It’s a good exercise for a writer, or any artist, to think about the artists who’ve influenced his or her journey. In tough times, it’s reminded me of how far I’ve come. It reminds me to pay it forward. And I feel warmth and support from the circle of love in the writing community.
So I’m writing about a dozen people who made a powerful impact on me. Six today; six tomorrow. Some are dear friends, some are aquaintances. They share one thing in common. I probably wouldn’t be here, publishing my first novel, if it weren’t for them.
Six artists/writers I know who’ve influenced me – in no particular order.
A Bunkert from my dining room. The photo doesn’t do it justice, especially the flash.
1. Denise Bunkert. She’s a lifelong friend who never deviated from her dream to be a fine artist. She’s the first I knew who walked out of corporate life and plunged into her dream. She learned quickly how to treat her work like a business that could pay her bills. Her beautiful pastels can be found here.
2. Terry Davis, author of Vision Quest, among others. (My favorite Davis novel: If Rock and Roll were a Machine. Next line, it’d be a motorcycle.) I call Terry the Godfather of Mankato’s writing community. As a professor, he helped students (including me) improve their craft, search for agents, and land publishing deals – often at the expense of his own writing time. If Rock and Roll were a Writer, it’d be Terry Davis. Find him here.
3. Rebecca Fjelland Davis. Becky is Mankato’s Kevin Bacon. She’s somehow connected to everyone. An avid cyclist, she’s also Mankato’s hottest grandmother. Becky revises, revises and revises. She’s taught me tenacity. Her first wonderful novel, Jake Riley: Irreparably Damaged, took seven years to find a publishing home. Before I knew Becky, she asked my stepdaughter to read Jake so she could understand a teenager’s reaction. I grabbed it first and couldn’t put it down until
Chasing AllieCat, an on-the-edge-of-your-seat YA novel by my friend Becky Davis.
I’d finished. My stepdaughter had the same experience. We loved it and couldn’t stop talking about it. More about Becky here.
4. Nick Healy. When I took an MFA fiction seminar with Nick, I knew he could be running the class. He was already that good. Nick is also one of those brave writers who quit a cozy PR job to enroll in Mankato’s MFA program. His short stories have won awards, and recently his collection It Takes You Over was published by New Rivers Press. He helped me land my life-changing gig, Little Rock Girl. He’s modest and doesn’t have a web site, but you can read this MinnPost article about Nick here.
5. Steve Shaskan. I knew Steve’s talented wife Trisha from Mankato’s MFA program. I met Steve later at writing conferences in Minnesota and New York City. I’d sit next to Steve, who brought a notebook everywhere. He’d hunch over and doodle these amazing characters. He landed an agent, parted ways with the agent and sold his first picture book himself. He held firm, too. He was the illustrator and the writer or he was walking. Now that’s a guy with guts. His book is the popular A Dog is a Dog. And there’s more to come. Find him here. http://www.stephenshaskan.com.
6. Roger Sheffer. I’ve taken writing classes, workshops and seminars. I’ve attended at least a dozen state and national conferences. Yet I learned most about writing style and tone from Roger’s MFA class, Form and Technique. He’s a genius teacher and the bravest writer I’ve ever met. He’ll try anything just to challenge himself. He once sent me a story where not one word was longer than three characters. And he made it work. His only web presence, as far as I can tell, is his Minnesota State University, Mankato professor’s page.
Six more next time. Happy Friday, everyone!