A Literary Thanksgiving

Today it’s Thanksgiving in America, one of my favorite holidays. I’ve talked on my own blog about some of the things I’m grateful for in my personal life, but for this entry, I wanted to talk about something a little different: the writers I’m thankful for, as a writer.

You know what I mean: the writers whose books leave you not just sighing with pleasure or admiration but actively thinking: I want to write my book now! The ones whose books leave you buzzing with creative energy, even if you’d felt limp and unmotivated before.

There’s some magical chemical combination that makes each of us react to different writers that way. It’s not even a matter of simple quality – there are some writers I love who don’t do that for me at all. I devour their books but don’t feel any inclination to write my own afterwards.

And then there are the magic ones.

Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my favorite authors, not just as a reader, but as a writer. When I pick up her books, I don’t just enjoy them – I suck them up like an infusion of creative energy. I always want to write my own books after I read hers, even though mine aren’t anything like hers. Elizabeth Peters works for me in a similar way and always has done. So do Connie Willis and Emma Bull.

Those authors all perform reliable writing magic for me and have done so ever since I first discovered their books. But then there are the ones who work for just a little while, just exactly when I need them.

Marjorie Liu is my favorite author of paranormal romances, but a couple of years ago, when I was going through a dry spell in my writing (linked to worries and ill health), the author whose books got me excited about writing again was actually a different paranormal romance author, Sherrilyn Kenyon.

Of course, the comic historical fantasy novels that I write, aimed at young teens, aren’t anything like Kenyon’s paranormal romances for adults…but the sheer exuberance of her writing – the sense I got as I read Kenyon’s books that she’d had an awful lot of fun writing them – was something I desperately needed to experience at that point in my writing life. I devoured about nine of her “Darkhunter” novels in a row, and found myself itching to write again. Whew!

Now that I’m at a different point in my own life, Kenyon’s books don’t work as writing magic for me anymore…but I’ll always be grateful to her for how much they helped me when I really needed them.

What about you guys? Which writers leave you bubbling with the energy to do your own writing? Do you tend to come back to the same ones over and over again, or have you found any that work for a while, just when you need them?

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  1. 1. Elias McClellan

    Ms. Burgis, excellent topic and thank you for your authors to consider. I keep reading Ms. Bujold’s name and I think it’s a sign that I should seek out her work.

    At 6, I wanted to be Spiderman. When I was 8, sad reality had over-taken me and I decided I would draw comics. At 12 I first saw John Byrne’s artwork and while I didn’t give it up right away, I did draw less and less. But I still wanted to tell stories.

    At 15 I was going through the very personal hell that is adolescence in Texas and I read Dune. Frank Herbert carbonated my imagination just as Pam Greer had carbonated my hormones. Mr. Hertbert’s work was where I first saw that prose could paint as vivid a picture as graphics.

    At 32 I was in grad-school and talking more about writing my book than actually writing the d@mn thing. And my wife gave me Devil in a Blue Dress. A year latter she took me to a signing with Mr. Walter Mosley and he looked me right in the eye and said,

    “You can’t write somebody else’s book or to somebody else’s taste. That’s not fun. Writing is supposed to be fun.”

    I wrote five chapters that week. Since then, I’ve read Jacqueline Carey who showed me that fantasy isn’t all orcs and hobits. I’ve discovered Octavia Butler who reminded me that scifi isn’t all Jedi and space-time continiums. And just this year I stumbled across this site and you as well as your contemporaries that kindly indulge my delusions of grandure.

    Thank you Ms. Burgis, as well as all the other writers on this site that never seem to forget what it’s like for those of us that haven’t made it yet. Your patience (with my social challenges especially) and consideration is as meaningful as the writers that sparked our imaginations to begin with.

  2. 2. Stephanie Burgis

    Oh, thank you so much for sharing that Walter Mosley story! I love what he told you. What great advice!

    That actually reminds me of how I ended up going to the Clarion West workshop. I’d been daydreaming for a long time about applying but probably wouldn’t have gotten the nerve to really do it…and then Octavia Butler came to my town and did a talk. I went up to get a book signed, told her I was thinking of applying (she was going to be one of the instructors that year), and she looked at me with alarm and said, “Well, you’d better hurry if you want to get in! Those spots are filling up fast!”

    So I went home and applied that weekend, and it was the best writing decision I ever made. (And she was an incredible teacher!)

    It’s amazing how powerful a motivator it can be to meet your writing idols in person.

  3. 3. Elias J. McClellan

    Ms. Burgis, again, thank you. With each posting, you’ve been very kind to me and many others. If you could, maybe as another topic, could you provide additional details about your experience at Clairion? How long was it? Was it like college classes or more like workshops?

    When I day-dream about publishing, it’s never about cashing Stephen King-checks or quiting the day-gig; although hanging up the part-time gig would be nice. No, what I dream about is conversing with other authors of having the time and opportunity to go to Clarion east or west, I’m easy.

    Karen Traviss says Clarion was indispensible to her work, as did Walter Mosley, (he studied with Master Butler as well) and attending that gathering of greatness is something I would very-much like to do.

  4. 4. Stephanie Burgis

    Clarion is 6 weeks long, and definitely more like a workshop than a college class. To find out more details, the best thing is probably to look on the individual Clarion websites – the one I attended was Clarion West, which I absolutely loved. If you ever have the opportunity, I’d definitely recommend it.

Author Information

Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis is an American writer who lives in Yorkshire, England, with her husband, fellow writer Patrick Samphire, their son "Mr Darcy", and their crazy-sweet border collie mix, Maya. Her Regency fantasy trilogy for kids, The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson, will be published by Atheneum Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, in 2010, 2011, and 2012, beginning with Book One: A Most Improper Magick. She has also published short stories in a variety of magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, including Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Escape Pod. You can find out more, or read/listen to her published stories online, at her website. Visit site.

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