A monthly roundup of writers past and present that we just can’t read enough of.
Hey there! Happy New Year! This year we’re excited to start a new monthly blog series in which we’ll share some of our favorite writers, past and present. Those writers who we always return to and no matter how many times we read them they make us feel something new. The ones who, when they announce a new book, we go straight to the preorder page. The writers whose Instagram stories we always watch and whose tweets we always retweet. The writers who feel almost like a real friend.
This series is not meant to determine the Best Writer, but rather to highlight the writers each of us at the American Writers Museum are particularly fond of in a given month, a day, a moment. We hope to introduce you to writers you’re unfamiliar with or inspire you to revisit a writer you haven’t read in a while. Perhaps you’ll see your favorite writer on one of our lists!
So, without further ado here are January’s Writers of the Month.
Edited by Nate King
I’m a big fan of Wes Anderson movies because of the beautiful visuals, quirky characters, clever dialogue and music. His first film that I saw was 1998’s Rushmore and I was obsessed with it and the movie’s soundtrack. In 2014, a good friend of mine gifted me with Matt Zoller Seitz’s The Wes Anderson Collection, a book-length conversation with the writer/director interspersed with critical essays, photos and artwork.
Some interesting tidbits I learned from the book are the many other writers who have influenced Anderson. J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye was an influence on many early Anderson films. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey was a major influence on Anderson and Owen Wilson’s original screenplay for The Royal Tenenbaums. References to Charles Schultz’s Peanuts are scattered throughout Anderson’s filmography. He conceived Rushmore’s Max Fischer character as a combination of Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Orson Welles is one of his cinematic heroes for his gothic sensibility and creation of characters that tend to be larger than life. The screenplay for the stop motion cartoon Fantastic Mr. Fox was liberally adapted from Roald Dahl’s novel of the same name. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou has been reviewed as a comic re-telling of Moby Dick. In addition, I could tell the “Wes Anderson style” was very influential on writer/director Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, adapted from Christine Leunens’ Caging Skies. I also highly recommend Jojo Rabbit.
—Karie, Director of Marketing & Private Events
I was late to the Gillian Flynn game, reading Gone Girl about three years later than everyone else. I was introduced to her as a writer when I picked up Sharp Objects as a Book of the Month pick. I quickly read the rest of her works, and still think about her plot twists and general character development. Gone Girl has been a re-read book of mine, and I notice something different with each re-read. Flynn also released a TV series in September, Utopia, which is available on Amazon Prime.
If you enjoy Flynn as a writer, other books/authors I suggest are A.J. Finn’s The Women in the Window, Paula Hawkins’ Girl on the Train, and Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10.
—Catherine, Signature Events & Donor Relations Manager
This isn’t about one writer, but rather a shout out to the many writers we relied upon heavily in 2020 as we needed clear, concise and honest reporting this past year more than most. I am grateful for the reporters who risked their safety to document police violence at protests, the writers who effectively explained the science of pandemics in layman’s terms, the political analysts who tried their best to cover a monumental, yet wacky presidential election, and so many more necessary voices.
For me, Block Club Chicago is my go-to for local news and their daily coronavirus emails allowed me to keep up to date on the latest news about COVID-19. On the national level, I found The Atlantic’s coronavirus coverage to be especially nuanced and detailed, in particular science writer Ed Yong’s work. The Atlantic also had compelling and informative coverage about the elections, book recommendations, mental health strategies and so much more. Who knows how I would’ve made it through 2020 without honest and reliable reporters. So, tip of my press cap to you, journalists. Let’s hope you can catch your breath this year.
—Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator
Martin Luther King, Jr.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. Day approaches, I like to take a moment to appreciate the writing of Dr. King. We often hear and see his speeches, but when I read his speeches I appreciate his deft writing skills in a different way. For example, check out his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech and you’ll see him build up to the “I have a dream” refrain, making that repetition all the more effective.
And also read his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (where he is pictured), an open letter about nonviolent resistance. It is a great example of persuasive call-to-action and gave us the enduring line, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This letter is also a testament to writers who will write no matter what. While imprisoned in solitary confinement, King didn’t have writing paper when he began drafting the letter so he used the margins of a newspaper editorial. When a writer like MLK is compelled to write, he’ll do whatever it takes.
—Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator
I am a big fan of science fiction and Rod Serling built the space rocket that launched the genre. The creator of The Twilight Zone was monumentally influential across television and films, and his influence can even be seen in YouTube videos and internet stories of today. Not only did Serling revolutionize writing for television, but I also recently learned that he was a strong social justice advocate. While he may not have been able to go as far as he liked, his insistence on a diverse crew for The Twilight Zone allowed shows like Star Trek to have minority actors play major roles.
I haven’t seen the latest reboot of The Twilight Zone with Jordan Peele hosting, but I really enjoy finding the nods to Serling’s work in movies like Peele’s Get Out.
—Ari, Data Operations Coordinator
Edited by Nate King
Nate is the Content & Communications Coordinator for the American Writers Museum. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2014 with a B.A. in Journalism and a penchant for American literature. For three years he waited tables while developing a healthy writing habit, during which time he became a regular blogger for the AWM blog. Originally from the mountains of New Hampshire, Nate moved to Chicago in 2015.