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Who influences your writing?

Many people ask me to name writers whose work influenced my writing. The answers are quite varied.

Perhaps because I began my career as a reporter for a small town daily newspaper (The Concord Tribune), I’m drawn to works by reporters-turned-novelists. My favorite one is Mitch Albom. My copy of his Tuesdays with Morrie looks like it has been through a war; it’s bedraggled and tear-stained. (If a book makes me cry, I consider it well-written.) When one of Albom’s characters “howled at God,” I wanted to steal that line so badly! Those three little words have huge impact.

Even when they become novelists, reporters like Albom, Rick Bragg, and Bruce Cameron still write in a style that is reporter-like: honest, genuine, and concise―yet detailed and colorful enough “to sell papers,” as we used to say.

On the other end of the writing spectrum, there’s William Falkner, whose “stream of consciousness” style I love. However, I use that style in small doses, because not every reader has the patience for it. Sometimes it’s called for, and sometimes it’s not.

Finally, one of my all time favorite writers is David in the Psalms in the Bible. He wrote with such passion and angst. I turn to his words, repeatedly, when I feel like I need to hear from someone who understands pain―and joy―and where joy comes from.