22 Writers Worth Reading (Part 2)

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The second half of my list of 22 is just as eclectic as the first with writers belonging to a broad spectrum of genres and time periods.  Some I’ve read all my life, while others are recent additions to my always growing list of favorite authors.  Regardless of when I found them, all 22 writers have inspired me to write with the same spirit of creativity.

For Writers 1-11, please see Part 1

Writers 12-22 in no particular order:

12. Sándor Márai
Márai’s work has only recently been rediscovered and translated into English.  He is a Hungarian writer who uses the power of subtlety to convey deeply emotional stories.  Márai captures the soul of humanity in his characters, who are so real I feel like I know them personally.  Even more impressive are how his stories often seem like he lifted them right out reality.

Favorite Book: Embers

13. Cassandra Clare
Bring on the romance and the demon fighters!  Clare knows how to spin quite a yarn that includes everything from action, suspense, love, and the battle between good and evil.  Urban fantasy has never been so appealing! Her writing style is clean, fresh, and full of wildly colorful descriptions.  I never know where the story is going to go and I’m always surprised when I turn the page.

Favorite Book: City of Bones

14. Ron Currie, Jr.
Currie only has two books to his credit, but they are magnificent pieces of work.  His writing is crisp, daring, and  openly defiant of convention.   In both of his books, he posits some pretty tough questions about what truly matters in life and how much we take for granted.  The real beauty of it all is his encouragement for readers to answer those questions for themselves.

Favorite Book: Everything Matters

15. William Shakespeare
When Mr. Miller taught me how to read Shakespeare in 11th grade, it was like he opened a window to a whole new world.  My love and appreciation for Shakespeare’s work only grew when I saw theater productions of Othello and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Ultimately, Shakespeare nails lyrical prose and is a keen observer of human behavior.

Favorite Works: Othello and The Sonnets

16. Paulo Coelho
When I read The Alchemist, I went out and bought a copy for just about everyone I know.  Coelho’s spiritual and philosophical style elicits contemplation and enlightenment.  His belief in the individual spirit and the importance of following your heart comes through in almost every one of his works.  Whenever I falter, I look to the wisdom in his stories to pull me back on track.

Favorite Book: The Alchemist

17. Yu Hua
Hua’s body of work delves into the darker corners of Chinese history and familial ties.  He focuses on the Cultural Revolution and the devastating impact it had on families and friendships.  Where other writers would lean towards the political atmosphere, Hua keeps the focus on the human condition.  In doing this, he creates a more accurate portrayal of China’s cultural history than any history textbook could dream of accomplishing.

Favorite Book: Chronicles of a Blood Merchant

18. Beatrix Potter
I remember my grandmother reading Beatrix Potter to me when I was child.  Even then I understood the genius of Peter Rabbit or Benjamin Bunny.  Potter mastered the fine balance between simplicity and distinctive description, a talent that makes her books pure magic to anyone who picks them up.

Favorite Book: The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit

19. Amy Ephron
Ephron writes fantastic historical fiction that takes place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. What sets her apart is her ability to use an era as a set piece rather than a focal point.  Her characters and stories could easily be pulled out and transferred to any time period as they are infinitely intriguing and realistic.  However, Ephron’s real talent lies in crafting surprise endings.  My mouth has fallen open more than once after reading the last line.

Favorite Book: A Cup of Tea

20. Benjamin Lebert
Lebert is a German writer who explores the backstreets of adolescence with a blunt and honest perspective.  He holds nothing back as he exposes everything from drug addiction, bullying, sex, and emotional angst.  More remarkable still, he was brave enough to do it at just 16 years old.  His young voice is provocative, intelligent, and deserves to be heard.  While his first novel Crazy was phenomenal, his second absolutely blew me away.

Favorite Book: The Bird is a Raven

21. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Mysteries are not usually my cup of tea, but I can’t resist Sherlock Holmes.  Doyle creates truly unique characters and spins fascinating tales of murder and intrigue.  His writing sparkles with witty dialogue and countless twists that always keep me guessing.  Working a case with Holmes is always a spirited adventure!

Favorite Work: The Speckled Band

22. Walter Farley
I was probably around 10 years old when I first read The Black Stallion and I still remember every part of that book from start to finish.  Farley’s story of a young boy and his horse showed me how beautiful the connection between man and animal can be.  Walter Farley is a huge reason why I fell in love with reading and I can’t thank him enough for leaving such a strong impression on me as a writer.  My original Black Stallion book still sits on my shelf.

Favorite Book: The Black Stallion

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What writers would make your list of 22?  If you take up the challenge, please post a link that leads to your list!

c.b. 2012

The Autograph Ninja

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In A Nice Surprise, I stated that I have a knack for getting autographs and it got me thinking about all the signatures I’ve collected over the years.  A friend recently called me a “ninja” and I think she might be right, especially after receiving the latest addition to my collection.

My collection includes a variety of autographs, but not all come from household names. Like everything else I collect (books, rocks, etc), every signature means something to me on one level or another. Gathering autographs is all about connecting to people who have inspired me or have had a positive influence in my life.  They are all attached to memories, beautiful moments, and sometimes life-altering experiences.

It wasn’t easy to find all my autographs, but I did manage to locate the vast majority.  Many autographs are personalized to me, so in order to safeguard my identity I’ve blotted out my real name.  Sorry about the fuzzy areas, but it had to be done!   To save space, a number of photos have been made into thumbnails, but one click will enlarge them to full size.

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This week, I hit what I consider to be the mother lode of autographs because I never thought I could get Stephanie Meyer to sign my books.  She is rather reclusive and her fame is a bit out of my league.  However, through a brilliant stroke of luck I found myself in contact with a link in a chain that lead directly to her.  I sent my Twilight series and The Host down the chain and hoped for the best.  In just a few days, my books came back to me signed!

  

 

Along with the books, I sent a letter to thank her for the pivotal, even if inadvertent, role she played in the completion of my novel.  After failing three times to get a first draft off the ground, I was ready to give up.  I needed a kick in the butt and my mother gave it to me through an aptly timed phone call.  After reading an article on Meyer in the local newspaper, she told me, “If Stephanie Meyer can do it, so can you.”  In a strange twist of fate, that phone call came just as I was about to leave to catch the Twilight movie on opening night.   The next day I started writing my novel (again) and didn’t stop until I finished it.  While I have a village of people to thank for supporting me during the writing process, my mother and Stephanie Meyer both helped to wake up my muse.  Needless to say, these autographs mean the world to me.

Keeping with Twilight, I’ve also stumbled upon a couple more signatures related to the series. Peter Facinelli (left) came to me through a set of collector’s cards for the first Twilight movie.  The autograph was included in a collector edition binder I got through amazon.com (before the craze went haywire).  As for Justin Chon (right), I met him at a Twilight event a week before Eclipse opened in theaters. Both were dumb luck!

 

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During a trip to China, I had the honor of meeting Yu Hua, an author who writes novels that deal with the Cultural Revolution and Chinese culture, (most notably To Live and Chronicles of a Blood Merchant).  His stories are intense journeys in to the human experience and explore complex emotions within families and friendships. In Beijing, I got the rare opportunity to hear him speak in a small group setting.  For two hours, he discussed his writing process, the challenges of writing in a country that censors everything with great scrutiny, and the power of words and creativity.  When I see his autograph, it reminds me how lucky I am to be a writer who has the freedom to write without penalty or restriction.  Despite the obstacles he often faces, he is a true example of how writing can set the soul free.

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Back in 2007, I attended The Office Convention in Scranton, PA.  The stars seemed to align during the whole weekend as I found myself almost constantly in the company of cast members, writers, and producers.  While a fan’s ultimate dream, the convention and the people I encountered had life-altering effects that still impact me today.  Throughout Seasons 3 and 4, I wrote a series of posts on The Office message boards that analyzed each episode and a friend of mine brought them to the attention of one of the producers.  He liked what I wrote so much, he personally presented me with a cast-signed Season 3 DVD set.   Furthermore, he invited me for a one-on-one encounter with the writers of the show.  For close to an hour, I got to rub elbows with some of the most creative and amazing writers in the industry.  During this event, the same producer introduced me as a writer.  It was the first time anyone had ever given me that distinction and it changed my life.  Every time I sit down to write, I try to live up to the title of “Writer.”

The Office is a big reason why I started writing after a very long dry spell, so these autographs serve as a monument not only to fandom, but also as a constant reminder that I must keep writing.  One day I hope to send a published copy of my novel to the producer who gave me such a wonderful gift.

1.Steve Carell 2.Leslie David Baker* 3.Mindy Kaling* 4.Rainn Wilson 5.Oscar Nunez* 6.Paul Lieberstein 7.Brian Baumgartner 8.John Krasinski 9.Angela Kinsey* 10.Jenna Fischer 11.Kate Flannery* 12.B.J. Novak* 13.Ed Helms* 14. Phyllis Smith* 15.Creed Bratton*

*I got a second personalized autograph from these cast members when I met them at the convention.

In addition, many of the writers, other producers, supporting actors, and even the creators of the show were kind enough to sign my autograph scrapbook.

   

Left to right: Gene Stupnitsky, Justin Spitzer and Mindy Kaling / Bobby Ray Shafer / Kent Zbornak / Andy Buckley

  

Left to Right: Craig Robinson / Michael Schur / Greg Daniels, Lester Lewis

When I got home from the convention, I had another little surprise waiting for me in the mailbox.  Jenna Fischer answered my letter and returned an item I asked her to autograph.

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There’s even more after the jump . . .

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