Three Women Authors Who Inspire My Writing
by C.K. Thomas
The first flake landed on a blackberry bush in the creek bottom of Meadowgate Farm. In the frozen hour before dawn, others found their mark on the mossy roof of the smokehouse; in a grove of laurel by the northwest pasture; on the handle of a hoe left propped against the garden fence.
So begins the novel Light from Heaven, by Jan Karon – and what a beginning! Can’t you just see the landscape she describes and almost feel the silent, penetrating cold on your skin?
When I read great writing by authors I admire, I yearn to write with the clarity and magic they convey on the pages of their novels. Jan Karon writes the Mitford Years novels, and her portrayals of the people and landscape of this fictitious town make me feel as if I’ve actually been there.
Consider artist and writer Margot Datz, the multitalented creator of A Survival Guide for Landlocked Mermaids. I have no idea how many copies of this particular book I have purchased as birthday gifts. The one I own came to me as a gift from a treasured friend who lives in Montana, not far from Yellowstone National Park. She has this mysterious way of knowing the perfect poem, book, or card that will touch my heart and/or tickle my funny bone. This book does both!
The artistry in this book pops with brilliant color, and the delightful prose perfectly enhances the whimsy of Datz’s mermaid drawings. How can you not want to read the book, following this compelling introduction? “This is a handbook for the landlocked mermaid, survival tips for the stranded sea nymph’s soul. She is the essence of playful femininity, coaxed from the safety of the Great Mother Ocean. Inside us she swims around in circles, longing for bigger waters. Her care and feeding unfurl in these pages. Run a bath, put your tail up, let your hair down, and slip into a comfortable mood. Your dormant mermaid is about to receive the kiss of life.”
The beginning paragraph of The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd, immediately begs the reader to ask questions. Of course we want to know how bees got into that child’s bedroom, if indeed these are the thoughts of a child.
At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin. I watched their wings shining like bits of chrome in the dark and felt the longing build in my chest. The way those bees flew, not even looking for a flower, just flying for the feel of the wind, split my heart down its seam.
I imagine goose-bumps rising on my arms as Kidd describes the hum made by the bees’ wings. These thoughts set up a longing as part of this character’s identity while also encouraging a longing in the reader to turn the page. This very busy paragraph sets the scene, helps the reader experience it through sound, sight, and feeling, while at the same time introducing a major theme of the book through this character’s imaginings.
One thing I know for sure, I’ll always read voraciously because I long for my writing to touch readers as surely and as deeply as these authors have touched me.
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.