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Women Writers and the Writers They Influence

Last week, old white male literary journalist Gay Talese (who, I must confess, I’ve never read anything by) attended a conference in Boston where he was asked by an audience member, old white female writer Verandah Porche (who, I must confess, I’ve never read anything by) (and despite the names, no, this isn’t a Thomas Pynchon story), what women writers he was influenced by. Talese said he couldn’t think of any.

In his defense, Talese grew up in a time that was pretty damn sexist, and he was apparently limiting his “writers of influence” to a very small corner of the writing world (literary journalism). But that defense is some weaksauce tea. Women writers aren’t some recent phenomenon, and if you’re only going to list your influences in a small pocket of a much larger field, you’re doing a disservice to your own writing and writers in general.

In response, John Scalzi posted an incomplete, off-the-top-of-his-head list of women writers who have influenced his writing. Some of the writers who have influenced me the most are women, so here’s my incomplete list, which includes fiction writers, poets, lyricists, and comedy writers (and doesn’t include the large number of women writers who I love but who don’t directly influence my own writing):

Erin Morgenstern
Catherynne M. Valente
Ursula K. LeGuin
Mary Shelley
Madeleine L’Engle
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
Gertrude Stein
Angela Carter
Tanith Lee
C.L. Moore
Jeanette Winterson
N.K. Jemisin
Jenny Lawson
Amy Poehler
Tina Fey
Kelly Link
Maggie Stiefvater
Charlie Jane Anders
Francesca Lia Block
Felicia Day
J.K. Rowling
Lisa Lutz
Diana Wynne Jones
Susanna Clarke
Elizabeth Fraser
Siouxsie Sioux

These writers have made my writing so much better. If you’re not reading diversely and stealing liberally, I think you’re writing is going to suck like boots in mud. I don’t want to read or write mud. I want writing that’s a sparkly, swirly rainbow.

And Gay? You’re never too old to get out of the mud, boyo.

I Treasure Zimbabwe

His sombrero bliss glasshouse riot landslide. She crystalline adoring the catacombs. The rhinestone fools & where’d she get bribery marimba gallantry hole.

(peep peep
peep peep)

He peels back feelings into bitter tears. She bites on this lulling lion candor, lips crack a little for Rio de Janeiro, peak rim blast sunglasses.

(peep peep
peep peep)

Pandora, her pompadour pale, near part animal peel. That’s right, now he plays peek-a-boo. Gee whiz! Judgment in a bin didn’t deal.

(peep peep
peep peep)

Little silver dollars curdle her colossal stuff from all fours our ivy leap strobe lights pump Persephone near us. Those weepers?

(peep peep
peep peep)

A creepy peepshow, where did she hit the floor? A peephole with a hole, with the beret classes gangland tough & him somber?

(peep peep
peep peep)

Ivy said he didn’t deal, our ivory cylindrical lulling loonies into a deep hole, but you get those icedolls, kiddo!

(peep peep
peep peep)

Sinkhole, bit for more come hole, peach blow, creep near us they’re sneaking out. I spit glossolalia stuff gadfly iceberg.

(peep peep
peep peep)

Bombay hole, bit animal beak glassy granddad & flicker dry hole with the leaf, pink sweet, little ivory, deep ivory.

(peep peep
peep peep)

The back door painted black, he imbiber a big bit boring classless. I’ll brazier peek she didn’t deal, she gets up part animal.

(peep peep
peep peep)

I nearly couldn’t deal, little brazier galactic peek hole, with hole, bit animal ivy.

Crucible of Shadows: an experiment in plotting

I had this idea of taking the plot of a story I know well (in this instance, I used Wikipedia for the plot summary) (don’t click on that link if you want to read my version first), changing all of the character and locations names, and seeing what it looked like then. I also flipped the gender of some characters and made a few other tweaks. The source is probably still recognizable, but I like how it turned out.

I don’t write with plot outlines, I’m a pantser, not a plotter, but I’m thinking of using the beginning of this as a story starter and the rest as inspiration if/when I get stuck with what I want to have happen next in the story. (Continued)

The Dragon in the Box

for M. Jean Craig and Kelly Oechsli

The clock is going to ring too soon and end this dream of mine. It’ll end in heartache. It’ll end in tears. (Continued)

The Killing Joke

it’s a joke to be born & it’s a joke to die
it’s a joke to kill & it’s a joke to heal
it’s a joke to speak about the turks
when there are fools to burn & cast away
it’s a joke to embrace & there are scenes of witches
when there are blues to sing & where my uncle burns his books
burns a joke to shred & a joke to keep silent
& it’s my fingers that burn
& it’s my toes that burn
it’s a joke to fight for peace there to dance
it’s a joke to march where there are jackboots
it’s a joke that there are shoes down in your garden
it’s a joke to joke & to keep jokes going
it’s a joke to plant & it’s a joke to sow
it’s a joke to dig up & it’s a joke to smoke
when we’re here to wage war & it’s a joke to break down
& to mourn & to build up & to hate
it’s a joke joke joke to love & it’s a joke to weep & it’s a joke to laugh
it’s a joke to lose & it’s a joke to get
so do you
do you
do you get it?

Fellow Travelers on the Ghost Road

Don’t you wonder sometimes about sound and vision and the telling of stories? I know I’m not the only one who does.

There is a handful of living writers that I consider kindred spirits, because of their writing influences, because of their writing processes, because of the themes they touch on, or simply because what they write feels like it was pulled directly out of my own dreams. (Continued)