So many have influenced me in so many ways, but today I’ve chosen one nugget that exemplifies the way a few have created an impact that lingers. Their genres are diverse and I’ve learned as much through their great writing as I have through workshops and personal interaction. Check them out!
Juilene Osborne McKnight (historical fiction) “He had only one book in him and he kept rewriting it.” Have you ever heard that oft-repeated phrase? Juilene thinks it’s too cynical—instead, she believes a writer’s soul tends to be drawn to one kind of archetypal story (mine is transformation; yours might be The Wanderer). Once you recognize this you can forgive yourself the similarities and continue to explore the kinds of powerful stories that speak to you.
Ruth Knafo Setton (literary fiction, poetry) From Ruth I learned that sixteen years of effort, refocusing, and distillation is worth it if it results in a concise, powerful story. Some of her beautifully crafted sentences contain within them an entire world. Ruth exemplifies what it means to say that writing is a calling, and that heeding the call may exact a price beyond what you originally expected.
Katherine Ramsland (nonfiction) I will never wonder if I have enough ideas because of my interactions with Katherine Ramsland. This fascinating, determined woman always leaves in her wake the same breathless curiosity about life and people that inspired her to write 46 published books—and pick up three master’s degrees and a Ph.D. along the way.
Jonathan Maberry (thriller, YA, comics) “Writing is an art, publishing is a business—learn this or get out of the way.” If that sounds full of bluster, the man’s got plenty of it. He attacks word count, juggles projects, and social media with the precision and grace of a martial artist, but in his teaching, his stories, and the many ways he helps other writers, he reveals his big heart.
Mindy Starns Clark (Christian commercial fiction) I had a terrible time writing romance until Mindy taught me how. It’s about need fulfillment—what deep need from the her past can only be addressed by someone like him, and vice versa. She makes love sound easy (then again, her first title was The House That Cleans Itself). Probably should have consulted Mindy before entering my first marriage.
A.S. King (YA) Amy exemplifies how to let your fierceness shine through your work. Unwilling to let conservative parents, schools, or publishers dictate what her characters did or said, she found an agent and publisher who supported her edgy young adult characters and their dilemmas. As a result she’s racked up scads of awards and honors—many of them from librarians.
This is just a smattering. To all my teachers and mentors: From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all you passed on to me. I was paying attention, and my life and writing are the richer for it.
In the comments, please share the name of one of your writing mentors, and what they taught you that you’ll never forget.
Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Her women's fiction and memoir are represented by Katie Shea at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Her article, "The 7 Deadly Sins of Self-Editing," co-written with Janice Gable Bashman, appeared in the Nov/Dec issue of Writer's Digest. Her debut novel, The Art of Falling, is due out from Sourcebooks in January 2014. Her essay Memoir of a Book Deal tells the larger story while also serving as a primer on story structures. To follow her writing please "Like" her Facebook Author Page. She follows back most writers on Twitter.