A Piece of My Mind: What Books or Authors Inspired or Influenced You?
Bennet Pomerantz

I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves.
   ~ E.M. Forster

Personal Business First

 Many write and e-mail me regarding when and where I make an appearance or appearances out of town. Well folks, I am headed for a BIG ROAD TRIP!

As you read these words between the dates of February 2-13, I won't be at my desk working. I will be teaching students at the Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn Community Schools in and near Hartley, Iowa. I must give thanks to my friend, writer and educator Linda Akwa (for without her help, this event would have never happened) and Mr. Lynn Evans, Superintendent of Schools for the invitation . I will also be doing an adult writer's workshop at the Hartley Library during my visit, which is open to all. So come and see me!

Now To Work

I received an e-mail letter from a loyal reader of this column. I enjoy getting mail from writers. I enjoy giving my opinion and help to upcoming writers. I have reprinted this e-mail letter uncut and uncensored

Dear Mr. Pomerantz, My name is Juan Gomez. I like your column and read it monthly.

What are your favorite books or authors? I mean what books or writers influence you most?

I am a writer of many short stories and found a few writers i like. Some authors such as Poe, Hawthorne, King and Benet which I liked. I try to emulate their styles in my work

Please write soon and tell me your favorites

Dear Juan

I have many favorite books that have influenced me over the years. Here is a small sampling , sorta of a Bennet's Book Club (hey if Oprah can have one, why can't I?). There is no particular order to this list, so don't expect a number one, two, etc. This is a small sampling, I just picked a few of my faves. If I had to write the long list of all those books that inspired me over the years and have it reprinted here, we would be here until 2010.

Night by Elle Wiesel (which is also an Oprah book club selection- so you see I have good taste too!). This semi auto-biographical book is the author's account of his family's time in a Nazi death camp during World War II. Wiesel's words are an account with depth unlike any other book I have ever enjoyed. If you haven't read any of Wiesel's books.... go now, get a few and see what soulful prose is about. His words influenced me by his prose capturing my interest early on.

You said you like reading short stories from Poe, Hawthorne and King. I suggest you try two short story collections from author Ray Bradbury. Bradbury is an amazing short story writer, I would suggest you seek out his work. Two classic books of his that you may enjoy are The Martian Chronicles  and The Illustrated Man. Chronicles tells tales and situation of men colonizing the red planet. One of my favorite stories from Chronicles collection is "Usher II", a thinly disguised morality play on the subject of children's fairy tales and censorship (written in the 1950's) and is still powerful today more than fifty years later. Also from Bradbury is a tale of rural farm country, shattered hopes and dreams, and a traveling carnival; the horror novel Something Wicked this Way Comes. Bradbury has influenced me by his simple narrative style in both his short tales and his novels. Also his images are filled with color that you can feel, taste, or smell.

Comedy is inspiring and has impacted me in my work, especially my weekly column. The idea of wit is important in writing for today's market place. Comedian George Carlin has always been a personal favorite of mine. His wit makes you think long after you heard him. He has translated his verbal works/comedy bits and routines into the books Brain Droppings, Napalm and Silly Putty, and When will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops. Carlin's web site is www.georgecarlin.com.

A children's book is not always a children's book. One of my favorite books is Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. (His web site www.roalddahl.com) This book and its sequel Charlie and the Glass Elevator are two books I read EVERY YEAR. If you don't know the story, let me give you a short version to wet your whistle. Willy Wonka , the great candy maker, closed his factory because other candy makers were stealing his ideas from his employees. A few years later, he puts five gold tickets in candy bars around the world for five children to visit him and his chocolate factory for a one day tour. This is where the adventure begins. Dahl's novel may seem simple, but it taught me to read between the lines in character and in text.

Juan, here are two authors I respect giving their opinion on the same question.

I did an interview with Bruce Coville in Author Showcase November 2005

BP: What author or authors do you admire?

BC: I adore the work of Charles Dickens. And recently I read The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, which is an utterly awesome book. Among current adult writers I like William Goldman and Michael Chabon. Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting is, I think, the greatest children's book of the last fifty years. But my personal role model, the man whose writing I most try to emulate, is Lloyd Alexander.

Here is what Elaine Viets said in her Author Showcase from September 2005 issue.

BP: What author or authors do you admire?

EV: This is a terrific time to be a reader. There are so many good mysteries, it's hard to keep track of them all. Plus, there's a full range of writing, from hard-boiled to traditional. I like Michael Connelly, Charlaine Harris, Jerrilyn Farmer, Lawrence Block, Barbara Parker, PJ Parrish -- I could keep on going and fill up this page.

I hope it helps, Juan

Now an Assignment

So now you've read about a few books and authors that inspire me and other authors.  Whose work influences or what author/authors inspires you?  I WANT YOUR OPINION! Pick up to three books or authors or combinations thereof ..tell me why he or she or the work inspires/influences you in your writing and/or your life. Your word count is 50-200 words total. Then please e-mail your piece/pieces in one email to [email protected] with the word BOOKS in the subject line of your e-mail (NO ATTACHMENTS PLEASE!). Deadline is May 30th, 2006. The best selections will be reprinted in "A Piece of My Mind Column" in July 2006.

And as always, Reach for the Stars!

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About the Writer:

Bennet Pomerantz is a media review columnist in 175 newspapers with his weekly column AUDIOWORLD. His fiction and reviews have appeared in the pages of Affaire De Coeur, Gateways, Mystery Scene, Power Star, The Hot Corner, Washington Entertainment Magazine, and many others. He is also known for his review appearances on the MCN Forum. View his web site at Audioworld.