"There's a whole other world out there ," my agent told me a while back. She was reminding me of other possibilities, which authors in my (or any) genre totally ignore. Limited by our own successes, however modest, we fail to consider other ways of earning a living and finding creative fulfillment.
It feels safer, sticking with the area we know, and getting to really understand and master our own small pond feels manageable. But it's limiting as well, which is one reason I make it a point to read broadly. My list of favorite books includes historical nonfiction, memoir, lots of mystery/suspense, fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, and let's not forget romance.
But for a long time, it never occurred to me that I could learn valuable lessons from authors in other areas of writing beyond my chosen genre. I was very wrong on that score, and in the past few years I've broadened my horizons with literary techniques borrowed from screenwriting (thanks, Chris Vogler), gleaned in college English class (and Flannery O'Connor), or picked up from wise and eloquent thriller writers on the 'net (love your blog, Tess Gerritsen).
Interestingly, however, I meet a lot of authors in my genre who seem content with blinders. As incoming program chair/VP of my area RWA chapter, I'm hoping to let in a little light by inviting some prominent speakers from (gasp!) other areas of creative writing. Because strong dialogue is strong dialogue, great characterization great characterization, and the fine art of wresting a living from the world of words is a miracle worth celebrating!
So who are the best speakers/teachers on writing you're heard or read in the last few years? Or what classics have helped you untie some knotty writing problem?