Sunday, September 27, 2009

Felony WUI - Writing Under the Influence

Gabriella Herkert, Catnapped and Doggone

What author has influenced me the most? Have I mentioned I’m a little hard headed? Maybe it’s the red hair but I’ve been told I telegraph my unwillingness to get with any program but my own. By that same token, my formative years (back when I could be shaped by my environment) were spent enshrouded in the words and worlds of many great writers. I can’t blame any one of them for how I turned out but each remains reflected in my current fascination with all things literate.

Dr. Seuss. I put him at the beginning of the essay because that’s where I first met him. His sing-song rhythms and colorful characters matched my mischief level without remorse or repudiation. Did I know that the Sneetches were teaching me about racism and tolerance? Was I aware that Green Eggs and Ham are a way to offer your friends the very best of your world? Or that the compromise lessons of Zax should worm their way into the Congressional Record as easily as they’ve found purchase in my short stories? Of course not. I wasn’t a prodigy. Yet, here we are, forty years later and I still put pen to page with my mind firmly fixed on doing more than entertaining – I want to make a point. And I haven’t given up hoping that one day I’ll make up my own language understood by children the world over. That guy had game.

Louisa May Alcott. Little Women not Little Men. It might seem like an obvious choice for a middle female child who dreams of becoming a writer but there’s more to Louisa’s impact than just a blue print for my foray into publication. Jo didn’t fit. Not with her aunt who could make her life easier or with the boy next door who was perfect on paper. She didn’t moan. She didn’t hide in the attic or lock her stories into a trunk and call it a day. Everything I write, the fact that I face each blank page, no matter how it comes out or who ends up reading it is an homage to Josephine March and her never say die attitude. As an added bonus, neither of us know how to match our handbag to our shoes. Kindred spirits as Lucy Maud Montgomery might say.

Marco Polo. He taught me that writing is transformational. Between the covers of a book you can not only visit lands of lushness and intrigue but you can live with the people who’ve gotten there first. You don’t need a passport or a youth hostel. You need Marco. He’s the Concorde and the Queen Mary, the local translator and the town’s oldest storyteller. A mind expanding, intellectually jump-starting, emotionally invigorating Aladdin carpet ride. Marco Polo is the author equivalent of a legal magic mushroom.

Honorable mentions go to Roget for the thesaurus, Webster for the dictionary and Gutenberg. That printing press thing is working out.

But don’t take my word for it. Submerge yourself in their essence. Read. Mysteries and romances and thrillers and biographies and business how-tos and Dilbert. Take it all in and digest your cerebral feast before embarking on an after dinner stroll down your own path. Thank you, Robert Frost.



Sophie Littlefield said...

Gabi - you are so right about the dictionary and thesaurus - how could I have forgotten those? I am still using the battered American Heritage my dad gave me in college. It's at hand every day.

Gabi said...

And every day you think of your dad and how he supported your talent. Those dads...they seem like football and work are all it is about and then they do something sneaky like that. Got to love 'em.

Jen Forbus said...

I love this Gabi! While at this point in my life I read primarily crime fiction, so many influences have worked together to create the reader that I am. I think that's why I'm a slightly different crime fiction reader. Much of traditional mystery is about the plot and I'm more invested in character. I do think that's changing a great deal now, but many mystery readers are after the moving plots, lots of action and intrigue. I appreciate those things but I LOVE character. And I think that comes from my love of Twain, Dickens, Kesey, Morrison, Austen, all truth, everything I read somehow changes me as a reader, even the stuff that isn't so great. :) And I couldn't be without my Thesaurus. I have one at work and one at home!