Category #1: Their writing energizes me, fills me with possibilities, and makes me want to run to my keyboard RIGHT NOW to realize my own stories.
And Category #2: Their writing shakes me on a sub-atomic level to a point where I realize I’ll never, ever be able to write as beautifully, eloquently, and poignantly and so I should probably never write again.
Sometimes I can articulate why an author falls into one category or another. Other times I can’t (it’s mostly if they fall into Category #2 that definition fails me). Here’s a short excerpt from my already short list of Authors Who Inspire Me and my attempt to explain why.
Jonathan Stroud—Everyone I know who loves the Bartimaeus books typically points to one overriding factor: Bartimaeus’s voice. And it’s true that this is probably what first drew me into the series. But it’s Stroud’s command of language that excites me whenever I enter his work. I’m a lover of words and the more sesquipedalian, the better. Not only does he use beautiful language, but he finds a way to make them flow in a way that makes you think those words were always meant to be in just that order. Add to that the aforementioned sense of voice and I can hardly wait to sit at my own keyboard the second I’m done read. Category #1
David Almond—I’m always astounded by people who can do things that I can’t. Acrobats. Triathletes. Almond resonates with me so deeply because he has a skill I deeply admire and envy. His tendencies towards minimalism never fail to take my breath away (often, quite literally). It takes me a long time to read an Almond book because I spend hours trying to figure out how he can evoke such a strong sense of place, character, and atmosphere with so little. In my own writing, I tend to be a bit more…shall we say, verbose. I look at what he does, in books like Kit’s Wilderness and Clay and say, “I can never do that. I should just stop now.” Category #2
A.S. King—There is a dynamic simplicity to Amy’s writing. There are only a handful of people writing YA today who spring to mind when I think of writing that is at once immediately accessible and also wicked smart. Amy’s one of those people. Anyone who wants a master class in writing with layers and symbols without being hoity-toity needs to race out and pick up Everybody Sees the Ants. It is stunning. (Full disclosure: Amy’s debut YA, The Dust of 100 Dogs, was published by the house for which I acquire, although I did not acquire that book and haven’t acquired anything by Amy since, to my sadness.) Unlike the first two authors I mentioned, Amy is harder to categorize. She’s scary smart, which should put her in Category #2. But her carefully chosen syntax and vocabulary that sneak up and force a gamut of emotions from me gets me jazzed so I want to put her in Category #1. For now, let’s say the verdict is out. Category ???