As we worked on this issue of The Writer, a fascinating theme emerged. Of course, our primary theme is always craft. But as the stories you’re about to read took shape, we witnessed another idea surfacing: influence. That’s a powerful word in our field because it encompasses so many elements. For writers, influence derives from foundational family settings, early exposure to reading, educational access, input from editors, cultivation of senses, fascination with language. The list is long, and much of it is unknowable.
In the larger creative world, we call these markers “cultural influencers” – like the visionaries who nudge community life forward in its progress. For our purposes, we might think of influence, combined with talent, as the driving force behind what we do.
Consider Vaddey Ratner, whose story of fleeing the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia became the setting of her first novel. She talks with contributor Jack Smith about the importance of those early memories in shaping her work.
Writer Linda Nelson goes back even further into philosophical history – into the archetypal concepts of Carl Jung, whose work has aided her in interpreting dreams and tapping a unique creative voice for her work as a writer and administrator. In the world of business, Dale McGarrigle spoke with several editors about their shifting roles in a technological age, and John Moore dove into leading M.F.A. programs to discover how they animate writing students. Editors and educators: After parents, their impact may be the most profound on writers.
And then there’s The Great Gatsby. Who hasn’t been influenced by F. Scott Fitzgerald? OK, lots of people, but we believe even non-Gatsby types will enjoy reading Scott Shepherd’s insights about the novel, which he has read – and performed word for word – several hundred times. With the release of Baz Lurhmann’s dazzling new film adaptation, we wanted to drill into the process of Fitzgerald as a writer. But even if Fitzgerald isn’t your Chosen One, these stories can lead you back to a favorite writer to consider his or her structure more deeply.
What writers have influenced you? What influences your daily work as a writer? How do you open yourself to creative possibility, inspiration and direction? What steps make your product stronger in the eyes of editors, professors, mentors, readers and other writers? And what influence do you strive to have on others? We hope this issue of The Writer is influential for you in unexpected ways.