What are your influences?

I recently came across Author Robert J. Lennon’s blog and I had a hate-turned-to-love relationship with what he said. In his post he answered the frequently asked question, “What are your influences?” You really should read the full article, but in a nutshell it’s his opinion that writers should not be the biggest influence for other writers. At first I was skeptical but as I kept reading I felt encouraged and hopeful about my own writing–because it is my own.

“The danger of immersing oneself, completely, in literate culture, at the expense of other forms of influence, is that all your referents end up coming from other people’s imaginations. This is bad. It makes us mannered, cultured, when in fact what we need is to be weird and rough around the edges.”

I can respect that. In fact, I can relate to that. Obviously this blog is proof that I read a lot. But if I really think about it, I don’t read to learn how to imitate or sound similar to another writer; I read because I love that someone else has had a unique experiences in their own life–or in the life of their characters–that I will never have, and that inspires me to write about the things that only I know exist.

So in response to the question above, “What are your influences?” I would have to agree with Robert. I’ve undoubtedly been influenced by books, but my biggest influences have been beanie babies, Parcheesi, a Toyota Previa van, being painfully shy in elementary school and writing notes to myself on the bus, the way my horse came when I called his name, making up dances to NSYNC and being horrible at them, watching the trade towers fall and noticing bodies in the air, the way my dad eats his food in sections, how my mom has dropped every book she ever read in the tub, and the voice of my husband telling me I can do anything.

What are your influences?

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Good to Know

I like this.

I like it so much that I’m going to make one to put in the writing room I don’t have yet.


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I have a confession to make…I read this book last year, not last week. But I can explain! The book I chose for this week’s read was a little longer than I anticipated and I’m only half way through it. So to curb your literary appetite I looked through my stack of books and chose this beauty to share.

When I first heard that Tina Fey was writing a book I knew I had to get my hands on it. Not because she is famous, but because SNL taught me that she is above all else a cleaver writer. True to form this book made me laugh out loud more times, and in a louder timbre than you would believe. In fact, my roommate finally came into my room to find out what was so funny. Then when I finished the book a few days later she borrowed it and laughed hard and loud in her room. Now I suggest you go find yourself a copy and do the same.

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Old Week Read

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Workshop

If you’ve ever been to a workshop, you’ll appreciate the humor in this poem. It’s especially entertaining to hear Billy Collins read it (he actually starts the poem at 1:18).  If you want to read along while you listen you can find the full text here. Enjoy, I know I did.

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Contests!

I just came across this Nonfiction Contest for Graywolf Press and I’m kicking myself for not being prepared. On the other hand, I was ecstatic to discover that this is an annual contest and I already have it on my calendar for next August. What a wonderful opportunity to push myself to write, and re-write, and re-write over the next year. Even if I don’t get the prize (and this is a PRIZE) I’ll at least have 100 or more pages of a manuscript I’m passionate about and I will send it somewhere else–again, and again and again. If anyone has 100 pages of a nonfiction work, hurry and send it in! The submission period ends today.

Speaking of contests, PW.org has become my best friend. If you’re like me and aren’t prepared for the wonderful opportunity above, don’t despair. PW.org has a continuous list of contests and calls for submission from a range of magazines looking for fiction, poetry, and nonfiction works. Good luck!

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Midweek Read

This week has been a doozy so today’s midweek read comes from Superstition Review–the literary magazine that I intern for and the welcomed source of my busy schedule. Over the summer I read through many of the archives available on the site (It’s Free!) and have wanted to share a few of my favorites. The first one that really caught my attention was a nonfiction piece by Laura Van Etten. I had never heard of her either, but according to her bio she just finished a novel. I don’t think it has been published yet, but when it is I intend to read it. For now, take a few minutes to read this {true} story. The very concept behind it confuses me, worries me, and ultimately moves me. Find it here.

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