We authors were challenged in Chapters Community to write a post, or a top 10 list, or a review about those who inspired us and influenced our work, whether books, essays, stories, or fellow authors. Hey, I thought, good idea for a post on my own blog. So here’s my top 10 list of those of who inspired me or influenced me:
1. The long-forgotten girl who liked my writing.
Way back in grade school, when I’d started experimenting with forming letters differently from the way the teachers taught us, I met a girl who read a story I’d written. She came up to me specially to tell me how much she liked it. I was over the moon. It was the first time I knew I could write — not just form letters and spell words correctly, but actually make up a good story.
2. Miss Buchanan
My grade 5 teacher. This smart teacher informed the class that children as a rule were not usually at the same level in spelling, even if they were all the same age, and so she was going to divide us into five groups, each group would receive their own spelling homework and tests, according to their grade level. Wow! For the first time, I wasn’t bored out of my skull when it came to spelling, and for the first time I had to work hard because I was in the top group, the grade 9 level. It was exhilarating!
3. Mr. Richardson
My grade 10 teacher couldn’t care less about the Board of Ed — in the good old Jarvis tradition that our Principal Miss Shilton encouraged — and he was going to pick up where our grade 8 teachers had left off and teach us English Language skills. No, it wasn’t part of the official curriculum, but he thought tossing grammar out of the curriculum from grade 9 on was just stupid. How could we learn to improve our writing and our essays if we were no longer taught how to write English? Good point. He also was the only teacher in high school that brought sanity to English Lit. He died of stomach cancer near the end of our year. We lost a courageous and popular teacher.
4. Prof. Kerpneck
To enter his English 101 class — or was it 100? — we had to write a timed entrance essay. The University of Toronto had started to test frosh the year I entered, having discovered that high school grads couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag (gee, could it possibly be because the Board/Province no longer required English Language courses after grade 8?). Although I passed the pass/fail essay test, years later I decided I wanted to pursue writing, and to that end, I wanted to master the tools of the trade. Kerpneck was unimpressed with my essay, but I begged and pleaded, and he let me in. I finished the year having proved him wrong! It was one of my proudest moments. He was a master teacher. He inspired me to write better and better every time I put pen to paper. And I ended up showing him that I had been worth taking a chance on. I exceeded even my own expectations.
5. Stephen Leacock
His books were the first Canadian humour I read that I really liked. Under his pen, his town and characters came to life, and I was always transported to his world. I learnt that humour can convey some serious issues too in a way that dramatic writing alone cannot do.
6. Charles Dickens
I liked Dickens for two reasons: His books were hugely entertaining, his characters rich and eccentric. Yet his books contained many layers of meaning, including a sharp indictment of British society and laws. The more you read, the more you saw. To manage to both entertain and skewer impressed me greatly and inspired me to aspire to the same.
7. Agatha Christie
This grand dame of mystery receives criticism from the literary snobs, but to be able to write simple prose with characters that are so recognizable yet can be interpreted in different ways (as evidenced by the movies and series based on her books) and in such a short period of time is a gift. I don’t remember which biography I read on her, it was so long ago, but I remember one scene vividly. For three weeks, Christie locked herself away and wrote a book. Three weeks! Now that’s inspiring.
8. Rex Stout
This author is rather sneaky. At first glance, his books are just mysteries, set in a different era, one I’ve seen only in the movies. Then as you read more and more of his works, especially the ones with a little something from his library added at the end of the story, you start to see he’s saying more than what he lets on. He also has created strong voices in his characters of Goodwin and Wolfe. You read a couple of lines of dialogue and you know exactly who they are. Good dialogue, as someone once told me, is hard to master and so important to the success of a book.
9. Greg Ioannou
When someone believes in you and your writing unswervingly and through all the downs and downs of the last 8 years as Greg has done, that person inspires you to pursue it no matter how difficult and how many obstacles are put in your way.
10. The Taylors
Having made a commitment to them and seeing how much Lifeliner meant to them, it inspired me to begin the research on the book and to keep going even after I’d suffered a life-altering brain injury. But I have to admit I got close to quitting at one point. The brain injury had taken away everything I needed to write a book, never mind a short story, and no matter how hard I tried, how many treatments and therapies I undertook, all the pieces necessary to write a book were not coming back. Lifeliner was now out of reach for me, and with a breaking heart I was getting ready to tell them that. And then one of the Taylors brought me that last piece, that piece I had looked so long for and hadn’t found, and I was off again. And this time I FINISHED the damn thing. The reason for writing a book is the ultimate inspiration.