Today (since I’m suffering from severe writer’s block & could use some inspiration), I want to talk about my writing inspirations.
Not my PERSONAL inspirations or my style inspirations, because those are completely and totally different people. This is what inspires me as a writer. Women (and, yes, they’re all women. Sorry dudes. I love you and all, but I’ve been the most “inspired” by my fellow ladies).
As I’ve stated before, these are women I look up to. I’ve read their books. I read their blogs. I anxiously await to read what they are doing next. Some of them are political, some aren’t, and one is political in a round-about way (but more on that later). Basically, these are the women I look to when I need a little “pick-me-up” and a reminder of why I love the written word.
#1. Jen Lancaster
Her first memoir (“Bitter is the New Black”) came out in 2006, just as I was graduating from college and going into the “Real World”. I took a position with a political group that required me to move to New England for a few months. Aside from my former college roommate, I knew absolutely NO ONE in the area. I was already stressed about my job and was horribly lonely. I picked Jen’s book up at a Border’s (RIP) and tore through it in about a day. It was the tale of Jen’s unemployment after September 11, 2001. Most unemployment memoirs (is there such a thing) aren’t funny. But Jen’s was. She was (is) a snarky, narcissistic, former sorority girl with a loud mouth, obsession with shoes and an insane need to always be right (plus, she’s a Republican!). We could be twins separated at birth (by fifteen or so years). I had never really given any thought to writing “creative non-fiction”, but after reading Jen, I thought “hey, maybe there IS a market for this! I’ve gobbled up every book she’s written since, given copies to my girlfriends for holidays, and took a trip out to Chicago for my birthday last year to meet her (and Jen Weiner). She was incredibly lovely and funny in person (just as she appears in her books) and was so excited to hear that we had come all the way from Ohio. Her latest foray into fiction (“If You Were Here”, pictured above) is EXACTLY the type of book that I hope to write. She’s the first person I think of when someone asks me “What kind of books do you want to write?” She’s the perfect example of how funny and well-written women’s fiction is not dead.
#2 Jennifer Weiner
Easily my very favorite living writer. The first book I ever read that she wrote was “In Her Shoes” (you may have seen the Cameron Diaz-Toni Collette film, but the book was a million times better). Technically classified as “chick lit” (which seems to have some people wrinkle their noses), but I consider it really well-written women’s fiction. Though not as laugh-out-loud funny as Jen Lancaster, Jen Weiner is hands-down the best writer in her genre (and probably one of the best, if not THE best, in ANY genre). Her characters are flawed & complete, her plots well thought out and detailed and her clip and pacing is something to be admired. She’s the type of writer that other writers read and go “Damn, I wish I had written that!” Her stories are typically more emotional than other “chick lit” writers and often handle more serious topics (adultery, rape, adoption, etc.), but she handles them so well that you forget that you’re reading about some really heady and heavy things. I don’t think I can even name my favorite of her books, but it’s probably a tie between “Goodnight Nobody” (which, IMO, was her funniest and quirkiest novel) and “Best Friends Forever” (a story about, yes, best friends). When I’m feeling a little fancy (as in, not writing about my latest incident with the Homeowner’s Association), I try to channel Jen Weiner. I’ve started a new thing “WWJWD” (what would Jennifer Weiner Do) to help me along when I’m feeling stuck. Also, she’s so incredibly nice & bubbly. When I met her & she found out it was my birthday, she gave me a HUGE hug and told me she loved my dress. Adorable that one (and she’s as obsessed with the Bachelor/ette as I am!)
#3 Mary Matalin
Sort of a cop out because she’s not exactly known for being a “writer-writer”, but as a political op, best known for her role as Political Director of Bush-Quayle ’92 (and for marrying the Ragin’ Cajun, Democratic Strategist, James Carville!). But it was Mary that made me see that there was (is) a place for women in Republican politics. I became entrenched in the political world during the 2000 election and the first time I saw her was on Crossfire with her husband, James Carville. She was so sassy and smart and completely broke the mold on what I thought Republican strategists and pundits should be (white, male and unfunny). I heard she wrote a book about her experiences on the campaign trail with her husband called “All’s Fair in Love, War and Running for President”. My mom bought it for me for Christmas, I read it in about three days and I was hooked. I wanted to be Mary. A Republican, for sure, she’s not afraid to speak her mind (or differ from the GOP talking points). “All’s Fair” was the first book I read that completely changed my life. It made me see that a career in politics was not just a dream, but completely possible. I got to meet Mary last year and, just like my other two heroes, she was nothing but lovely and wonderful when I told her how much I had looked up to her. Ten (almost twelve, yikes!) years later, I still turn to “All’s Fair” when I need some political inspiration.
#4 Emily Giffin
Author of one of my very favorite stories, “Something Borrowed” and a former lawyer. It’s easy to see why I identify with Emily—she’s a blonde (though WAY blonder than me) lawyer-turned-author. I’m a blonde (though no so much anymore) law student-turned-attempted-writer. She’s the perfect example of going in one direction for many years and then deciding that it’s not for you and doing something else that you love. She may not be the best technical writer (like Jennifer Weiner) and she’s definitely not as funny as Jen Lancaster (but who is? except maybe me…), but her writing has something else in it: you can tell she’s lived another life and really uses her real-world experiences in her stories. Her novels have gotten a little darker, which is ok, but I much prefer the lighter “Something Borrowed’ and “Something Blue.” What she (and both Jens) do really well is take a genre (“chick lit”) that is typically alllll about romance and instead turn out stories that are more about self-realization and friendship than getting the guy. Even at its core, “Something Borrowed’ is a friendship story first, a love story second. I dig that.
#5 S.E. Cupp
S.E. Cupp is the girl I want to be best friends with. She’s written a few books (“Why You’re Wrong About the Right” and “Losing Our Religion”) and has been a columnist for several different media outlets. Like, Mary Matalin, she doesn’t write fiction. But unlike Mary, she IS known for being a writer (and a pretty good one). What I love most about S.E. is that she’s an unapologetic conservative who writes about conservative issues and conservative viewpoints without coming across as preachy or weird (like many in the media and on the left want young conservative women to appear). She tries things just for the sake of trying them (hunting, getting involved in NASCAR, learning about religion) and to make herself a more interesting and educated person. Plus, she’s really funny and REALLy nice. The first time I heard about her, I automatically threw her in the Ann Coulter/Laura Ingraham/Michelle Malkin camp (don’t get me wrong, I like all of those women and regularly read what they have to say. But notice none of them got a place on my inspiration list. You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. Just sayin’), but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw she wasn’t yelling at other guests on news shows and that her writing had a more funny, conversational tone than some of the other more legal/factual/abrasive others. She’s the female conservative voice that I want to be “when I grow up”
that brings up to the bonus. And it will probably shock most of you.
#Bonus Kristin Gore
Yup, as in daughter of Al and Tipper. Most of you are probably scratching your heads going “But isn’t she a Democrat, Stacey? Like a big one?” Sure, she probably (definitely) is. But I don’t admire her for her political views. I admire her for her two novels, “Sammy’s Hill” and “Sammy’s House”. “Sammy’s Hill” is no joke, probably one of my top 3 favorite “chick lit” novels and probably on my top 15 list of “All-Time Reads”. Kristin managed to take my two favorite things: women’s fiction (“chick lit” sounds so degrading) and politics. She created by far my FAVORITE book heroine of ALL TIME, Sammy Joyce. Sammy’s a junior staffer to a Senator from Ohio (O-H-I-O!) and lives in DC. She’s incredibly quirky (some would say “weird”) that finds herself in odd situations that she needs to talk her way out of (a congressional hearing in 20 minutes and her star testifier is an older man that’s high as a kite on weed? walking into the office with two COMPLETELY different shoes on? knocking over a Washington Post reporter and stabbing him with a pen—accidentally of course?). I loved loved loved Kristin’s stories and found myself not wanting to move to DC to join the politics ranks, but to observe my pals in politics and then write a book about them 🙂
So that’s it. My list of ladies who inspire me to keep writing and keep keepin’ on.
Do any of you have people that inspire you in your chosen career path?