New Writers for Me

Recent reading has been interesting. I’ve been sinking into some writers and their series. Some of these writers you all might know very well. But their work is new to me, and since I am the center of the universe, I’m going to share them with you like I discovered them. Cue haughty sniff.

In all seriousness, however, I can’t think that anything would delight a writer more to discover that new readers have been turned on to the body of her work. Why yes, these writers ARE all female.

Let’s get the trendy one out of the way first.

Suzanne Collins: Recently I devoured The Hunger Games. It is far from a perfect book. It’s a bit over the top, with a ton of melodrama. Just the way I like it. 🙂 Yup, I’m a sucker for this sort of thing. Not only is the story adventuresome and riveting, and the setting intriguing in its own right, but the characters are beautifully sketched. I haven’t read next two yet, but I will. Soon.

What is Collins’ book about? For the two of you on the planet that don’t know, here’s some copy from The School Library Journals: In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives. Collins’s characters are completely realistic and sympathetic as they form alliances and friendships in the face of overwhelming odds.

I just want to clarify Peeta is much cooler than this blurb makes him out to be.

I love The Hunger Games as a fan, more than Collins being a writer I’d want to “grow up to be.” It’s good stuff that engages me as a reader.

Octavia Butler: I should have been reading Butler years ago while she was alive. Her work has always been recommended to me, but I slotted her as mostly an SF writer, so I didn’t get to her soon enough. Recently I’ve read Kindred, which is an IMPORTANT book, and Fledgling, which disturbed me deeply, but had an elegance and likable characters than enabled me to read through to an situation that converted me to liking all these people.

Butler’s work is sophisticated, nuanced, and complex. I can’t recommend her enough, especially her later works. There she was at the height of her powers. I regret her loss, and I regret not having opportunity to have met her and complimented her. I could hope to write that well. Not only does Butler give me something to shoot for in my own writing, but she also makes me think a lot about the topics she writes about and the way that she raises those topics.

I’ll be working my way through her canon.

Nancy Kress: Reading Nancy Kress is freaking me out. I don’t read Science Fiction. I don’t. (Not true. I read science fiction for book group and on recommendation. It’s not something, however, I seek on my own.) Beggars in Spain is science fiction. Genetic manipulation is the theme of the day. Oh my God. This might be one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s a FAMILY SAGA about people who don’t sleep and people who do sleep, and all the personal, political, and societal implications therein. Wow. Each scene is full of characters with flaws as intriguing as strengths. I can love and dislike the same character at particular moments. Of course, I’ve already bought the two sequels to the book I’m reading now.

What captures me when I read Kress are relationships. Her science is brilliant and sound. However, it’s the way those complicated, flawed characters work with each other that pulls me, literally drags me, through the book. Now, don’t get me wrong. I want to be dragged. I want Kress to take me by the hand and pull me right through the crowd of her characters. My God, she’s good.

I want to write like that. I want to compel you through my fiction. I want you to stay up late and read my stuff. Damn it. And I love reading her people.


You know, it occurs to me that there are two writers I’ve fallen in love with over the last two years that I could study with as a student, if I wanted to. Next year’s personal fundage is committed to 25th anniversary antics (Disney Paris, baybee!) , BUT professional development comes up again with the college, and the boss is encouraging me to apply for workshops once again.

Nancy Kress teaches at Taos Toolbox in Taos, NM. I know she will not teach there indefinitely, but she’s there now.

Kij Johnson teaches a novel workshop at the Center for Science Fiction in Lawrence, Ks.

I should be doing something about that.

It’s wonderful to be reading such excellent writing.


Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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