Mentor March:
Writers Who Inspire Us

Absolute Blank

By Theryn Fleming (Beaver)

In the spirit of popular Twitter hashtags #FollowFriday (#FF) and #WriterWednesday (#WW), we bring you #MentorMarch, in which the Toasted Cheese editors share some of the working writers who are currently inspiring us. Not confined to any one genre, the list spans the spectrum of writing, including novelists, non-fiction writers, children’s authors, screenwriters, journalists, critics, bloggers, poets, and essayists, many of whom are multihyphenates.

Add your own inspirations on Twitter using the #MentorMarch hashtag.

Ana George (Broker)

Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself), of course. He blogs and tweets. He’s also on Facebook. And he seems to enjoy engaging his public.

Justine Larbalestier (@justinelavaworm), author of How to Ditch your Fairy and Liar among others. She’s mostly a young-adult writer, but I’ve enjoyed her rich plots and interesting fantasy writing for myself. She blogged quite extensively, but then developed carpal tunnel syndrome, and now she pours most of her limited supply of keystrokes into her next book. The blog archives include quite a lot of excellent advice to up and coming writers.

Chad Orzel (@orzelc) has written a delightful popular science book called How to Teach Physics to your Dog and blogs at Uncertain Principles. He also tweets. It’s nice to see somebody who can actually explain the subtleties of modern physics (quantum mechanics, with a second book on relativity in the works) to people, doing just that.

Lisa Olson (Boots)

Wil Wheaton (@wilw). Besides being the King of the Geeks, he is actually an author. I find his blog amusing, right on track, and entertaining. His three novels (Dancing Barefoot, Sunken Treasure, Just a Geek) are on my “to-read” list.

Felicia Day (@feliciaday). Not an author, but a writer of scripts. She was kind of the front runner of internet serials (The Guild) and a total success at it. She’s also an actor. I love her blog and her tweets.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi (@inkyelbows). A children’s book author, but full of sage advice, awesome cartoons and all kinds of wonderful. She does online cartoons such as Will Write For Chocolate, and she is illustrating a book (I’m Bored) written by Michael Ian Black due out in 2012.

Jayne Ann Krentz (@JayneAnnKrentz) (aka Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle). A romance writer, I went through most of her Amanda Quick books. I loved The Third Circle and see that Wicked Widow is on my shelf. She had a blog in conjunction with some other romance writers, but it’s since gone defunct. Her website is still going—as is she.

And last, I follow all of the Toasted Cheese editors. Beaver‘s tweets are usually really awesome for writers or just for a good belly laugh. Baker is always hysterical—you can’t make up the shit she writes down. Billiard is always sweet and full of life.

Erin Bellavia (Billiard)

John Scalzi (@scalzi) makes me laugh on a regular basis, but he’s also been known to make me cry. He gives great advice about writing, and he once famously taped bacon to his cat. Need I say more?

Meg Cabot (@megcabot) is endlessly entertaining. I love her sense of humor, her interaction with fans, and I am in awe of her productivity.

Laurie Halse Anderson (@halseanderson), author of Speak, is quite simply one of my favorite authors writing today. I especially appreciate all of the resources she offers for teachers.

Seanan McGuire (@seananmcguire). Full disclosure—Seanan is a good friend, but I’d follow her even if she wasn’t. Her dedication and work ethic are inspiring, and she frequently posts fantastic insight and advice. The fourth book in her October Daye series, Late Eclipses, came out earlier this month.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi (@inkyelbows). Debbie is also a friend, and she never fails to inspire me. It’s not exaggerating to say that she is one of my favorite people, and her optimism and joy are contagious.

Amanda Marlowe (Bellman)

Lois McMaster Bujold is a huge inspiration in my writing life. Her characters are incredibly well-rounded, and so very, very human. She has set the characterization bar high, but it’s a goal worth striving for.

On Twitter, I follow the awesome writers of the TV show Castle, including the creator Andrew Marlowe (@AndrewWMarlowe and full disclosure, yes, we are related) and his wife and fellow Castle writer Terri Miller (@TerriEdda). And of course I follow Richard Castle as well, but I will let Baker say more about him.

Judy Blume (@judyblume) was one of my favorite writers growing up. May my child characters carry the same authenticity that hers do.

I also find a lot of inspiration and good advice from the various editing and query-critiquing blogs. My two current favorites are Evil Editor and Query Shark.

I follow quite a few other writers, many of whom are already mentioned elsewhere in this article, and all of whom inspire me in one way or another.

And I would be remiss not to mention the influence that Shakespeare has been on me both as a person and as a writer. I haven’t been able to figure out which of the many accounts attributed to him on Twitter are actually his, however, as none have yet been verified…

Theryn Fleming (Beaver)

Roxane Gay (@rgay) writes short fiction, teaches English, and edits PANK amongst other things. Last year she had six (six!) stories make the Million Writers Award Notable Stories list. All of that is amazing, but she makes my list because of her blog: a brilliant mix of writerly angst, personal confession, breathtaking storytelling—and reviews of terrible (so bad they’re good) movies.

Tayari Jones (@tayari) is a novelist (her third novel Silver Sparrow comes out this spring), a creative writing professor, and a mentor to fledgling writers. That she finds the time to do all these things is an inspiration in itself. Of all the writers on my list, I’ve followed Tayari the longest, and having read her blog throughout the entire process of writing Silver Sparrow, I cannot wait to read it.

William Zinsser (born 1922) is the author of On Writing Well. You may have heard of him. What you may not know is that he blogs every Friday about “writing, the arts, and popular culture” at The American Scholar. He’s a fantastic storyteller and brings a unique perspective to a genre dominated by Gen-X and Millennial voices.

Kerry Clare (@kcpicklemethis) writes short fiction, essays, and book reviews. She’s also a long-time blogger (October 2000!) whose blog focuses mostly on books, reading and writing. A critic in the original sense of the word, she’s able to point out flaws without being mean and offer praise without being sycophantic. Her reviews have a double-goodness: they not only generate interest in reading the reviewed books, but are engaging reading in themselves.

Elisa Gabbert (@egabbert) is a poet and blogger. She’s written two books of poetry, That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness (with Kathleen Rooney) and The French Exit. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of her poetry, but I really like her blogging voice. In this interview, she says that she considers blogging as much of a form/genre as poetry—and it shows.

Stephanie Lenz (Baker)

Susie Bright (@susiebright). I’ve followed Susie personally and professionally for at least ten years, after getting my hands on the early Herotica anthologies. Her passions so closely follow my own, I can’t not follow Susie everywhere I find her. I have an autographed copy of a collection she edited (squee!), several unautographed collections as well, and a naughty phrased pro-women button sent by Susie herself. I find her her “How To Write A Dirty Story” inspiring not just for writing erotica but for writing short fiction in general. I find her frequent Twitter and Facebook updates informative and inspiring as well. She can also be found regularly on HuffPo; her most recent column is “How to Get Your Favorite Author to Visit Your Home Town.”

Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) I spend a disproportionate amount of time reading Roger Ebert every day. I’ve always read him and it never fails to surprise me how many people don’t think of Ebert primarily as a writer. His books are among my favorites, from his The Great Movies collections (also available in column format online) to Your Movie Sucks, his way with words has jived with my sensibilities (not to mention that we have similar taste, political opinions, etc.). Since losing his ability to speak, I’ve found Ebert’s ever-increasing proliferation of online writing still not enough to sate my thirst for his work. He tweets throughout the day, writes regular blog entries, and reviews current and classic films. He’s also on Facebook. I’ve subscribed to The Ebert Club (currently only $5 to subscribe, about to go up to $10 so get in while you can for $5) since the beginning and it’s so informative and fun that it takes me at least a day to savor everything in the weekly issue. I also own a rice cooker because of this.

Richard Castle (@WriteRCastle) is not only a fun writer, he’s quite a character. I follow him mostly on Twitter because he’s not on Facebook much. I hope that’s because he’s working on another Nikki Heat book. I was a little late reading Heat Wave but once I started, I could barely put it down. I don’t read many modern mysteries because it seems there’s a lot of clutter and “trying too hard” from the author (and not nearly enough female MCs). Castle’s laid back attitude (and extensive research) carries from his Twitter feed right into his fiction and it makes his writing a pleasure to read. Plus he’s 100% adorable so I tend to store his books face-down on tables.

Favorite writers/inspirations I follow include the already mentioned Neil Gaiman, Debbie Ridpath Ohi and TC editors & contributors. Feel free to follow my writing list.

Final Poll Results

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