The first is Brenda Ueland who wrote a lovely little book called "If you want to write" that I think every aspiring artist should read at least once. I've lost count how many times I've read it because I needed the positive reinforcement. Brenda devotes several chapters to self-confidence and trust. It was written in the 1930's, so her style is a bit different the what you'd see today, but I love the sentiment. Brenda was the writer who first convinced me I could do it too.
Chris Crutcher was the writer who convinced me to take chances with my writing, to tell a story as honestly as possible. I saw Chris speak at an SCBWI conference years ago. I knew nothing about his books at the time, but he was a completely captivating speaker. Trained as a therapist, Chris worked in schools with troubled teens. He told us stories about some of the kids he had met over the years and the very real issues they faced. It was some pretty tough stuff and most of Chris's books deal with tough issues. You could have heard an actual pin drop on a pillow at one point in his talk, we were all so mesmerized. The point of his talk was that some kids have nowhere else to turn, but a book. They need to know they aren't alone. He was so sincere and kind, he unknowingly gave me the push to finish Hush Puppy, my first book. To take a risk and write something uncomfortable, but honest.
I have to admit I have also been inspired by Stephenie Meyer of Twilight infamy, not because of the brilliance of her writing, but because I knew if she could get published, there was hope for me too.
Last, but not least, I find inspiration in the magical whimsy of Neil Gaiman's fairy tales. They're weird, completely original stories, mostly stand alones in a fantasy market that seems to demand series from everyone else. He is completely doing his own thing and he's successful at it. Instead of following any crowd, he's practically his own genre. I very much admire his originality and skill, even in the books he's written that I'm less fond of. There's no denying his talent. I can only dream of achieving such skill, but then, it's always nice to dream, isn't it?
Who inspires you?