As we close out this week of guest blogging at Powell's, it seemed appropriate to reflect a bit on all the wonderful writers who enabled me to reach this point. No writer reaches publication without the help of other people, and I've been very lucky to work with some fantastic authors. Maybe some of these writers are new to you and I do hope you add their work to your reading list.
The late Barry Hannah was a major influence on my life and work. I stumbled into his graduate workshop as a sophomore in college. He let me stay because he was a fan of the '60s-era tune "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" and he responded well to my name. During that first semester, I was so intimidated by Hannah that nightmares about him plagued me over the months. But we became friends and worked together for the rest of my undergraduate and then graduate studies. Hannah's recent passing still troubles me but I'm comforted by the wonderful memories I have of whiling away the hours in his office. The seminal short story collection Airships is probably the most critically acclaimed of his works, but I'm also a huge fan of Bats Out of Hell and Captain Maximus. Be sure to check them out if you want to experience a writer who uses language unlike anyone else in the world.
T.R. Pearson was a hugely influential teacher. Known for his sprawling Southern novels, Pearson has pared his work back in recent years. Blue Ridge features Pearson's trademark dialect but with a more straight ahead plotline. And Seaworthy: Adrift with William Willis in the Golden Age of Rafting is an unusual venture into nonfiction. The book focuses on an adventurer (and slightly crazed man) who builds a raft by hand and sails from South America to Australia. The voice in this book is pitch-perfect and reading it is a wonderful way to spend an evening.
At this point, Mark Richard may be more well-known for his work in television and movies than for his literature. But I owe Richard a tremendous debt as he presided over some major writing breakthroughs for me. I have a tattered, stained copy of his short story "The Birds for Christmas" torn out of a magazine that I pass around to this day. Informed by his own history in children's hospitals, the short story is the foreboding and oddly sweet tale of sick children getting a special television viewing. Luckily, the tale was finally collected in Charity, so I can give my ripped-up pages a rest.
Cynthia Shearer has always been a kind and generous soul and her novels The Wonder Book of the Air and The Celestial Jukebox occupy prized positions on my bookshelf and make me long to return to the South.
Professor, literary critic, and writer David Galef encouraged and pushed me into new directions. Incredibly rigorous and hard driving, while also being supportive and encouraging, Galef's Turning Japanese and How to Cope with Suburban Stress are well worth checking out.
Stephen Graham Jones, Andrew Vachss, Mike Magnusson, Dayne Sherman, and A. J. Jacobs were also very encouraging and helpful over the years.
In addition to having produced amazing pieces of literature, all these writers are fantastic and kind people. I hope you'll spend some time learning about their work and reading their wonderful books.
While we're talking about good people, I would like to thank the fantastic staff at Powell's for hosting me this week. It's been a lot of fun.
And thank you, reader, for following along this week. I hope we can cross paths again soon.