I'm a ball of clay. That's what I am. Of course, I imagine it could be argued, from a religious standpoint, that I am less a ball of clay than the product of some dirt, and a rather inventive deity. But as a writer, as the individual responsible for placing words to page in an orderly and conceptual way, I am nothing more than what I have been molded to be. From a lumpy little mass, I have been given shape, and I suppose, to some degree, I have been given a form from which to mold others. Does that make me a cookie cutter? Or do I just pee on snow angels until someone comes about and says, "Say, that's some mighty fine peeing. What say you teach me your artistic ways?"
Where was I? Oh, yes, clay. So, there's two sides to this whole shaping out of clay thing. There's the obvious, and then there's person or persons behind the curtain making subtle additions and suggestions to the mold, in order to better assist it into a serviceable shape.
My writing is comical, it is satirical, it is blatantly chock full of sarcasm (I told you I could make money being sarcastic mom!), and it is, above all, absurd. These traits, to a larger degree, I come by honestly, and are nothing more than a representation of who I am, on a daily basis. But I would be remiss to look beyond the two writers who have most influenced my literary insanity: Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. One is globally known, and the other is only now finding a foothold--sadly as his mind fades, and Alzheimer's takes the best of his heart. But these are obvious to me, and to many who have read my work. Influence of this magnitude is as visible as the angst of a wild donkey in the Nevada desert (look, seriously, it sounds off-hand and bizarre, but the donkeys in Nevada are frightening...just have a go with one and see how you fare), and almost seems a bit trivial in discussion. You could probably count in the thousands of published writers who have been influenced by Adams. You might not want to converse with them, but hey, that's a different matter, isn't it?
No, I want to speak of influence from the other side of the page.
David L. Robbins is a monster of a man. No, really. He's 6 feet, 6 inches tall, and weighs in well above 250 pounds of mostly muscle. I'd pit him against the Nevada donkeys, if that tells you anything. But aside from that, he's a monster of a writer. A perfectionist. A man willing to spend a day on a sentence, if that's what it takes, in order to get it just right. He uses only the words that are necessary to tell his tale, and no more. And I do believe that his next work, Broken Jewel (Simon & Schuster, Nov 2009) will blast him into the stratosphere. I have had the honor of studying under his tutelage for nearly eight years now. He's brutal. He will tear your work apart, but still find three things he loves for every one he doesn't. He expects you to learn, or he won't waste his time. He's a bear, in that same way I have always believed Hemingway probably was.
I have always known, should I have concerns over my work or if I were to wonder where it was in terms of quality, that I could go to David and let him rip it apart. I, and in turn my work, is better off for it. It never leaves a session without improvement. I have never failed to understand writing, from a deeper level, after talking it through with David. He is a true mentor, and through his dedication to molding my lumpy bit of clay I call, 'writing', he has become a great friend. And David is pretty much all over the place with it. He helped form the James River Writers, in Richmond to better serve both the local and regional community of writers he longed to help, has taught writing at both Virginia Commonwealth and William & Mary.
It's like I have a man-crush, isn't it? Jeez.
Anyway, I would not be where I am without him. Sure, I could have learned from someone, from somewhere, some day, but I would have lost a great deal of knowledge, and ultimately, skill. Behind every writer, there is another writer. It's up to the writer who gains to pass it on.