Writers of the Month

Writers of the Month — October 2021

A monthly roundup of writers past and present that we just can’t get enough of.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Welcome to our monthly blog series in which we share some of our favorite writers, past and present. In Writers of the Month we feature 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 or film or television series, we go straight to the preorder page or queue it up. 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!

Edited by Nate King

Photo of Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson

‘Tis the spooky season for horror writing and not too many writers are more synonymous with that genre than Shirley Jackson. You probably have read or at least watched the adaptations of her classic novels like The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. And I’d wager you read her short story “The Lottery” at some point in your high school career. I know I did. Jackson’s influence is vast and powerful throughout the literary world, and when I read her stories it’s clear to see why. The writing itself is beautiful, and she’s particularly adept at tapping into the specific horror of mundane, everyday life. Not the fantastical beasts, ghouls, and ghosts of some horror writing, but the monsters we face on a daily basis in our own psyches. These monsters are perhaps the most horrific because, unlike made-up, mythological monsters, the demons in our minds and in our souls—the ones we are forced to confront everyday—are very real. And no one writes them like Shirley Jackson.

This month I have been revisiting Jackson’s work in preparation for this month’s episode of Nation of Writers (check out and subscribe to our podcasts here). I’m excited for this because I’ll be joined by three guests familiar with and inspired by her work, including her son Laurence Hyman Jackson, who edited the recent book The Letters of Shirley Jackson. The other guests are Jackson scholar Dr. Bernice Murphy and horror writer/editor Ellen Datlow, who edited the recent collection When Things Get Dark: Stories Inspired by Shirley Jackson. The episode airs just in time for Halloween on October 27.

—Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator

Photo of Gary Paulsen

Gary Paulsen

Earlier this week, beloved young adult author Gary Paulsen passed away at the age of 82. I felt this one. To put it bluntly, Gary Paulsen is the reason I fell in love with reading which, ultimately, is the reason I have this job writing blogs about writers I love. Thank you, Mr. Paulsen, it’s not too bad a gig. His novel Hatchet is one of the first things I remember reading. I probably read it in 4th or 5th grade but I can still vividly recall many of the scenes and the sense of wonder and intrigue they elicited in me. I grew up in the mountains of New Hampshire making forts in the woods, building fires (safely) for fun, and just generally being in the wilderness. So, suffice it say, Hatchet was right up my alley.

The AWM had the great honor of speaking with Paulsen this past January about his recent middle grade memoir Gone to the Woods, his own survival story. His life as a child was harrowing and to hear him speak of how one librarian saved his life by giving him a library card brought tears to my eyes. I highly recommend you spend some time by watching the full program on YouTube or listening to the podcast of it. Paulsen will certainly be missed, but his spirit will forever live on in the hearts and minds of young people who pick up a Paulsen story and become readers for life.

—Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator

Photo of Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele

I love Halloween, and I love watching scary movies during October. However, I am continually amused by horror movies and end up laughing through them because they are completely unbelievable. I have not actually seen a horror movie in theaters since an unfortunate incident when I was 11 when I was laughing so hard at The Ring Two my mom had to remove me from the theater. Enter Jordan Peele, a man I mistakenly thought was just a great comedian until fairly recently. Last October, I watched Us and STILL think about it a year later because it was so creepy. There was no laughing, and I was totally absorbed in the story. The acting is of course phenomenal, but it is Peele’s masterful writing that seals the deal and turns me into a true horror fan. This October, my plan is to finally watch Get Out, and I have a feeling I won’t be laughing much.

—Ari, Data Operations Coordinator

Photo of Michael Schur

Michael Schur

After getting his comedic career started as the president of the Harvard Lampoon, Michael Schur was hired as a writer on Saturday Night Live in 1997 and would go on to produce Weekend Update starting in 2001 until his departure from the show in 2004. He went on to produce and write for The Office, where he also starred as Dwight’s cousin Mose. He created both Parks and Recreation (with Greg Daniels) and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (with Dan Goor). He also wrote for Fire Joe Morgan, a sports journalism blog, under the pseudonym “Ken Tremendous” (which is also his Twitter username). He also created The Good Place, which aired on NBC. Starring Ted Danson and Kristen Bell, The Good Place expertly balanced philosophy and comedy with plot twists at every turn.

—Matt, Storyteller

Photo of Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut

If Gary Paulsen first made me fall in love with reading, then Kurt Vonnegut solidified that love. I have read and re-read so much of his work it feels ingrained in my body at this point, for better or worse. I believe God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater was the first Vonnegut title I read after pulling it out of my dad’s boxes of books in the garage when I was in high school. I quickly became a fan of his writing, especially in terms of style, voice, and themes. I re-read Breakfast of Champions and Slaughterhouse-Five often, finding solace in returning to characters like Kilgore Trout and Billy Pilgrim. I vividly remember the day he passed away and how that affected my dad. Vonnegut’s impact on my life as a reader and just simply as a human being is profound. But perhaps nothing has affected me more than the three-word refrain of Slaughterhouse-Five: “So it goes.” Just a great mantra to live by.

I am looking forward to our October 15 program with Tom Roston, author of the new book The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse-Five. This heavily researched book examines Vonnegut’s life and work leading to the publication of Slaughterhouse-Five and the result is a “a literary and biographical journey that asks fundamental questions about trauma, creativity, and the power of storytelling.” I am intrigued to hear a fresh perspective on a novel I have loved for so long. You can sign up for the in-person program at the AWM here, or register to watch the live online broadcast here.

—Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator

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