photo-2It’s been a crazy week. Aren’t they all? Today, I’m running to the solace of my favorite writers to put the world back to right again.

I have to start with Hemingway, because he’s my favorite. He knew how to tell a story. I especially love when he writes about writing. He believed in finding that “one true sentence.” And he liked to end his writing day right in the middle of a scene, that way he had a place to begin when he returned.

I enjoy Faulkner’s lack of punctuation. I trust him on it (there’s that trust factor again) and I enjoy the ride. I liken reading Faulkner (yes, liken) to riding down an old dirt road a little too fast, and then taking your seatbelt off. In the middle of what seems like crazy prattle, surprising confession and adventure emerge. Really, who else could write a tale about a dead woman and toss in the woman’s own present-day-dead thoughts?

This next writer is a poet. When you read her, even wrecklessly, you start to see a pattern. I’d say every seventh or eighth poem (because she wrote and kept them in numerical order), she wrote about the insights she had when dealing with people. She really could see through all the pretense and could cut right to the chase. A master at human motive. I’m talking about Emily Dickinson. Next time you’re at Barnes and Noble, look up to the writers depicted on the wall near the ceiling. The Greats are carrying on in a barroom or café together, laughing, drinking, reading, writing, sharing ideas. And then there’s Emily, staring straight back at you. Whoever put her there thinks about her the same way I do.

I love Aaron Sorkin’s writing, the way he connects one small sentence at the beginning of an episode to the “Crispin Crispian” moment at the end. I’m thinking of the Newsroom here, and the brilliance of the episode where the staff write checks to Will because they realize the greater importance. I’m also thinking of the line from West Wing, “I’m Toby Ziegler. I work at the White House.” These are writing moments that stick with you–even years after the fact they give you goose bumps and move you to tears. Truly, I get through daily life by thinking about these story lines.

Neil Gaiman rises to the top of the list. There’s always a hint of warm darkness from him, from the alien in love with a machine on a wasteland planet, to the child’s bravery when faced with monster parents, to a demon’s love of humans that prompts him to team up with an angel to try to save mankind… Okay, sometimes there’s more than a hint of darkness. But it’s the warmth in that darkness that is so signature Gaiman. And he’ll make you laugh out loud, literally.

There are plenty more writers who make my Greats list, and all for different reasons. Today, these are the ones I come back to, and honestly, I come back to these five a lot. In my mind, I spend my days with them. I study them. I listen to their advice. And I practice. Oh, do I practice.

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My first novel, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

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