Several years ago, I attended a four-day summer workshop at the Chautauqua Institute. The facilitator started out each day asking us who our “literary heroes” are. She said that we all need to have them because those are the people who not only inspire us, but influence us, and through their own successes, encourage us.
At the time I mentioned the usual suspects: The old school guys: Hemingway, Irwin Shaw, John Jakes, and Ben Franklin (my favorite hero). Then the more contemporary writers: Mary Higgins Clark, Anne Lamott, Mary Karr, Walter Mosley, David Sedaris, Jeannette Walls. . . .
After my novel, Peggy Sue Got Pregnant, came out, and about 100 of my friends and family attended the book launch party, it reminded me of those right in my own hometown who influence and inspire me. And because both writing and music are my greatest passions, I don’t have just literary heroes, I have musical ones, too.
And on the Lake Erie shore, there are boatloads of each. If you aren’t aware of the great talents on the North Coast, this blog is for you.
Of course, it’s always risky when you start naming names because you’re bound to leave some deserving people out. However, these are merely the people who have touched me personally, and I feel a great need to acknowledge them, for a couple of reasons. First, their individual career successes always give me hope when evil doubt creeps in. And second, their work just makes me happy.
I also mention them because, if you’re an aspiring writer, or musician, you need to be a part of that community. After all, you read good books to learn from the author. And you play the music by those you desire to emulate. And how wonderful if they happen to be in your own backyard, so to speak. Then you can attend their booksignings or talks, or go to a club and hear the musicians play live and even chat with them between sets. These are the people who will not only inspire you, but be your greatest cheerleader. And oftentimes, be someone you can call (or email) when you’re so frustrated with your work, you’re thinking about becoming a WalMart greeter. . . .
So here are the ones that do it all for me. Remember, there are plenty more—these are just those who have personally inspired, encouraged, and leave me in awe of their talents. I share their names, and (most recent) works, so you can be aware of them and perhaps learn from them, as I have, and experience the creative joy that Cleveland brings.
Casey Daniels. The hardest working author I know, who can write a book faster than I can read it! Her latest: Supernatural Born Killers. She also writes books under the pseudonym, Kylie Logan. Kylie’s latest is: Mayhem at the Orient Express.
Erin O’Brien. An author who gave up a lucrative job for a not-so-lucrative living as a writer. But she’s doing it, and doing it well. Her latest book is The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts.
Les Roberts. A guy who loves Cleveland more than any other city in the world. My kind of guy. Now working on his umpteenth number book, his most recent is Win, Place, or Die.
Sarah Willis. Always read her to learn more. (A Good Distance, among others). Connie Shultz. Tells it like it is. ( . . . And His Lovely Wife)
Regina Brett. When I’m not sure how I feel about something, Regina gives me ways of looking at things that helps me figure it out. (Be the Miracle)
Paula McLain. An international best-selling author who has managed to remain humble, hardworking, and always gracious when you meet her. (The Paris Wife)
Gail Ghetia Bellamy. A Ph.D in creative writing and former Cleveland Heights poet laureate, and always willing to share her knowledge. Written Cleveland’s Food Memories, Cleveland’s Christmas Memories, with more to come.
Marsha McGregor. An accomplished essayist, her work is included in YOU. An Anthology of Essays Devoted to the Second Person.
Carole Calladine. A fellow writer’s group member, Carole is always working on something new, and interesting. Her latest book is, Second Story Woman: A Memoir of Second Chances.
Anne McFarland. Another fellow writers’ group member who’s always writing more than one book at a time. Her book, Next Friend: A Journal of a Foster Parent, is written under the name Anne Southworth.
Barbara McDowell. She doesn’t have a book out yet, but remember her name. She’s the next Stephen King – female version.
Diane Taylor. Another soon-to-be author whose prolific imagination leaves me in awe.
Iris Llewellyn Angle. A woman who’s turned tragedy into personal triumph. (Tell Your Story Walking: One Mother’s Legacy)
Lisa and Laura Roecker. These are sisters who, in the midst of raising children, write very popular YA novels, in their “spare” time. Latest title, This is WAR.
Trudy Brandenburg. This enthusiastic author has taken her love of a sport and turned it into great stories. Her new book is Peacocks on Paint Creek: An Emma Haines Kayak Mystery.
And Aileen Gilmour . . . who published her first novel at age 80, and a few years later, completed another one, and already working on her next. SHE is a true hero!
Cleveland-area Groups and Musicians:
The Alan Greene Band. One of the best in Cleveland – their newest CD is No Stranger to Blues. Like most bands that have lasted as long as this one has, there have been a few member changes, so I also want to acknowledge former members, John Daubenspeck, Mike Miheli, and Bill “Mr. Stress” Miller, each one amazing in their own right.
The Elm Street Blues Band. Another longtime group whose amazingly skilled guitarist, Danny McFadden, was once my very, very patient guitar teacher. Drummer Hank’s motto is “You can’t have too much fun.” And it’s true when you listen to this band.
Michael Stanley. One would be remiss not to include him in any mention of local talent. He and his band, MSB, gave us Clevelanders great times that turned into great memories, but I admire him most for continually pumping out terrific music on his own. His latest CD is The Ride.
Carlos Jones. The best in reggae. If everyone listened to his music, there’d be peace throughout the world… The Stone Pony Band. This nine-piece (yes, you read right) band not only plays great Springsteen and Southside Johnny covers—among others—but lead singer, Kelly Derrick, clearly loves what he does (and so good at it) and a great example of always striving to perform your best, even if you may have had a rough day. And he’s done it for years while working a day job.
Then there are those who teach little kids to rock, and that inspires me too. They are all heroes in my book, but drummer, Tommy Rich, and guitarist, Snake Rock, are among my personal ones because their enthusiasm over music can inspire anyone, and that’s just what children need to keep working at it – while still having fun.
So there you have it. A long list, but an important one. So who are your creative heroes?