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Friday, March 13, 2015

What or Who is Your Writing Inspiration? And Why?

There are only a few writers whose writing I truly admire, and who inspire my own writing. Each has his or her own creative method that is unique. They are all different. Perhaps the first writer who inspired me to work harder at my own writing to make it better was Patricia MacLachlan. She has won multiple writing awards and her books (the Sarah Plain and Tall series) have been made into movies. But to me, movies are a medium unto themselves. Reading the words MacLachlan wrote, without the added interruption of actors, lets me hear them inside my head where I create my own scenes, my own vocal inflections and facial expressions. Reading her work is so much better than watching someone else's interpretation. The first impression I had of her work was that she had an incredible talent for seeing the world through a child's eyes, with a child's emotions and reactions. This, I knew, was a gift. From chapter 3 of "Sarah Plain and Tall": "Sarah came in the spring. She came through green grass fields that bloomed with Indian paintbrush, red and orange, and blue-eyed grass. Papa got up early for the long day's trip to the train and back. He brushed his hair so slick and shiny that caleb laughed. He wore a clean blue shirt, and a belt instead of suspenders." The child looks at the world and discovers what's going on by what she sees: colors of flowers, how dad took such care to comb his hair and dress. These physical things about their environment are what children notice. MacLachlan knows this, too. She inspires me to look at my stories through the eyes of the children who will be reading them.

Another writer who inspires me is Gary Paulsen. He writes for boys, really, but I can't think of any reason why girls would not enjoy his work as well. The first book of Paulsen's that blew me away was "Dogsong". This story was poetry to me. His words were chosen with great care, the way a poet chooses words to bring a picture to the mind of the reader. From chapter 10 of "Dogsong": "He shrugged away the camp as he would shrug away light snow. It was time to leave, time to head north again to the the father of ice. He brought his parka in, brushed off the frozen sweat and put it on. Then he pinched the flame out with his fingers and slid his mukluks on and stepped into the darkness." Any book by Paulsen is worth reading.

Karen Hesse, another award-winning author, has written books in what is called free verse. She has an incredible talent for painting pictures with very few words. Here is a quote from "Aleutian Sparrow": "Life in Kashega, In the beginning, when I first moved away to Unalaska village, to live with Alexie and Fekla Golodoff, I longed for Kashega. Kashega winter, when the men trap the blue fox. Kashega summer, when they hire themselves out to take the fur seal off the Pribilofs. All the Kahshega year, with the boats bringing home sweet duck and fat sea lion. Zachary Solomon ran the Kashega store for ten years maybe. But when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Zachary Solomon went to war."

These are only a few. There are more, like Han Nolan, Sharon Creech, and Sue Monk Kidd.

What we as writers need to do is read widely, find the writers that inspire us, find writers that don't, and decide what it is that inspires or not. It will make us better writers.