What Living Authors and Illustrators Inspire You?

Alison Morris - December 30, 2009

An article in the January/February 2010 issue of Poets & Writers magazine lists its staff’s picks for "Fifty of the Most Inspiring Authors in the World." Alison Bechdel, Billy Collins, Joan Didion, Dave Eggers, Haruki Murakami — these five authors and forty-five more made the list after meeting the following criteria: "Fearless, inventive, persistent, beautiful, or just plain badass—here are some of the living authors who shake us awake, challenge our ideas of who we are, embolden our actions, and, above all, inspire us to live life more fully and creatively."

Reading Poets & Writers‘ selections for these rather lofty criteria got me thinking about the talented (living) authors and illustrators who are "[shaking] us awake" on the children’s and young adult side of publishing. What follows is a list of five names that I came up with, to which I’m hoping you’ll add more:

M. T. Anderson
M. T. Anderson’s startling insights about humans and humanity are clothed in such entertaining rags that you can almost forget, while reading them, that your brain is expanding.

Geraldine McCaughrean
Old tales breathe more deeply under Geraldine’s direction, and her original stories crackle with life. How does she craft such perfect similes?

Marilyn Nelson
Raw honesty and lyrical beauty mingle in the lines of Marilyn Nelson’s poetry, painting a fuller picture of our past and of our collective conscience, too.

Elizabeth Partridge
I always come away from Elizabeth Partridge’s books feeling both educated and inspired. Hers is compelling nonfiction with the perfect blend of content, context, and character. 

Shaun Tan
It seems everything Shaun Tan turns his pen or brush to emerges as something surprising, insightful, and imaginative. I can never guess what strange and beautiful things I’ll find when I turn the pages of his books, which makes me all the more anxious to do so.

Who is missing from this list? What living authors and illustrators do you think "shake us awake, challenge our ideas of who we are, embolden our actions, and, above all, inspire us to live life more fully and creatively?"

17 thoughts on “What Living Authors and Illustrators Inspire You?

  1. D Miller

    Oops — Kingsolver is my favorite adult author. Favorite inspirational children’s author is C. S. Lewis. His books definitely allow the reader to “suspend disbelief”, and they can be read on many levels.

  2. J Teruya

    Suzanne Collins, Judi and Ron Barrett, David Wiesner, Kadir Nelson, Phillip Pullman (I think someone mentioned him, Gris Grimly, and of course, J.K. Rowling. All of these authors/illustrators are keeping the magic of children’s literature alive, and making us rethink storytelling as a whole.

  3. Victor Davidson

    I reread Alan Garner year after year and like a prism he always has more angles. I walk Cheshire often to marvel his imagination. No one does dialogue better for revealing character.

  4. Mary Witzl

    I’ll go along with Barbara Kingsolver, whose prose is so natural and seemingly effortless, I always feel like I’m right there, in her stories. Also, Kazuo Ishiguro, Terry Pratchett, Annie Proulx, Khaled Hosseini, Amy Tan, Bill Bryson, and P D James.

  5. Brook

    Barbara Kingsolver is speaking at a writers’ conference Mexico in February 2010. Does anyone know anything about it? Someone mentioned in a reading group that she is going to speak and lead workshops at a conference. Does anyone know anything about it? Thanks. I want to go!

  6. Brook

    This is truly inspiring. Barbara Kingsolver will be presenting writers’ workshops at the San Miguel Writers Conference in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico February 19-23 2010. I just signed up. It looks like a rare opportunity to meet her. Are you going?

  7. anne

    For illustrators that especially ‘inspire’ me ~ Catia Chien, Laura Carlin, Yoko Tanaka, Jon Klassen, Tim Ering, Shaun Tan, Melissa Sweet, Carson Ellis, Roberto Innocenti & Chris Raschka.


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