“But unless we are creators we are not fully alive. What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint of clay or words. Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.”
—Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water
Charged with powerful themes that inspire the reader to question their own morality, the power of love, and humanity’s purpose, all the stories written by Madeleine L’Engle are as memorable for their plots and writing as they are their emotional impact. L’Engle had a long and prosperous career in writing, winning a plethora of awards and honorary degrees over her career for her published novels and poetry collections (of which she wrote over 50). She wrote up until the end of her life in 2007, at the age of 88.
L’Engle’s most famous science fiction series is The Time Quintet, which was lead by Newbery Award Winner A Wrinkle in Time and followed by its sequels A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Wind in the Door, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. A Ring of Endless Light and The Austin series are also a good collection of hers to explore. Many of her books also cameo or use spin-offs of characters starring in her other works, giving her books a feeling of an wholeness in the worlds she creates.
“[Publishing] is a collaborative enterprise… you have to surround yourself with good people and help them to do what they do well, as opposed to micromanaging.”
—Roberta “Robbie” Myers, “Face of Elle,” Forbes Magazine
Robbie Myers has been the editor-in-chief of Elle since 2000, and she’s forged her way to the position after an extensive career in many other areas of magazine publishing. From being an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone, assisting Andy Warhol at Interview, and working in editorial departments at InStyle and Seventeen among countless other magazines, Myers has earned the reputation of an industry leader and fashion icon.
Myers prides herself in how well she works with an supports her staff. Since working at Elle, she’s also made it her goal to ensure that content is on multiple media platforms and can survive in other mediums outside traditional printed magazine publishing. Myers is also not afraid to address serious political and social issues at Elle and has rather famously addressed an article from The New Republic that challenged the idea that women’s magazines could not do ‘serious journalism’ or write ‘literary articles,’ further gaining her much deserved respect.
“I cannot tell the truth about anything unless I confess being a student, growing and learning something new every day. The more I learn, the clearer my view of the world becomes.”
—Sonia Sanchez, “Ruminations/Reflections,” I’m Black When I’m Singing, I’m Blue When I Ain’t and Other Plays
Influential as an artist and an activist, Sonia Sanchez is an accomplished and well-respected poet, teacher, and advocate for political and social change.
Most of Sanchez’s academic and publishing career has roots in her work with the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Arts Movement, motivating her to travel and talk about her activism and read the poetry that was inspired from her experiences in workshops around the world. She’s also credited with starting the first class in America on black women and literature. She is the recipient of many awards, such as the National Endowment for the Arts, The 1985 American Book Award, The PEW Fellowship in the Arts, the Langston Hughes Poetry Award, and the Robert Frost Medal, among others.
When not writing or campaigning for causes she believes in, Sanchez works as a poet in-residence at Temple University. The melodic quality of writing found in her most recent poetry collection, Morning Haiku, is also captured in works that proceeded it: Shake Loose My Skin, Does Your House Have Lions?, Homegirls and Handgrenades, A Blues Book for a Blue Black Magic Woman, and We a Baddddd People.
“Be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf—seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life. Find out what makes you kinder, what opens you up and brings out the most loving, generous, and unafraid version of you—and go after those things as if nothing else matters. Because, actually, nothing else does.”
—George Saunders, Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness
A highly accomplished literary writer with award-winning essays and short story collections, George Saunders shows off his experimentation with language, witty humor, and thought-provoking material in all of his published works.
Despite his unconventional jump into an MFA at Syracuse University (where he teaches today) from a past of studying and working in geophysical engineering, Saunders sites this early career shift as a helpful tool that allowed him to think differently about the way he approaches his writing projects.
His first short story collection CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, was a critical success, as were his follow-up works Tenth of December, Pastoralia, and The Braindead Megaphone.
His recent publication and first full-length fiction novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, has gone on to be a New York Time’s Bestseller as of February 2017.
“The book itself is a curious artifact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one-of-a-kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were fifteen, it will tell it to you again when you’re fifty, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you’re reading a whole new book.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin, “Staying Awake: Notes On the Alleged Decline of Reading,” Harper’s Magazine
Ursula K. Le Guin is an American novelist, poet, and essayist who is most recognized for her influential work in the science fiction and fantasy genre. Though private with her personal life, she is famous for the quality and sophistication of the characters and worlds she creates. She received many accolades to commend her influential writings, including winning multiple Hugo Awards, Nebula Awards, World Fantasy Awards, and receiving a National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She is also one of the few women to be given the honor of being made a Grand Master of Science Fiction.
With numerous inspirational titles that are all great and thought-provoking reads, some of Le Guin’s better known books to start with are her Earthsea series, the Hainish Cycle series, The Lathe of Heaven, and Lavinia.
“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
–Anne Bradstreet, “Meditations Divine and Moral,” The Works of Anne Bradstreet
Anne Bradstreet was one of the most prominent early English poets in North America as well as the first female writers in the North American colonies to be published.
Inspired by the work of Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas, Bradstreet’s poetry read similar to his, but soon she developed her own unique writing style centering on her role as a mother, her struggles with the sufferings of life, and her Puritan faith.
Some of her works include: Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, and The Flesh And The Spirit
“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world, and you have to do it all the time.”
—Angela Davis during a lecture at Southern Illinois University
Angela Davis is a lifelong activist icon for many movements, from feminism to race to prisoners’ rights. As a scholar, philosopher, and writer, Davis is able to bring attention and advocate on academic and literary platforms for important social issues.
One of Davis’s most famous title Women, Race, & Class provides a poignant look at the women’s liberation movement, civil rights issues, and classism in America. Other notable titles from Davis include her follow-up Women, Culture, & Politics, Freedom is a Constant Struggle, and her self-titled autobiography.
“When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”
—Toni Morrison, in an interview for O: The Oprah Magazine
Toni Morrison is an American author, editor, literary critic, playwright, and professor. She has won numerous honorable literary and humanitarian distinctions throughout her life, such as the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Morrison’s focus on the black experience in America, as well as her refusal to include the white gaze in her works or to write for a white reading audience, is something she credits to making her works standout amongst other writers.
Morrison’s most notable works of fiction include The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Beloved, and her most recently published work God Help the Child. Some of her noteworthy nonfiction titles are Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, Birth of a Nation’hood, and Burn This Book.
“Change requires intent and effort. It really is that simple.”
—Roxane Gay, “Beyond the Measure of Men,” Bad Feminist
Roxane Gay is an essayist, writer, editor, public speaker, and professor. Gay has made a name for herself for her exemplary essay collections on feminism, namely works she featured in Bad Feminist. Some of her other works are fiction novels An Untamed State and short story collection Difficult Women.
Gay is also one of the writers for Marvel’s comic series Black Panther: World of Wakanda along with poet Yona Harvey, and together they are the first black women to be lead writers for Marvel.
In between books and tours, Gay shares her poetry, links various works,and shares her thoughts on a wide array of topics on her personal blog.
“In my years, I have seen that people must be their own gods and make their own good fortune. The bad will come or not come anyway.”
—Octavia Butler, Wild Seed
Influential science fiction writer Octavia Butler was a true genius of the genre, amassing a strong following for her series, standalone novels, and short stories.
Committed since her youth to becoming a popular science fiction author, Butler persevered tirelessly to make a name for herself despite the challenge of being black and a woman in a genre dominated by white male authors. Not only did Butler succeed at establishing herself as a famous author, she also won prestigious awards, such as the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Locus Award. She was the first science fiction author honored with the MacArthur Foundation fellowship.
The quote above was pulled from Butler’s prequel for her Patternist series,which approaches serious real-world topics such as sexism and slavery, to name a few, unflinchingly through supernatural characters and situations. Other noteworthy series from her include her Xenogenesis trilogy and the Earthseed books.