Books & Essays I Wish I'd Written (Stephanie Kuehnert)

This month's topic of books we wish we'd written is kind of a hard one for me. At first I was like, well, but I'm satisfied with writing the books I write and I can't imagine telling stories that aren't mine. That is true, but of course there are other writers whose worlds I wish I could play in and whose chops I wish I had, and thinking about that, especially the last part, might help me up my game and figure out what direction I want to go in next. So here are a few of the writers/books/essays that inspire that:

Anyone who knows anything about me saw this one coming. Francesca Lia Block is THE reason I write YA. I wish I could create worlds like she does and I really would just love to hang out with Weetzie. Also, the image above is from Rookie's "Secret Style Icon: Weetzie Bat" in case you'd like to look like Weetzie since you can't write her or be her.

I love Nova Ren Suma's books Imaginary Girls and 17& Gone so much that I can't even decide which I love more. All I know is that Nova writes the kind of books I wish I could. She's a master of magical realism and twisty-turny storytelling, two things I'd really REALLY like to do. And her writing is so gorgeous, so literary. I STRIVE to write as beautifully as she does some day.

Speaking of twisty-turny, E. Lockhart's new one (just out today!), We Were Liars is about as surprising as they come. And the voice, oh goddess, the voice of this story! Yeah, definitely something worth striving for.

When it comes to realistic YA fiction, ie. my favorite thing to read and write, Sara Zarr does it best. She just does. Story of a Girl has been the book I've measured myself by for years. I haven't reached it. I probably never will because Sara is just too freakin' good, but she gives me something to aim for.

Realistic. Meaningful. Multi-layered. Pure literary chops. I don't even know how to begin to describe a book as important as Tell the Wolves I'm Home. I just know I want to write something like it someday.

Uses For Boys not only tells an important story that I loved, the language is so poetic, so precise. Erica Lorraine Scheidt cuts straight to the heart. She can evoke an emotion so intensely in 50 words when it would take me 50 pages. I want to be able to write that way.

Okay, now I've thrown you for a loop, haven't I? The Worst Hard Time is as the subtitle suggests, a non-fiction book about the Dust Bowl. This is a time period I have long been interested in and the book was so well-researched and masterfully written, as alive as any novel. Someday I would like to dig into a topic like this and bring a real story to life. I have no idea where to begin, but it keeps me dreaming.

Finally, and this will also not be a surprise to the people who know me well, I have to say that right now the writing that is inspiring me most, making me wish I wish I’d written it and driving me to up my game and figure out new ways to express myself is on Rookie. There’s Amy Rose Spiegel’s story of her life and pure expression of what it is to be a music fan in her essay abouther Morrissey t-shirt collection. There’s Jenny Zhang's essay on rethinking the appeal of tortured romance (Jenny is also a poet and again has a mastery of language, form and storytelling I can only dream about). Danielle Henderson on fighting self-sabotage. Jessica Hopper (who has long been a writing hero of mine, see also her R Kelly story from the Village Voice that should have won the Pulitzer) on taking her feminism from a place of anger to a place of love. Rachael Prokop on perfectionism. Jamia Wilson on the history of her hair. Gabby Noone's take on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype. Hazel Cills' totally fucking amazing declaration that she is sick of articles about teenage girls written by grown men--and aren't we all? Pixie Casey's fiction and many stunning essays about mental health/mental illness, especially this one. I was also completely blown away by this tag-team of story-telling between Rose Lichter-Marck and photographer Sandy Honig recording the lives of 4 young women who lived through foster care. Last but certainly not least, there is our Editor in Chief, Tavi Gevinson, whose brilliance continually amazes me. I wish I could THINK like she does. Her most recent editor's letter embodies everything I admire about her. I’m grateful each day to work with such talented women. They are really challenging me to be the best writer I can possibly be.


  1. I love what you say about not being able to imagine writing stories that are not your own...

  2. The more I read your posts, the more I want to hang with you!! We have such similar tastes in books and think alike too. :-) Terrific post!


Post a Comment