9 Fantastic Authors We’d Take A Writing Seminar From

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Abby Hargreaves

Staff Writer

Abby Hargreaves is a New Hampshire native living and working as a Children’s Librarian in Washington, D.C. She fulfills the gamut of the librarian stereotype with a love of cats, coffee, and crocheting (and likes a good run of alliteration). Her MLIS degree enjoys the company of a BA in English from Hollins University, making Abby an advocate of women's universities. Her favorite color is yellow.

Over the summer, I decided to put some of my free time to use and purchased Maggie Stiefvater’s writing seminar. She’d been on the road with it for a while before the pandemic and made it virtual with a few dozen videos available on Etsy. I’d been keeping an eye on the item for a while, seesawing on whether or not I’d purchase it and when it went on sale, I pounced. As it happens, the seminar was so insightful and articulated so much of the writing process that I’d struggled with that it would have been worth full price—and probably more. I’ve been a longtime fan of Stiefvater’s, who is best known for her Raven Cycle series, starting with The Raven Boys. As she hammers on in the seminar, she has a great handle on how to bring about the emotional truth of a story in her writing, and the seminar did a great job laying out how she does it not just in theory but in practice. But this isn’t just an ad for the Stiefvater seminar, much as I might recommend it. Once I’d finished the seminar, I got to thinking about who else I’d like to take a writing class from, and I asked other Book Riot contributors who they’d like to learn from, too.

These are the results. Keep in mind, we have no idea whether these writers would be pros at teaching how to do what it is they do. Sometimes we can’t even articulate to ourselves how it is we accomplish the things we are best at in a way that is meaningful to others. So come play in our fantasy world and find out whose writing we thing is a thing to behold and wish we could break down to a model for our own writing success. 

Mary H. K. Choi, Author of Emergency Contact 

Choi’s writing has a great undercurrent that sets the mood for her books beautifully, getting at what I now—thanks to Stiefvater’s writing seminar—understand to be the emotional truth in a subtle, yet still powerful way. She takes full advantage of unique approaches to telling the story that are refreshing while still feeling natural. I’d love to get a better idea of the mechanics behind what makes this work for her. There’s something that leans literary about her fiction while still being accessible, and discovering the craft—or science—behind that would be invaluable. So, Ms. Choi, whenever that writing seminar is available, ping me. —Abby Hargreaves

Romina Garber, Author of Lobizona 

Garber’s writing, especially in Lobizona, transports us to a different world filled with a dose of reality served with a side of magic. In Lobizona, Garber is not afraid to tackle immigration issues and teenage angst, all with a side of emotional writing that truly transports the reader. The way she connects the story, while also showcasing her Argentine background, makes me feel like she would be the perfect professor for a writing class on Magical Realism mixed in with Cultural Heritage 101. As an educator myself, I envision Garber as a charming educator ready to teach all of us what it means to have heart when it comes to writing a story, interlaced with cultural elements and lots of unique surprises. —Aurora Lydia Dominguez

Susanna Clarke, Author of Piranesi and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell 

I am convinced that Susanna Clarke has an actual mind palace where she, like Sherlock Holmes, files away every detail about her world until the exact moment they will make the most impact in a story. The precision of JS&MN, complete with footnotes, is a marvel of imagination and genre. I would love to hear Clarke discuss her process from conception to finished product. I want to know what the challenges of creating an authentic Regency-era atmosphere are, how to get to the place where Piranesi lives, and whether all three of her books exist in the same world. Tell me everything, Ms. Clarke. I’m listening! —Tika Viteri 

Jim Butcher, Author of The Dresden Files

The Dresden Files is a series I’ve grown to love, warts and all. While I don’t want to learn about those warts (the male gaze, heteronormativity, breaking first-person POV rules), Butcher is a master of pacing and constantly raising the stakes. In every Dresden Files novel, Butcher is able to pile on problems and enemies, effectively working Harry Dresden into a seemingly insurmountable corner before Harry battles his way out. Teach me of the pacing ways, Mr. Butcher. Teach me. —Chris M. Arnone

Daveed Diggs, General Excellent Human and Author of The Deep with Rivers Solomon 

I mean, do I need to say more? DAVEED DIGGS. —Cassie Gutman

Sigrid Nunez, Author of The Friend 

Have you ever read a book that seemed so simply written but completely changed your perspective? That’s Sigrid Nunez for me. No flowery prose or overly sentimental monologuing (not that I don’t love those too), just straight-forward writing full of surprising revelations. How does she do it? How does she write about a goofy dog while simultaneously writing about the meaning of life? It’s the kind of writing that feels like it can’t be taught or imitated, but dammit, I would certainly take her writing seminar and try. —Susie Dumond

Tracy Deonn, Author of Legendborn

I sat in on a webinar event recently in which Tracy Deonn was a panelist and if I hadn’t already been blown away enough by her debut contemporary fantasy, her comments during the webinar really drove home what an incredible writer she is. Even following along her Twitter, it’s easy to see how intentional she is about every piece of her books. While she’s only got the one out so far, it’s already doing extraordinarily well on the usual lists and she’s quickly amassing fans. The admiration, of course, is nice, but what really matters here is how well deserved it is. Among other things, Deonn writes a hell of a love triangle. But how do I write like Tracy Deonn? Only the myth herself can tell us, and I want to know. Name a date for a class and I’ll get it on my calendar, ASAP. —Abby Hargreaves

Mary Roach, Author of Bonk and Stiff

Imagine driving with your windows down. The weather is great, life is good, and you’re totally engaged in the amazing audiobook you’re listening to. You’re at a red light and happen to glance to your left and you realize you’re getting dirty looks from the people in the car next to you. But why, you ask yourself? Then you realize that they happened to pull up next to you just as the narrator was saying something along the lines of “and then all the men lost their erections,” and that maybe sounds a bit weird out of context. But no, you’re not listening to erotica in public, you’re listening to science. Mary Roach is the kind of person who asks questions like a preschooler (“why does X happen?”) and then does research like a journalist to figure out the answer. All the while, she is hilarious, with extensive and even more hilarious footnotes galore and wild adventures among lab scientists, cadavers, dog food manufacturers, and more. I, for one, am not very funny, though I do like to do research, and I would love to get the recipe for her secret sauce of technical accuracy, engaging narrative, and deadpan hilarity all in one book. —Sarah Hannah Gómez

Meena Kandasamy, Author of The Gypsy Goddess 

Meena Kandasamy’s prose is confidently irreverent – she does not hesitate to break and bend all rules of narration and style to most effectively tell the story she wants to tell. Given how precisely she manages to do that in all her writing, I have a sneaking suspicion that she has a very sound understanding of the nuances of more traditional writing styles. She would be a perfect teacher, who can teach her students the rules of fiction, and, more importantly, how to break them. Her classes would be very stimulating – for no one knows how to better voice one’s passion and politics in literature without it being the least bit slushy. —Senjuti Patra

Talk about “shut up and take my money!”

Want more on writing craft and how authors influence us? Check out How Roxane Gay’s Hunger Helped Me Write about My Different Ability.