When I was first asked to write a piece on the one woman, living or dead, who has inspired me most as a woman and as a writer, the choice seemed self-servingly obvious: Louisa May Alcott. Outside of the fact that everyone loves her -- I mean, who doesn't love Little Women? except maybe the people who don't -- I could use it to promote a novel I have due out later this year about a contemporary teen who time travels into the center of her most famous novel. But then I realized that wouldn't be honest. So immediately I started on a mental list involving The Usual Suspects. For dead ones I had Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. Among the living there was Joyce Carol Oates. But none of them were exactly right either. Finally, I hit on it, the only woman it could be for me:
Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"But she's not a writer!" you say.
"Oh, yes, she is!" I say.
Maybe An Invitation to the White House and Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids' Letters to the First Pets aren't exactly up there, literarily, with Pride & Prejudice and Jane Eyre. But what about the tome of a memoir that is Living History? I've read the thing, and believe me, she's a writer.
"But how does she inspire you as a woman and as a writer?" is undoubtedly your next question, particularly from the 50% of you who can't stand her; the 50% who love her probably already have some idea.
First, let me tell you what I know about what it takes to be a published writer.
Talent. Fresh ideas. Decent grammar. Luck. Timing. The ability to take criticism. What the teen magazines I used to read growing up called "stick-to-it-tiveness."
But even if you have all of the above, unless you have one other essential quality, none of it will matter:
Resilience to carry you through as you suffer the endless stream of disappointments, setbacks and rejections that are the writer's lot in life.
It took me nearly eight years, during which time I wrote seven novels, before I finally sold a book to a publisher. If I weren't so stubbornly resilient, I never would have made it and I certainly wouldn't have gone on making it in the years since. Not only has resilience served me as a writer, it's served me as a woman too.
And there is no woman, who is also a writer, that I can think of who is more resilient than Hillary Rodham Clinton. Say what you will about her -- and I'm sure some of you will! -- no one can say that the woman who's lived the life she's lived and bounced back from the things she's had to is anything less than 100% resilient. If she weren't already Secretary of State, she'd probably make one heck of a novelist. She's certainly got the spine for it.
The novelist Lauren Lise Baratz-Logsted is the author of nineteen published books for adults, teens, and children. Her most recent books are The Twin's Daughter, a young-adult gothic mystery that Booklist says ". . . is rife with twists and moves swiftly and elegantly," and the sixth volume in The Sisters 8 series for young readers that she co-writes with her husband and daughter, Greg and Jackie Logsted. Read her blog on Red Room.