The Prodigal Returns

It’s been over a month since my last substantive post here–on the first day of AWP. It’s not that I haven’t been writing; I have. Mostly re-writing. I haven’t been writing my political blog; I haven’t done Friday Fictioneers; I haven’t done Flash! Friday. I’ve not put my finger on quite why, other than the obvious: winter doldrums, lingering nasty weather, and overall write-on-a-self-imposed-deadline burnout.

So, here’s a summary: AWP was great; I had story selected as a finalist in a national contest; the agent loved my writing but decided my novel wasn’t for him; the Virginia Festival of the book was wonderful (though I’ll confess I wish I’d been a panelist instead of in the audience); I had a story rejected for an anthology about a week after an anthology appeared with one of my stories in it; I had an editor solicit a story from me “for consideration;” and we’re about ten days away from the staging of my ten-minute play, “Yo’ Momma,” which was a winner in the Ampersand Arts “Bar Hopping” Contest.

Then, on Sunday, I got tagged in a Facebook post: “Name 15 authors who’ve influenced you and who will always stick with you.” Once I started thinking about that, I began to jot down names and decided this would be a much better blog post than a comment on a Facebook post.

I’m back!

Here are the fifteen authors who’ve influenced me with a brief explanation of how and why, divided into women and men but listed in alphabetical order so as not to give away who is/was the most influential.

Louisa May Alcott – She embodied for me the woman writer’s struggle to be accepted for what you are by society and family.

Margaret Atwood – She shows the world that dystopian fiction can be intelligent and well-wrought, and that makes her worthy of emulation.

Jane Austen – For her time, she wielded a sharp pen of sarcasm, feminism, and egalitarianism, and, damn, but she could turn a phrase.

Charlotte Bronte – She showed me that romance and happy endings aren’t elusive after all.

Ursula K. LeGuin – She is a pioneer in one of my favorite genres, science fiction, and I first heard “write what you want to write” from her.

Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters – She taught me that romantic pairs as protagonists can carry a series (or several series in her case) and that the romance doesn’t detract from a good mystery story.

Sara Paretsky – She showed me your female protagonist can take care of herself and not be dependent upon a man and still be popular (and don’t let editors tell you otherwise) and that plots suffused with liberal politics can be, too.

Kate Wilhelm – She showed that female writers could write “hard” science sci-fi stories and be respected by her male colleagues, even the stodgy ones.

Honorable Mentions: Marion Zimmer Bradley, Octavia Butler, Shirley Jackson, Doris Lessing, Flannery O’Connor,

Isaac Asimov – As well as being one of the most prolific authors of the twentieth century, he showed me you could tell a story and educate people at the same time.

Harlan Ellison – As well as being an ardent admirer of LeGuin, he showed me that you could and should go into the dark areas of the mind and write about them. He also spent fifteen minutes with me once and told me to never, ever give up writing.

William Faulker – He showed me what every writer from the south needs to accept–our history is both full of joy and worthy of embarrassment.

Thomas Hardy – I love this man’s prose. He can take pages to relate a nanosecond of plot, but you don’t mind.

Stephen King – He showed me that when you write about the horrific, at least do it in a way which elevates it.

Boris Pasternak – He showed me how an artist should stand up for the integrity of his or her work and that an epic should truly be an epic.

Kurt Vonnegut – He showed me that a good story is worth spending weeks, months, even years to perfect.

Honorable Mentions: Mikhail Bulgakov, Fredreich Engels, Seamus Heaney, James Joyce, V. I. Lenin, Karl Marx, Vladimir Nabokov, William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Leo Tolstoy

Now, fifteen of the writers who read this need to do the same. 😉

 

In the Mood to Write–or Not

Seasonal Affective Disorder–the “winter blues,” “winter depression”–whatever name it goes by, it’s a motivation killer. In years past, I had only twinges of it, just a day here and there, but lately, it’s become an issue with my writing.

When I was a federal flunky, there were times in deep December and January when I went to work in the dark, sat in my windowless office or in meetings in windowless conference rooms all day, then went home in the dark. That’s when the winter blues were the worst for me.

Science has shown SAD (apt acronym) is real and has everything to do with the changing amounts of light when falls winds down into winter. Spending the daylight hours outdoors and having bright light while you’re inside helps. What doesn’t help is having a solid week of gloomy, overcast, rainy days in the first half of fall, which is how it’s been here in my part of the Shenandoah Valley. The desire to write is there, but the desire to act on it isn’t.

Yesterday, I sat through a marathon of the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, six hours by the way, with an open laptop on my lap, and managed maybe a couple hundred words on a story I started before the gloom descended. You might say that watching the work of Jane Austen was daunting, but I usually find Ms. Austen inspiring. No, I couldn’t get the house bright enough, even with every light available on–Dominion Virginia Power will be happy, though. Though I’d had just over eight hours of sleep the night before, I took a two-hour nap late in the afternoon and woke feeling underwhelmed.

I’m sure today when I go back and look at the little bit I wrote yesterday, I’ll likely hit delete a lot. Given how scrambled my brain was, I doubt any of it is worth keeping.

Somewhat like this blog post, I suspect.

I’m seeing the sky brightening a bit, I have a luncheon engagement to get me out of the house, but, frankly, I’m too SAD to be enthused about any of it. As I posted on Facebook yesterday, “If the sun doesn’t shine soon, I’m going to curl up in a fetal position and gibber.”

Gibbering, now.