Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives


There are at least 30 different ways to become a writer. Contributor Joyce Carol Oates was “mentored” by reading Alice in Wonderland as a child and Emily Dickinson as an adult; Cheryl Strayed was obsessed with Alice Munro as a young aspiring writer, and a letter Munro wrote to her made all the difference; Jane Smiley was a student in the 1970s at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, but it wasn’t her teachers who inspired her as much as her classmates, including novelist Allan Gurganus. Mary Gordon, like editor Elizabeth Benedict, studied writing at Barnard with Elizabeth Hardwick, and both have a very different take on her in their essays. Sigrid Nunez was mentored, almost accidentally, by Susan Sontag, when Nunez lived with Sontag and her son for more than a year on Riverside Drive when she was in her 20s. Of special interest to writers and readers.