Michelle Wittle On Author Heroes

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

Why did I want to become a writer?

I’ll be honest; I have no idea why I want to be a writer. A part of me feels like I am doing it to honor my father. He wanted so badly to be a writer and he had a big red photo album of rejection letters to prove his determination. His early death stopped his dream and I always felt I should pick up the cliché torch and keep running. However, just wanting to do something my father did really doesn’t explain it. I feel like it is something I have always been and denying it any longer is just denying me air or water. I am a writer. I can’t run from it.

But who shaped me into being this writer?

When I first started reading, I was entranced by Judy Blume. She made me see life wasn’t always pretty and it was okay. That was just the way life was sometimes. From her, I understood how creating real and honest characters can help a reader feel real and less abnormal.

In college, of course I fell in love with Sylvia Plath. In my opinion, no one can show raw emotion better than Plath. I wanted to emulate that style. I wanted to pour my pain on the page and ask for nothing but for readers to see it and feel it. I didn’t want pity or sympathy. I just wanted someone to hear me.

Dorothy Parker had such a witty and sharp tongue. I loved how with so few words, Parker would leave the reader with a powerful image. She was a silent snake and I wanted that for myself as well. I wanted to use few words and leave my reader with just an image to hold onto.

Augusten Burroughs showed me life can be a mess. However,what you do with that mess is what counts. Do you let it just roll over you, or do you watch as Jesus pets the cow? He showed me why I was tuned into writing to begin with and for that he is one of my heroes.

David Sedaris uses his situations and life to not only tell a funny story, but to teach a lesson. He is what creative nonfiction is and if you are curious about the genre, I suggest you really look at his writings. He tells snippets from his life, we laugh, but at the end there is always the lesson he learns from the experience.

Lastly, I am now learning about the genius of Lucy Grealy. She used a horrific experience and asked us not to look at the situation, but what she learned from it. She had cancer and while that was a tough thing to overcome, she showed readers she was more than a disease. She suffered the same insecurities and thoughts everyone else can suffer in a lifetime. She asked her readers to not pity or feel sorry for her but to see her for all that she was and I want the same thing.

Augusten Burroughs taught me to write. David Sedaris taught me the genre I needed to focus my writing in. Lucy Grealy taught me how to write in the genre.

These are my writing heroes and I am thankful to have been exposed to all of them. They have shaped my soul and my writing and there are not enough words to express my gratitude for them paving the way and going first.

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