and that keeps me motivated as well (the competitive baby in me kicks in...If he can do it, so can I!)

I would like to say that authors inspire me to write but the ones I love are so ridiculously fabulous that I would be a fool to think I could ever come within a millionth of their talent.

So...we'll stick with my awesome and rad husband.

Anonymous said...

I'm posting this anon for sure.

Books were the old internet.
I got kicked upward from 4th to 9th grade as a kid and my first oral book report; for The Godfather, knocked out the competition through sheer raw nerve. (It was a catholic school) After that all the older girls would dance with me at the dances and that convinced the older boys not to beat me up. It was all good.
I read endlessly to learn about the world around me and why it was the way it was. Stuff like the "Rise and Fall of The Third Reich" at 1200 single spaced pages when I was 10 yrs old. 1968. Books were the old internet. You want to know something; read a book.
So my 4th/9th grade reading teacher who was a bit of a really cool professor style weirdo and book nut.
When the status of being a midget egghead wore off I took up team sports to not get written off as a gonzo brainiac.
Writers:
Eric Fromm, Teilhard de Chardin, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Ludlum.
Friends: A person who I hung around with as close friends who stated matter of factly; "I see you as a writer." without prompting during a general discussion of the weirdness of life and survival. Poems and songs became short stories which lead to believing I might be able to inspire my self to the full length form of a novel. Getting published is a whole different subject.
I stole a lot of books as a child.
So the most influential people besides my wacky teacher in my writing life were the old ladies in the department stores that didn't turn me over to the cops while stealing books during various reading binges: gangsters, sex books, best sellers, and dozens of sub-topics.

Nikki Hootman said...

My high school English teacher. He recognized my natural talent and stoked the flames I didn't know were there. His unbridled enthusiasm for my work - which, although it was miles above everyone else in my class, was still pretty awful - made me churn out page after page of material. He even used one of my short stories in another one of my classes. He showed me how euphoric writing could be, and after that I was hooked.

lora96 said...

L.M. Montgomery made me want to write.
My husband, his best friend, and my best friend keep me going when the I-Sucks hit. They are a more self-flagellating strain of the Am-I-Crazies.

Ulysses said...

Unfortunately, the people who had the most influence on my decision to write are no longer part of my life.

The full story, though, is here for the curious.

...and of course my wife puts up with a lot so I can do this.

Julie aka @Writers_Cafe said...

It isn't just one person who influenced me in writing.
Writing is in my blood. My mother authored or co-authored several books, including one that is in it's 3rd printing. At 87 years old, she had a book signing recently!!! One brother has worked for a newspaper since college, as Asst. City Editor and Editorial Page Editor. My other brother makes a living copywriting, and my sister writes for her church newsletter.
Personally, writers who have influenced me include Bertrice Small (especially), Diana Gibaldon, Lynn Kurland, Karen Marie Moning, Jean Auel and others.
Two English teachers in High School also deserve mention: Mrs. Loveland (who had us rewrite to modern English lots of old, old stuff) and Mrs. Quay (who had us write, write, write and write some more).

Cheryl said...

Maurice Sendak, Charles Schulz and an English teacher in High School.

Maurice Sendak and Charles Schulz because when I was a tiny little kid, I read them all the time. Especially Charles Schulz. My parents bought me the entire collection (at that time, we won't discuss how long ago) in hardback and I wore them out.

My English teacher because he always cultivated creativity and encouraged my efforts. And of course, I had no idea I would look back on him and feel this way. I'm fortunate that I've been able to tell him.

And then there are all the authors I've read and loved. I started reading pretty young so there's a lot...

catehart said...

My mom definitely. She was always reading and was a reading teacher. She instilled that love of reading in me. I read so much I wanted to be able to create the same kinds of wonderful stories.
And Shakespeare - the master (or at least I choose to think he was the real deal).
Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary.
Jack Kerouac
And finally Diana Gabaldon, because I read her book and couldn't wait for the next one so I decided I wanted to try and write a huge historical while I waited.

abc said...

My parents, who read about 3 books a week each, taught me to be a reader, which I think is super important in becoming a writer.

Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume gave me lots of fun reading material in my early youth. Wilson Rawls' Where the Red Fern Grows was the first book I loved with all my heart and soul and showed me how much telling a good story could matter. Katherine Patterson broke my heart with Bridge to Terabithia and inspired me to want to create truth and beauty and work to represent that terrible/wonderful existence that is life.

Anonymous said...

in third grade i used to tell stories i made up on the spot to a girl on the bus. stories about mutants. i loved her reactions.

she moved away that year. i wonder what happened to her.

Anonymous said...

a well known novelist who moved to L.A. for the fall, taught a 10 week class at UCLA extension & then left. A case of, 'When the student's ready, the teacher will appear,' those thirty hours changed my life. I wrote a book that's being published next year. She didn't teach me to write so much as -- IDK what the hell she did -- expose me to the idea of writing in the first person / voice and otherwise give me a spiritual / creative kick in the ass. Or, thread to tighten up the loose ends ... what a question!!! I wish I could pinpoint what she did though I do know it was her.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha! Me. Though I have had an abundance of encouraging friends, relatives, and a couple of awesome mentors, (for all of whom I am grateful) in the end it is me that puts the proverbial butt in the mythical chair at 5 am to scribble a few pages...Books too many to mention, influences too many to count.

Café Lopez said...

I was in 6th grade, running laps, when a janitor told me to never forget that an acorn can become a forest. He died the next year from cancer, but he's been with me ever since.

DMK said...

I wrote letters to a woman I passionately desired and she told me I was a good writer. Made me believe I could achieve my goals through writing.

John Jack said...

My fifth grade teacher, one room classroom for fifth grade all subjects except religion taught by nuns, sent me to the dunce chair in the front of the class alongside the library table. I'd asked during physical geography class if the continents moved around. It kind of looks on the world map like Africa and South America were connected at one time. Ridiculous, she said.

Try as she might, she couldn't stump me with questions during class or humiliate me. I had excellent academic grades. She frequently complained to my parents about my correcting her wrong answers given to the class. My citizenship grades weren't great.

Cone hat on my head, sitting in the dunce chair, I picked up a book and thumbed through it. It was the first in the Hardy Boys series. I read the entire series that year, most of it from the dunce chair, and all the Nancy Drew books too.

To that fifth grade teacher, I know her name, I have my report cards from kindergarten through college, I owe the greatest influence on my writing life. Curse her, bless her, it's been quite a journey.

wonderer said...

My mom, who made sure we were well stocked with good books, and my dad, who told us bedtime stories, got me started.

Chris Baty, who started NaNoWriMo, got me serious about writing again.

My significant other and my writing friends keep me going.

Paula Hrbacek said...

I grew up in the middle of Greek Town, on the campus of Wittenburg University in Springfield OH. Our next door neighbor, Imogene Bolls, was a professor of English and poet laureat. I'd show her my poems and short stories, and ask her to grade me just like a college student. She did. She not only taught me about fragments in second grade, but told me I had talent, and encouraged me to keep trying.

Kerry Gans said...

While I had mulitple teachers encourage my love of writing, my biggest inspiration was my best friend Donna. We met as freshmen in high school, and one of the things that cemented our friendship was our mutual passion for writing. We collaborated on many novels throughout high school and college and beyond.

Donna was my collaborator, confidant, sounding board, and the person I could always count on to tell me that I really could write well--and to tell me when my writing wasn't my best work. Donna passed away 7 years ago, and I still find myself wanting to talk to her when the going gets rough. She still inspires me, however, and I would not be where I am today had it not been for her unwavering support.

nimarii said...

As a kid, I wrote stories and hid them under my mattress. My mom eventually found them, to my extreme embarrassment, and I stopped writing.

I kept reading though, and I read a ton of great books, but the ones that really brought out the writing itch were some Ray Bradbury short stories, Lolita, and a Game of Thrones. Now, almost everything I read influences me, especially this blog.

Kerrin said...

I don't think i can pinpoint any one person. I have just always wanted to write. I've always loved Jane Austen, the fact that a woman wrote during a time when it was frowned on them and succeeded! If she could do, then i can to!

D. G. Hudson said...

Most Influential in my Writing Life? As a child, the boy who sat in front of me in the sixth grade and read my sci-fi stories.

But now - my husband is #1 - the first to encourage my writing, then Hemingway (just by my reading some of his early writing), and Stephen King's book 'On Writing', where he told the reader about his writing past & how he got there.

Reading journals by Kafka, de Beauvoir, & others gave me a taste for observing and recording details.

It's one of those things I've always done, although there were sporadic gaps.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

My best friend in 4th grade, Sheri Joseph (now an author herself as well) inspired me to start writing stories. And I wrote my first book in 7th grade. Finished it, too, and I still have it... That was plain old teen angst though.

Linnea said...

My high school English teacher. His enthusiasm and encouragement made me believe it wasn't a crazy waste of time to isolate myself for hours at a time and write, write, write.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Me and Huck used to read dirty books behind the barn next to the pig keep. Becky stole 'em from Judge Thatcher's library and give 'em to us one at a time. Now, since we only had one book, Huck and me fought over it and it would settle in the pig slops.

Them was the dirtiest books I ever read and we couldn't give 'em back 'cause of the slops - which lead me to this here Author moment! (Huck gave out readin,' said, "too many albeits, heretofores, party of first part versus parties of other parts and such!" Huck'd usually go off frog giggin' claimin' the Judge had torts)!

Haste yee back ;-)

Bridget Heos said...

My fifth grade English teacher Mrs. Lynn made us keep a journal, and I filled it with drama, drama, drama. And a hint of self-rightousness. I can still hear that fifth grade voice in my head today!

Milo James Fowler said...

Growing up, it was my dad who read just about anything I handed to him; and he called it good. But even before that, it was Franklin W. Dixon. After reading maybe twenty books from the Hardy Boys series, I finally came to the conclusion that I could write something better. (Now, if only an agent would agree...)

Munk said...

I'm not telling.

swampfox said...

Robert E. Howard. A true painter of words.

MaryAnn said...

Jane Austen, without a doubt.

If I've read Pride and Prejudice once, I've read it a dozen times.

Ditto for Sense and Sensibility.

Jil said...

My grandfather, who knew George Bernard Shaw, always sent me books at Christmas from his own library. Mother said he was cheap but I knew it was special.
Being an only child, books were my friends, but it got so all of them weren't as engrossing as my most loved ones - so I wrote my own.

Cold As Heaven said...

I read all the Roald Dahl stuff when I was a kid too ... and now I'm trying to write a book myself of course, like everybody else >:)

Cold As Heaven

Nancy said...

My mom...who read to us endlessly when we were kids and was always convinced that I would be a great writer--she never doubted for a moment that I would be published. When I finally do get published, I know she'll be up there in heaven dancing a jig and singing, "I knew it! I knew it!"

Kara Allred said...

stephanie meyer. huge inspiration. i heard about her on an oprah show almost five years ago....how she wrote this book in order to pay off her minivan.(twilight-which by the way took a few months of convincing from my SIL and the book itself sitting on my nightstand for a long time before i finally caved in to read it) and to think it came from a dream she had. and we both live in the arizona valley!
wow.
i too am a young mother, hoping to one day pay for a minivan. seriously- i want a minivan. On my top 30 people to meet, stephanie meyer is number one. i think i might have to wear a giant depends because i probably will pee my pants. sorry if that was TMI.
the other person who has greatly influenced me is my maternal grandmother. she took me in from drug addicted parents and gave me a chance at life even though she had to support me on her social security income. (i was one of several actually). grams was always there, rain or shine. from the first wiggly tooth to the school diplomas.
i could go on and on about at least ten more people. i honestly love to describe relationships and storytelling when it comes to naming inspirational influences.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ANDREW E. KAUFMAN said...

As a teenager, reading S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders. I remember admiring how easily her words flowed and how effortless the dialogue seemed.

Mira said...

Okay, third time's a charm. Let's just leave this part. (Sorry, Nathan, I just remembered this takes up your time. I'll be more careful.)

This is a good topic.

I don't really think of myself as a writer exactly. I want to use writing as a way to reach people and try to improve things. So, my influences were the books that made me want to be that type of person; all the books I read in childhood that set out the hero's journey, and the values of developing character, making ethical choices, sacrificing for an ideal. Those values captured me - partly out of romance, and partly out of inspiration. I think they made me think of life as a quest....on a deeper level.

So - in terms of acknowledging influence, you also have been an influence on me, Nathan. I learn and grow so much here.

Thank you.

coldfirewriter said...

JK Rowling. She turned me into an avid reader and the first novel-length stuff I wrote was Harry Potter fanfiction. All the other books I had to read at the time bored me. An original character for a fanfic was too good to just leave there so I started my own novel with her in it :)

Locusts and Wild Honey said...

Aw. Well, I guess I'll keep you.

The Am I Crazies are a small price to pay for your computer-fixing skills and that awesome risotto you make.

Alexis Grant said...

I LOVED Roald Dahl when I was a kid! My favorite book: DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD. Awesome.

I had a teacher in third grade who fussed over me, saying I was a good writer. She was the first person besides my parents to tell me that -- and it stuck with me. I always remember that when I have the chance to encourage young people.

Diana said...

Easy question.

In 3rd grade I wrote a one-page story about bears. When my teacher handed it back, she pointed to the big, red "A" on top and said, "You ought to be a writer. This is very good."

Well, in the concrete-thinking way of third graders, I thought she'd just given me my life's vocation. And since I really enjoyed writing that story, I made up my mind then and there that I would become a writer. Several years and many published books later...I think I can say that my third grade teacher was the most influential person in my writing life.

Remilda Graystone said...

I actually began writing because I a) was bored, b) thought it would be fun to tell stories, and c) wanted to improve my typing. I know, I know, not the usual reasons people give for why they began writing, but...I still write, and I still love it.

My mom is my biggest supporter though, and she keeps me on track.

Bittersweet Fountain said...

I blame my sister. When we were young she always wanted to play with me. However, she was never satisfied with just playing house or just dressing up Barbies. Instead, she demanded that I create stories for our Barbies and baby dolls to live. Most importantly - her character/Barbie/baby doll had to be the central character and I had to create stories surrounding her. You can't imagine the generations of Barbie sagas we have gone through, her playing the part of one Barbie and me creating stories for the thirty others (and their GI Joe husbands. Ken was never good enough for our Barbies).

So really, it's all her fault.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Reginald McKnight. He was my professor senior year at Pitt and he autographed one of his books to me with: You'll be famous one day. Don't let me down.

Emily Anderson said...

The first person to tell me I was a good writer was my 10th grade English teacher. With my passion for math dwindling after some unfortunate teachers, I switched my direction/passion in life. I've always written stories and thought of writing a book as something I would do when I grew up. But then right about the time I turned 30, I was reading the jacket cover on a book and the author was my age. That was the moment I realized I was grown up. And then I read a book I hated (which shall remain nameless) and thought "if this is where the industry is headed, I want to stop it." And I've been working at writing every spare second I get ever since. Funny that what pushed me over the edge was not encouragement or awe, but disappointment. None of those sources inspired me to be a better writer in the way my idols (JK Rowling, JD Salinger, Markus Zusak, Gabriel Garcia Marquez to name a few) and my writing group have.

SuzRocks said...

My parents for sure- although my dad mostly. They were the first ones to encourage writing in high school- and 10+ years later, they still will read everything I send them and make them read.

Jessica said...

Gail Carson Levine and always my mom. She never told me I couldn't do it and when I did, she was the first I gave it to for editing.

Anonymous said...

My father who worked on the great american novel all of his life. My mother wrote stories that littered her room, my mentor and friend Sandra Martz and my wife who encourages me everyday, smiles, nods and says, "You can do it."

Kendall A. said...

Too many people to name! But the one who stands out is my 8th grade English teacher--the first person to take my writing really seriously and strongly encourage me to write for a living. She cried when I visited my middle school a few years ago to tell her I had become a journalist. And then she told the whole class that dreams do come true. Aw.

Terin Tashi Miller said...

My high school best friend--the naturalist writer Thomas Schmidt-- encouraged my writing.

We both were in the same Creative Writing class, where our teacher, Elizabeth Dowling, critiqued and encouraged and helped us get into two writing workshops sponsored by the Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Sciences and Letters.

My senior year, the friend of the mother of two guys I was in a rock band with was flipping through our high school short story collection and allegedly settled on mine. He declared, "This kid can write!" He was my first literary agent, Ray Puechner, who encouraged me enough to work at it to the point where, while not in fiction, I made writing a career.

Then, in college, my true mentor, Wilmot Proviso Ragsdale, a former Time-Life photographer, taught us all his theory that journalism--good journalism--could be "literature under fire."

I may have been deluding myself ever since, but prefer instead to believe I'm still trying to live up to their expectations of my ability.

As for books, there are too many writers who inspired and encouraged me to name. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bellow, Marquez, Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoi, Conrad, Doyle, MacDonald, Prevost, Galdos, Balzac, Hugo, and especially "L'Assimoir," by Emile Zola. There. That's a start.

And of course, like others, I have to add, your blog. It's an inspiration that an agent cares enough about writers, and writing as not just a business but an art, to devote time to communicating with us.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

The most influential people in my writing life were and continue to be the members of the Henderson Writers Group in Las Vegas. Week after week, they patiently listen as I read chapter after chapter of Bastard Husband: A Love Story, giving gentle critique and helping me craft my story into the (ahem) masterpiece it became.

Shell said...

When I was in junior high I wanted to be the next Robert Frost.

I have since moved on from poetry to novels, and ultimately I have to lay that at my uncle's feet. He read The Hobbit to me in fourth grade and then made me read Lord of the Rings before I could borrow any of his books (he was my 'supplier' through junior high and high school). He always encouraged me to write, and even made me sign up for the writing class wherein I wrote my first real story, which eventually became my first novel.

My friend Anne, who is still the best brain-storming partner ever.

My husband, who took this week off from work to watch the kids so I could go to a writing conference. It doesn't get more influential than that.

Amanda Sablan said...

Definitely JK Rowling for me. I would read Harry Potter all the time, and then I entered the eighth grade and started to wonder what it would be like if I myself wrote a book? I then read into her history a bit and felt even more inspired to take the road frequently traveled toward publication.

wendy said...

Thanks for the great question, Nathan.

My favourite writer as a child was Enid Blyton, and I use to wonder why other writers for children didn't write like her? She wrote of fairies and fantastic places where the emphasis was on magical experiences, wishfulfillment and fun - and not so much on conflict. To this day I can't stand conflict. I want to read stories of fun and adventure and beauty which are also deep and meaningful, but without pain, conflict, strain and arguments. I think there's too much focus on conflict in the media; what you focus on you tend to expect and manifest. Why not focus on a life of joy and happiness and experiencing new realms of life, of fun, of awareness, of inspiration instead of repeating the same ol, same ol? For the longest time I wanted to write such books, but I find it very hard to break free of the primitive mold of focusing on conflict when everyone teaches it, talks it and writes it. (Use to continually debate this question with my lecturer of a writing class taken decades ago.) Anyway, this was my original motivation when I started writing - mainly children's books. I'm glad I reminded myself of this now as I feel encouraged to continue with these original aims instead of wandering down a writing track that is well-trodden.

Chazley Dotson said...

I blogged about this a few days ago! My childhood influence was E. B. White. I adored Charlotte's Web. My grown-up influences are my superhero husband and The Amazing Jessica and so many others.

Here's the link, if you're a fellow Charlotte's Web fan or want to share your writing story: http://chazleydotson.blogspot.com/2010/06/why-do-you-write.html

KareeniaRN said...

Cec Murphy is my idol whom I met at the Florida Christian Writer's Conference this past March. I had already written a book and I was sent by another author friend of mine thinking I would find the perfect match and get it published. I published small stories in school journals and newspapers, I thought I knew how and what to do to write any kind of literature, but attending the conference opened my eyes to reality. When I met Cec Murphy, it solidified my idea of what I truly wanted to do with my life, but he also taught me I had a lot to learn. I have read millions of books literally, sometimes one a day, all kinds from mystery to romance as I am not a television groupie. Being a surgical trauma nurse for 23 years, I needed an outlet. Cec Murphy and his insight to being a writer has helped me edit, write, think and be the books that I write and want to write in the future. God Bless all those who have a story to tell and tell it well, never stop living your dream to empty your thoughts on paper. (I did not find a match at that conference, but the book is being published as I write this. I decided to self publish which was a suggestion for this particular topic, maybe soon it will be picked up by a publisher.) Nathan, I personally want to thank you for your web site and many words of wisdom, I have gained a bit more knowledge from being a member.

the wordy gecko said...

My partner, Craig, who is tough about my writing but fair; my late writing supervisor, Jan McKemmish, who was also tough, but gave huge support; and many many friends who are also writers. As for writers, the four crucial ones would be Janet Frame, William Faulkner, Joan Didion and John Berger, all for different reasons: humanity, courage, imagination, style, wit, etc.

Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado said...

My husband encouraged me and validated that my story needed telling. He put up with my 1000s of hours at the keyboard and I thank him for being my greatest fan.
The writer who showed me the way is Harriet Doer, who wrote her first novel "Stones for Ibarra" at 80 years of age! The book was made into a wonderful film with Glen Close.

elizajane said...

My uncle, who has published over 50 books (fiction and non-fiction); and Antonia Forest, whose writing made me think and judge and imagine.

Anonymous said...

My fiance, Pete. He believed in my ability to write and would ask what I had done each and every night. He was interested and insightful. When he died suddenly, I didn't think I could go on, but knew he would be ashamed of me if I didn't. The first book I wrote (and probably every book I will write) is dedicated to him.

R.M.Gilbert said...

My husbands grandmother, who reads each and everyday and tracks every book on a pad of paper. She learned I was closet writing and never forgot to ask me about it when we'd visit. Sweet and motivating.

Also, my sister, who's a fellow writer.

And critique groups: Passionate Critters and YA Fiction Fanatics.

The Red Angel said...

Jodi Picoult, J.K. Rowling, and all the people who ever supported me...which is a lot of people. :) I'm very lucky to have a huge support group consisted of friends and family, and they've all been the ones to keep me going with my writing career.

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

ARJules said...

My friend, Tamra. I trusted her enough to send her things that I have written. And she's the first person that said "You should write this into a book" that I actually took seriously. She has excellent taste in what she reads. I was kind of humbled that she wanted to read more of my work. I had always wanted to write a book, but she was the first person that encouraged me to actually do it.

Melissa Pearl said...

My friend, Brenda. After yet another afternoon of story telling she told me to start writing some of these stories down. I did it. I loved it.
God, who has given me the strength and stamina to stick with it, and who always provides a little pick me up on those days I feel like maybe I shouldn't be writing.

Anonymous said...

Orson Scott Card. And my friends, though not in the normal way. I'm a highly competitive person by nature, and reading my friends' writing makes me strive to do better.

Mary said...

F.Scott Fitzgerald and Pat Conroy.
Oh, and my father. He always encouraged me.

Debbie said...

Roald Dahl was my favorite childhood author as well. His books inspired a lot of short stories in my elementary school years. As a grown up, my husband is my number one strength and push to write.

Richard Mabry said...

Three persons, each with a different contribution:
-author James Scott Bell, who piqued my interest in writing fiction.
-my agent, Rachelle Gardner, who has guided my professional activities.
-my wife, who thought I could do it, even when I wasn't sure.

mvs said...

My father, who was my first writing teacher, editor and "agent" and Mircea Eliade, a Romanian author whose short stories still fascinate me.

Heidi Yantzi said...

Well, my husband. He's not a writer, but he has an excellent BS filter and he's honest with me. He's believed in my since we were teenagers and I had a hard time admitting that I wanted to write fiction.

Guy Gavriel Kay really rocked my brain in high school... before that, Walter Farley because the Black Stallion books kind of angered me... sometimes writing that stirs up rebellion can be a good influence.

Trish said...

Roald Dahl of course! He’s my idol. His stories gave me the courage to turn my antics as a mischievous child into fictitious children’s stories. As a seven-year-old, I couldn’t understand why I had to sit outside the principal’s office for breaking the bathroom wall. After all, it was just an accident, and I only stuffed my wet underpants down the back of the classroom radiator to dry them, not to stink out the classroom.

My mother-in-law laughed when she read my memoirs and encouraged me to write more. So I did - I turned them into fictitious children’s stories.

My mother also encouraged me to write, but she’s much happier now that my stories are fictitious. Some things I did were totally gross.

Ishta Mercurio said...

My Dad. A couple of years ago, when my older son was almost 5 and my younger son was still an infant and I had been a stay-at-home wife and mom for 6 years and I thought I was going to lose my mind with the frustration of wanting to perform and to write but not being able to because there was no-one else to look after the kids, my dad said to me, "If it is important to you, you will find a way."

I'll never forget that day. It changed my path, and made me unafraid to live with purpose, because I believe that one day, I will achieve my goals.

Barbara Martin said...

The first person was my great aunt who wrote exquisite poetry. She supported me in my early writing. Then years later after I had been writing for awhile getting my manuscript together and fine editing it, I met Chris Chenoweth who had written an Economics column for the Toronto Star for ten years. He read the first three chapters of my manuscript and his response was "why isn't this published?" Then he went on to say that if I wanted to be published I had to live that dream, had to want it with the very being of my existence.

Kaitlyne said...

My junior high writing/language arts teacher. She encouraged me and made me feel like I was actually good at this writing thing and made me want to keep doing it.

Becca said...

I will say:

Chris Baty - Only because his creation of NaNoWriMo finally got me to sit down and write a novel, even if was going to kill me.

Lois Duncan - a phenomenal author (in my eyes) that I aspire to be like. I lover her style, and her theme if you'd like to call it that. Or genre, I suppose.

Todd Wimer - my 12th Grade English teacher who asked me every single day (I swear) how my writing was going, so I had to have something to tell him. And he was proud, and always willing to help me, and finally taught me some grammar rules that every other English teacher I ever had could never seem to explain, despite how simple they turned out to be.

and a few friends - who sat and listened to me obsess and gave me insight, and convinced me that I didn't actually suck at writing.

Linda Godfrey said...

Near the end of second grade, I was a lonely little kid whose parents had just moved us to a different town. I started writing letters to my old classmates and teacher, who all wrote back. Several said they liked hearing my letters, especially the story of how I fell in the puddle, and I somehow took that as a calling to entertain others with words. There have been so many other inspirations along the way, but those letters were the clear beginning.

Heidi C. Vlach said...

My biggest inspirations are the creators of classic Nintendo games. The video game medium was, in the early days, thought of as a brainless time-waster, and the game industry crash of 1983 must have made things look even worse. But Nintendo developers believed in their crazy fantasy ideas, enough to invest a lot of time and money in a risky niche. And now millions of people enjoy video games and know who Super Mario is.

That inspires me as a writer. It shows that even if you start out awkward and your product seems completely dumb in summary, you can keep developing and end up really starting something.

Taffy said...

My dad.

Plus, I have very vivid dreams and tried to write them out but got discouraged until I read about how Stephenie Meyers Twilight came about. I have now written 4 stories, am editing one, and have 3 outlined.

Rebecca Land Soodak said...

An agent I queried (on a collection of essays) (who passed) suggested I give fiction a try. I thought she was giving me the polite brushoff. But when she emailed two weeks later to ask if I had considered her suggestion -- well, she changed my life. I didn't end up signing with her, but having a professional believe I could do it was very helpful.
Also, Kaylie Jones, an author who became my teacher and reader.
And Julia Cameron who wrote about the importance of being willing to make bad art.
Thank you.

the.mom@booksforwallsproject.org said...

Norman G McKendrick, SJ -brilliant scholar and poet and writer.

Evelyn Coffey our own Emily Dickinson.

To know people like these is to trust that there is genius or daemon or gifts within all of our fractured lives.

Do you read all of these comments? Really, I am curious ;)

Nathan Bransford said...

Of course I read the comments!

Marjorie said...

The documentary filmmaker, Alan Berliner, inspired me most. It was during a fall 2007 visit to his NYC studio... that I was motivated to start a memoir in a blog.

And then I began an interview blog (an interview with Alan appears at that blog) and now I have a cartoon blog. And Alan is still very supportive.

Ishta Mercurio said...

"Of course I read the comments!"

LOL. Seriously, are you bionic or something? Blogging, plus participating in your forums, plus reading all the comments, plus agenting, plus reading 20,000+ queries a year, plus writing and editing your own book...

If you took a speed-reading class, I want to know which one. I am in awe.

ClareWB said...

Recovering from illness as a very young child I got to read for hours: Hans Christian Anderson, Louisa May Alcott,Charles Dickens. And later, reading Katherine Porter, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Wallace Stegner, etc., made me a lifelong writer and reader.

R Elland said...

Wow. That's more complex than I might think about.
But, for me, it was two authors. One was Marion Zimmer Bradley, who showed me that a whole world could be brought to life and given form and power in the imagination. This had started me off on the idea of writing.

And sadly, it was her death that inspired me to push on when I had stopped one time as well. (I had decided it was crazy and why go on etc...). I knew I'd never be able to really meet, talk, and thank her for all that she'd done for a child of the seventies.

The other is a tad more mischievous. I actually met Katherine Kurtz, and by happenstance of a storm, was almost the only one to talk with her. She was delightful and challenging in that she hinted at further parts of her world, and new worlds she was working on. That too pushed me to continue writing. And in both, I was inspired to create a world of my own.

Nancy said...

Natalie Goldberg, who taught me the Zen approach to simplicity, the pacing of detail, and how to combine the two. :) n

Chassily Wakefield said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chassily Wakefield said...

Great question!

My parents, for being impressed with the 200-page treatise on my future life I wrote when I was 8. My grandma for signing me up for the Nancy Drew book club after we moved when I was 9 and I was so lonely I thought I'd die. She also accidentally gave me my first steamy historical romance when I was 12. That was an eye-opening experience!

Susan Straight, my favorite college professor. She made me believe I could write. My fellow Harry Potter nerds. They taught me to believe in myself again and continue to encourage me on this path.

My husband and kids. They willingly give up family time so I can write.

The men and women of RWA, who are collectively some of the most amazing people I've ever met. Their generosity with their time, knowledge and support is inspiring.

Mary Buckham, who took the time to set me straight on everything from the genre question to keeping my butt in the chair. She's amazing. Laurie Schnebly Campbell and Carol Hughes, whose plotting classes finally made everything click. I owe them!

The list of additional authors is far too long, but includes JK Rowling, Nora Roberts, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Celeste de Blasis, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Jane Austen, EB White, Margaret Mitchell, Louisa May Alcott, and many others. Their stories have enriched my life and provided a fabulous classroom in which to learn.

Regan Leigh said...

I had an english teacher in -- hm, sixth grade? -- that took our class on a field trip walk to the nearby cemetery. She had us walk around and pick a couple of head stones for a creative writing assignment. We were supposed to use the names and dates to form a story.

I chose a family plot from the late 1800's and created lives for them, including how I imagined they might have died. The teacher told me it made her cry and I was in awe that I could do that to a teacher. :D

Sounds morbid, but I loved the experience. I still find cemeteries to be fascinating places for writing and quiet walks. ;) Yeah, I'm weird.

Rita Wings said...

Tillie Olsen's book Silences kept me sane during the years when childrearing consumed my time, my energy, and my creativity. Her recognition of the forces that have stilled voices throughout history gave me a sense of kinship with generations of writers. Tillie and these other silenced souls kept me company at night when inspiration tortured my exhasusted body with words I knew I would never manage to transfer to paper the next day.

Anonymous said...

My Mum because until I heard her story I didn't want to write. My first (and only so far) book is about her.

Rick Daley said...

My family, for their support.

Jean said...

My Dad in the final days of his life shared with me his secret dream of writing about his experiences in WWII. That was the initial spark.

Then my husband and my son who both believe in me and continually encourage me to keep writing and submitting.

But the thing that sealed the deal was a little book /Behind the Stories/ by Diane Eble. It's a collection of essays by Christian novelists which reveal the heart and soul behind their callings to write.

Jean
http://www.jeanmatthewhallwords.blogspot.com

Kathryn Magendie said...

Libraries. If it wouldn't have been for libraries, and the Bookmobile, I'd have not been able to read as much as I did when a child, and I read and read and read and read. We didn't have money for books (other than that 10 or fifteen cents for the bookmobile) so libraries were my best friends. Without all those books and authors, I'm not so sure I'd be the writer and reader I am now.

ljkuhnley said...

I don't think I ever thought I'd be naming my college playwrighting instructor as my inspiration as he never liked any of my work except for some ridiculous play I wrote as a joke about aliens body snatching these college kids' study partner but he did say one thing I will always remember.

I told him I was afraid to let my characters do anything I wouldn't do. He said to let my characters do everything I wouldn't do.

As I develop my style and my voice I have discovered that my voice is strongest when I write the things I'm afraid to say.

E. L. Psomiadis said...

My husband - He believes in me when even I don't.

As far as authors go: Shakespeare, McCarthy, Elmer Kelton, Austen, Hunter S. Thompson, Amy Tan, King, Hemingway, Faulkner, Conrad, Flannery O'Connor, and of course . . . Anonymous

CMR said...

My mom has always been my biggest supporter and fan. She's willingly gone along with any crazy, cock-eyed story idea I've had, and didn't tell me how my decision to get a BFA in Creative Writing gave her heart palpitations until long after the fact. She gives me practical advice when I get stuck, whether with a plot or just writer's block (which has been severe lately).

My friend and fellow-writer, Karen Kalbacher, has also been a great influence. Not as great with the critique (so hard to catch her!) but awesome when it comes to pep talks and sound writerly advice. She was the one who introduced me to NaNoWriMo, which taught me a lot about self-discipline.

WitLiz Today said...

Well, it for sure wasn't Ray Carver. One class with him and I turned tail and ran! Wasn't his fault though. I just didn't like to read or write short stories. The class was merely a whatchamacallit, an elective credit booster.

But the reality was, I had no desire to be a writer. Why? Because I read a lot. And as a reader, I so admired and respected the hard work that authors like Agatha Christie, Herman Melville, Daphne Du Maurier, Phyllis Whitney, Raymond Chandler, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Theodore Dreiser, and Mr. Shakespeare to name a few, put into their work, that, lazy ass as I was, I had no desire to emulate them.

What? Waste my time writing in a corn hole when there was this big ol’ playground of a world out there that didn't involve thinking, and coming down with carpal tunnel syndrome from using a manual typewriter, soon to be electric, soon to be computer.

Ix nay on that! (Even though I spent half my college life in creative writing classes, God only knows why). Yes, there were times I'd start reading a book and think, 'I could do this,', but by page 586, it was, 'I don't ever wanna do this!' EVAH.

So, I spent most of my life running away from writing. Well, I got older. The computer was born. I slowed way down. Took stock of my life and decided to leave a memoir for my children. Then when I ran into rough waters with that, I decided to try my hand at making stuff up. That's been an interesting journey. Maybe I'll write a book about it.

'Til then, I sit in an easy chair and type away wondering what in the name of Aloysius I'm doing.

John said...

Harold Bloom -- he turned me on to the good stuff in college.

mollie said...

i always knew i was a writer, my mother was very supportive of this when i was young. but no one ever treated it as something real i could follow, and i let it get squashed out of me until about age 40 (6 yrs ago.) i read a book called "deep in shade of paradise" by john dufresne, which was terrific. the writing really resonated with me, the style, the language. i thought "i could do this." john has a wonderful gift for using the unusual, and in the middle of the book the omniscient narrator asks for you, the reader, to tell him about your first love. and provides a blank page on which to do so. and then gives his email (real) to send it to if you want someone to read it. and i did. he wrote back and said he had a book on writing fiction coming out called "the lie to tell the truth." i ordered that book and i haven't stopped writing since. john d. has since become a friend and mentor. i could not recommend his work more. his most recent book on writing is called "is life like this? a guide to writing your first novel in 6 months." run, don't walk to your nearest bookstore. or amazon, rather.

Dara said...

My parents and my sister, and more recently, my husband. My parents started me out on the path before I even really knew how to write (Mom would transcribe stories of mine when I was four or five). My sister shares the same passion for storytelling as I do so we often encourage one another along the path. And my husband is always there, encouraging me to keep going when I just want to give up.

So, I'd say most of the influential people have come from my family. Sure I have a few writers who helped influence me--namely those authors of the American Girl series, because that's what helped combine my love of history and writing when I was young.

Magdalena Munro said...

I forgot to mention in my original post that the first time I met Garrison Keillor (I'm originally from Minnesota and good friends with his son) he handed me one of his "famous" martinis and said my name aloud and told me that this was a fine name for an author. I thought it was silly at the time but for whatever reason, the sentence stuck with me. It's still pretty silly but it is what it is.

Debbie said...

Louisa May Alcott got me thinking about becoming a writer--like Jo. That was set aside for more "practical" matters until a discussion with a friend. She had just graduated from film school. I told her I admired her for pursuing her dream. She asked what my dream was. I answered, of course, "Writing."

"Then be a writer." 10 years, a couple published short stories, 3.5 completed first drafts of novels and one almost ready to submit novel later, I am a writer.

Callan said...

Kafka. And my love for reading. Two close friends and another friend Brandye.

M.J.B. said...

My parents -- they only censored me until Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Park" changed my life in fourth grade and then let me read the F-word ridden "The Lost World" a year later. They have never stopped encouraging me.

Stephen King -- "The Shining" was the first time a story jumped out of the page and physically affected me (via terror). It showed me the power of good writing.

J.K. Rowling -- she has taught me everything I think I know about successfully layering characters, backstory, plot, mystery, plants/payoffs, and everything in between. She is a genius.

Audrey Niffenegger -- "The Time Traveler's Wife." This is the book I pick up, flip through, and smell when I need inspiration.

Callan said...

Kafka. Two close friends both named Julie. A close friend named brandye and ever book I have ever read that moved me. Every song that made me cry and every painting I saw that caused me to stop and wonder at what people are capable of when they are inspired

BlackJack said...

My mom used to write all the time, and I didn't find this out until after I started writing. I started writing for fun in 5th grade, and, my 5th grade teacher, Ms. Lamb, supported me in helping me enter contests and putting things together for me at that age. I've continued doing this on and off, but not as much as I would have liked to. my mom, ms. lamb, and my current boyfriend have definitely been influential people in my life who have loved writing just as much as I have and pushed me to do it for fun as long as I enjoy it.

Scott said...

I can point to a number of comments from family, friends and teachers that set me on the path, but I've always had ideas for stories that I felt needed to be told for one reason or another. Hooks that make me excited, and drove me to the page. A love of language--and people who knew how to use it--has always been there, as well.

I'll put it down to my father, though. We grew up in a house with a room that had a library to the ceiling and musical instruments everywhere you looked. That was my playroom, and I'm so thankful that he decided to create one of those than one with a computer games and a pool table.

Although, had I become proficient in pool, I might have a little more dosh. :-)

Esther V. said...

Not so sure. I've always loved to write. I've also admired good-quality writers, so I tend to try to write like them.

Jason said...

Mr. Bransford,

I've always wanted to be a writer, but I can think of only two things that actually made me finish a novel:

First, I was frustrated at work. I have a GREAT job working as an engineer for NASA, but sometimes ... well, sometimes other people stand in the way of progress.

Second, I found an amazing post on a blog by Scott Berkun on "how to write a book". He said that 20% of people who asked him that question were asking for permission. His response was "you don't need permission". I think that's wrong.

"But wait," you say, "if it's wrong why was it such a wonderful blog posting?" The answer is simple:

I realized when I read that sentence, that there was only one person who could give me permission to write a novel: me. And I think it is important to give yourself permission. Permission to fail. Permission to ignore your loved ones for hours at a time. Permission to try.

I gave myself permission. It was one of the most wonderful moments of my life. That moment was exceeded by finishing the novel, and having friends tell me of their enjoyment while reading it. I'm hopeful that, someday, an agent will say the same thing--probably after many revisions! :)

Thank you for giving us all the opportunity to discuss this. I hope you enjoy reading people's stories--there are a number of truly inspiring ones on this page.

Cheers,

-Jason

Anonymous said...

Phillip Roth and John Updike. Yeah, yeah, the great American narcissists I know, but there's a rawness to their writing style, an acceptance of appetite--however misguided--that I think has been lost in a lot newer literature. We have a lot of talent now, but a lot of precious melodrama, too. It's like there's a denial of base human impulse. For example, compare sometime the Oskar in Gunter Grass' "The Tin Drum" to the Oscar in J.S. Foer's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." It's the difference, I think, between a writer who has seen real violence and a writer who has seen violence on TV and in the media.

ella144 said...

Lucy Maud Montgomery, Robert Jordan, and Diana Wynne Jones who showed me great plots, amazing characters, and opened my mind to the possibilities. And my husband who knew I was a writer before I did.

Mike said...

I have a friend of mine who is an artist. Whenever I see his work, I just have to write and dream that I'll be as talented at writing as he is at painting/drawing.

The authors that have inspired me most are probably Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Stephen King. They were some of the first adult authors that I read and they just blew my mind.

Anonymous said...

My grade school teachers because they always asked us to make up stories about pictures; Hans Christian Anderson; my husband, who encouraged me to come out of the closet and begin to share my writing, first with him, then with others, then to go for it; Terry Prachett; Tom Robbins; my daughter,who liked to have first reads when she was little, who loves my stories when they're good, and who tells me they suck when they can't keep her interest (or when she is feeling pissy at me; my Mom who read to me; and the running boy who whispers to me still.

RosieC said...

Years and years ago, it was my JHS English teacher Mrs. Potowsky, and my HS teachers Mrs. Kaiser and Becky Blake. They were amazingly supportive (although Mrs. Potowsky strongly objected to my use of "gonna" in dialogue) and encouraged me to try new things.

I moved away from writing for a long time ("What are you going to do with a BFA in writing?" was the dominant theme of my freshman and sophomore years of college), but since I've come back to it, my husband and my sister-in-law have both been wonderfully supportive, though in very different ways. I owe them both a lot of thanks.

Court Sherwin said...

Dennis Lehane.
Lehane did an interview in which he spoke about a short quote he keeps close to him. It says "Nobody cares" and it has positive and negative connotations depending on how you look at it. It's always been inspirational to me.

mollie said...

dennis lehane got his MFA at florida international university in miami under John Dufresne. John said "mystic river" was his thesis.

sharonedge said...

My sixth grade teacher was a published author. She taught me that real people wrote books, and I knew then that I wanted to be an author, too. I've had hundreds of short pieces published in the past twenty years, and now I'm working on book-length fiction.

My critique group keeps me writing. There are five of us, all with jobs and families, who meet once a month. We are a mutual support system, and it must work; one of our members just sold her first book.

Anonymous said...

For me it was Herman Hesse and my older sister.

When we were little, my older sister invented a game she called little people. We made up elaborate stories when playing with spools of thread, pencils and chains. The pencils were boys and the chains were girls. When we used spools of thread we chose certain colors for the males and females. After that my imagination took off.

In college, I read every book Herman Hesse wrote. I loved the way he was influenced by Karl Jung. In one of his books there is a dream sequence that got me writing my first short story.

Heidi Yantzi said...

After more thought, I figure the people who most influenced my writing are the ones I grew up with, as in neighbours, farmers, people I went to church with, other kids at school. And then in my town-life phase, it became a whole other group for me to find commonalities with.

I really believe the landscape of my life is my big influence, literally. Hay fields, trees, barns. Roads. But the thing is, that kind of landscape is full of people who are also shaped by it whether they know it or not.

passinglovenotes said...

My beta reader and fellow writer, who also aspires to be published,Penelope Wright. She has improved my dialog-writing one hundred fold.

Terri Tiffany said...

Easy--my husband and best friend. Neither laughed when I said I really wanted to take writing seriously.

James said...

I try not to think too much about the people who have encouraged me to write; grudges are so unbecoming.

Anassa said...

My dad is a writer, editor, and sometime writing teacher who's supported my creativity and love of words since I was old enough to display them. He's been through all the highs and lows of the writing biz, so I tend to turn to him when I hit them too.

My third-year university roommate, because she introduced me to the idea that writing could be fun rather than flat-out essay-style boring.

Jenn Kelly said...

This is slightly cheesy, but my husband. He made me get a sitter once a week so I could go out and write for a whole day at Starbucks. I'm a stay-at-home mom so the guilt was huge, especially considering he worked two jobs so I could stay home. But it paid off. I got published. Book comes out in 50 days. He inspired me by believing I could do it, even when I didn't want to or felt guilty.

J. T. Shea said...

Mrs. Nathan's blog is very educational. Today I learned:-

1 The farmer and the cowman SHOULD be friends.

2 Lego World Cup is better than the real thing.

Class dismissed!

Cassandra Bonmot said...

David Ogilvy, the famous ad man. I wanted to write brilliant, persuasive copy just like him. In fact, I became obsessed with syntax and interestingly phrased sentences whether taken from a Captain Crunch cereal box, back of Raymond Chandler book or an ad for starting your own worm farm. I fell in love with the written word.

y-write said...

This is going to sound so silly but, gotta share. Have you ever heard of Carolyn Keene? The psuedonym for the writer of the Nancy Drew series? Well, that would be it. Sorry it wasn't more dramatic.

Fat Bastard said...

Salman Rushdie inspired me to write. He came up with "Got Milk?" in his days as an ad man.

T.Y. said...

Christopher Pike! There is no limit to his imagination and he taught me the artistry of simple, engaging prose and to write on a deadline.

fivecats said...

John McCann, my honors english teacher who made be believe i could write.

Charles de Lint who was the first person to tell me that i was a writer.

Melissa Emerald said...

I read these wonderful, heartfelt comments and it makes me a little sad. Many of you had parents or grandparents that encouraged you to read or write from an early age. Lucky, lucky you!

I had (still have) wonderful, loving parents, but they pushed work ethic, not reading. And certainly not writing. I'll never forget the time my mother admonished me after finding a story I wrote about a girl who wanted to run away from home.

Unfortunately, I'd have to say that I am my own influential person. But I have to tell you, it's hard to be your own cheerleader. A couple months ago I joined a great online writing group and I bet the members will soon become the most influential people in my writing life.

G said...

Interesting question, and it deserves an off the wall answer.

No one has really been influential in my writing life to date (only started writing four years ago).

I sort of slog at it alone, pick up writing tips from other writers that I like, but for the most part there hasn't been that one writer that made me want to write.

There was certain influential events that made me pick up a pen to start writing, but for the most part, I am a by-product of me and no one else.

d_Taoist said...

It's odd. Though I write fiction, the one person who first came to mind was an essayist. About ten years ago, I was just starting to write and I fell upon Richard Rodriguez' Hunger for Memory. I don't know what got into me, but I looked him up and found an a phone number for him on the internet. I called him at his office and told him I loved his work and that I would love any advice he had to give. He offered to meet with me and actually bought me lunch. We talked about writing, and though I was young and arrogant about his comments on something I gave him to read, he was extremely gracious and generous.

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

Dad for sure. As kids we spent months travelling through England and Europe. We lived in a camper van--5 people all crammed together. With no electricity (this was a long time ago) we'd sit around the kitchen table at night with a small candle and Dad would tell stories. He was our first and still the best storyteller.

Stephanie said...

I have always loved books and was constantly at the local library. That wondrous place transported me to so many places. It fueled and captured my young imagination. My favorite book as a teen was: The Song Master by Orson Scott Card (still love it)

When I started my first novel several years back, it was my mother-in-law who influenced me. She passed away from cancer two years ago, but she always believed in me, even when I doubted myself.

After a very long hiatus I've started writing again. When I doubt myself I think back to how much she believed in me and know that I can do this and will be published.

Cori said...

For me, it was my freshman English teacher. When I was in middle school, I wrote songs and poems because I had just started singing and thought I could do anything. (Songs...not for me.) My freshman year was the first time anyone bothered to teach me HOW to write. Once I learned the basics, I was unstopable. I carried a notebook with me all the time and wrote chapter upon chapter of mindless teenage blather - which Mrs. Cunninham read faithfully every time I finished a book.

Anonymous said...

The most influential person in my writing life is likely Edgar Allan Poe. When I was about 12, I studied his style and was amazed he wrote so much before dying at the age of 40. He was so expressive concerning his depression, isolation and loving someone he couldn't have. I related to him even more when I lost my family at 18 and began to write expressive letters to them, about my own feelings which helped my grief. My favorite writer was Roald Dahl, because his talent entertained adults as well as children better than anyone else. Children love the spice and added mystery. Like Poe, his expression of characters was incredible.

Christine said...

I do it in spite of the naysayers-there have been plenty and most of them family.

I have my idols, but I am doing this FOR ME.

Jean said...

YOU, Nathan. How could someone as hard and rejecting as YOU be the most influencial person in my currently nonexistant writing career? Yeah, I'm shocked, too.

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