I wrote a variation on this blog post on June 27, 2010 in response to Writer’s Digest Editor Jessica Strawser’s Top 10 writing prompt on the Writer’s Digest Community site:
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These are my top ten people / authors who have influenced me in becoming the writer I am today and want to be in the future:
1. Likeke R. McBride (my Dad). He was an author, storyteller, woodcarver, and educator. He read voraciously and encouraged me in everything I did.
2. Sally McBride (my Mom). She read voraciously. We shared personal reviews of books and sent each other copies of our favorites. Just months before she died, Mom read a handful of my poems I sent her and liked them. She told me which ones worked and why. I am at work on a poetry chapbook which I plan to dedicate to her.
3. Barry Lopez. I read Arctic Dreams in the early 1980’s and loved it. Lopez writes about the natural world with great eloquence and knowledge. I admire his advocacy for people to have deep knowledge of the places where they live.
4. Terry Tempest Williams. Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place (1991) is an astonishing memoir of her family history with breast cancer intertwined with bird populations and the rise and fall of the Great Salt Lake. Highly recommended. She taught me to be courageous, fierce, and loving in my writing.
5. Edward Abbey. His novel The Monkey Wrench Gang remains one of my favorites. Desert Solitaire is a fine meditation on the natural world and a fierce critique of industrial tourism. Abbey was larger than life, fierce, eloquent, and maddening in defense of the earth and especially, of the American West. He taught me to be unapologetic in the stances I take in defense of animals and landscapes.
6. Annie Dillard. I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek when I was a teenager and loved it. I admire her eye for detail in viewing the natural world and her storytelling ability. Her novel The Living is a fine historical novel of pre-1900 Bellingham. I recommend it highly.
7. Mary Oliver. Oliver is an exceptional poet. Her poems “The Journey” and “Wild Geese” are beautiful, comforting, and unapologetic. She has taught me to develop my ability to capture the moment in the natural world. When I write poetry of the natural world, I return to reading Mary Oliver again and again.
8. Tim O’Brien. O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is a collection of linked short stories set in Vietnam during the war. It is some of the finest writing I have ever read. O’Brien taught me about linked short stories and how they can gain in cumulative power. I have been working on a collection of linked short stories over the past year or so.
9. Margaret Coel and Tony Hillerman (tie). Coel and Hillerman taught me the importance of writing respectfully of First Peoples while telling great stories.
10. Kim Stanley Robinson. The Years of Rice and Salt is a fine novel of alternative history, and one which is very intelligent and thought provoking. Robinson taught me the importance of breadth of concerns, research, and storytelling.
These are favorite authors of mine. I am in awe of their writing and their achievements.
All the best, Andy