Who Are Your Writer Crushes? » VSB

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Who Are Your Writer Crushes?

Writer Crush: A person whose words you enjoy reading so much that you start to like them. It’s not necessary a romantic/sexual thing — you’re not infatuated and you won’t be private messaging them haikus or anything — but you developed an affinity without ever actually meeting them.

And, if you happened to see them at a potluck you happened to be at, you’d…

1. Totally introduce yourself to them, and do an internal cheer for the next two to six weeks if they said “Oh wow. Great to meet you. I’m a fan of your work too!”


2. Totally NOT introduce yourself to them, because you’d be surprisingly anxious and wouldn’t want to come off as a weirdo.

Basically, you dig them.

Two rules:

1. You can’t name anyone you’ve actually met. Because it’s more fun that way and I don’t want any of you analog niggas copping out and saying “My boyfriend is my biggest writer crush.”

2. No dead people. Because, gross.

I’ll kick us off.

Angela Nissel: Although we’ve never met in person, we’ve exchanged emails several times, so I’m cheating a bit by putting her here. But it’s worth bending the rules for a woman who wrote a book (The Broke Diaries) that actually made me think “I need to meet this woman and buy her some grits” the first time I read it.

Aisha Harris: Is a culture writer at Slate who always (always!) has great takes on shit, even if I personally disagree. Also, I’m so impressed with Aisha Harris’ breadth of pop culture knowledge that if “Aisha Harris’ breadth of pop culture knowledge” was a person and I wasn’t married and shit, I’d totally take “Aisha Harris’ breadth of pop culture knowledge” to Kennywood this summer.

Kara Brown: Writes for Jezebel, and occasionally manages to say shit that inspires my most sincere form of flattery: Jealousy. Basically, I’ll read something she wrote and be mad I didn’t think of it first.

—Damon Young

Easy, as I’ve had this conversation multiple times. Lol.

Kiese Laymon – whew. That’s all. (got waaaay too hype when he followed me on twitter lol)

Junot Diaz – i want to marry his books and give them little literary babies.

James Baldwin is always number one but dead, so. Lol.

—Shanae Brown

Khaled Hosseini. He’s just… a fantastic storyteller. The way he tells stories hooks me soooo damn fast. Plus, he’s the only novelist who has ever made me Oprah-cry from a book. Which was A Thousand Splendid Suns, btw. I legit had to put it down during one passage because I was bawling my eyes out.

The screenwriter in me wants to name screenwriters (which, I do actually read screenplays for fun and edumacation purposes) and I could’ve cheated if she didn’t pass away (fuck cancer), but Nora Ephron was totes my screenwriter crush. The way she could write hilarious and natural dialogue between people just walking down the street (seriously, Chris Rock was right in his interview when asked about the possibility of working with her… any movie of hers, she’d have you just walking down the street talking) was so enviable and admirable.

—Tonja Stidhum

Ok, you’re allowed to name dead people now.


This is a good question especially because it puts some of us guys in a position to name check women writers, and I like the idea of that. At the same time, I feel like I know a few writers even though I have not met them in person. For instance, Kara is someone I’ve never met IRL, but we follow each other on Twitter, and I engage with her work in a way that I feel like the day I will meet her won’t be the first time I meet her. This goes for our own Maya too.

—Jozen Cummings

And, well, Samantha Irby’s writing makes my dick hard. And I’m a HomoThug, so.

Alex Hardy

Yeah, Samantha too.

Samantha and I have had email before.


Ta-Nehisi Coates

dream hampton*

Stacia Brown

warsan shire

kris ex

1. *I have met dream but she still counts because I met her after stanning for her since I was in college

2. I’m surprised Damon didn’t say Klosterman.

—huny young

I love this question.

Sean Flynn – His a consummate journalist that’s able to get the most pertinent facts, the details you wouldn’t think are important, and present them in a way that doesn’t read like a newscast. This is important to me because as a millennial (I guess) I haven’t matured to the point where staying informed on the issues is inherent, but I’m smart enough to know I should be, so any way to make it more palatable is appreciated.

Michael Paterniti is how I learned about literary journalism and discovered that’s where my passion is. Being able to write about factual events in a way that’s descriptive and fluid and full of imagery. Daniel Jose Older falls into this category and he also affirms my wanting to be included.

James Baldwin is my Basquiat. I treasure him. He strikes a chord that always resonates so heavily with me. But moreso than his written words, I appreciate his interviews. He spoke as well, if not better than he wrote. The way he articulated his feelings, those of the people around him, and the overall climate in general, is something that I aspire to. Most often reeking of nonchalance/borderline disdain, occasionally urgent, but always spitting the futuristic, fiya flow. He was something of a literary Sammie Davis. And gay.

Honorable mention to Maya K. Francis. Most often I read her words in my voice. Some people you just feel close to.

—Ryan Sides

Oh, got it.

Jesmyn Ward: Everything about her writing tells me that she would be a safe space for me to let down my guard.

Zadie Smith: I like smart women and Zadie is as smart as they come.

Jia Tolentino: That piece she wrote about Drake’s vocal coach made me so happy.

Shea Serrano: Those awkward male crushes, when you meet a guy and you’re like, damn, I want to be friends with him. Shea and I would be best friends if he didn’t live in Houston and he lived in NYC.


Aw, Jozen and Ryan. Way to make a brown girl blush :) Yall sweet. I love you like XO.

Ok. Off the top of my head:

Warsan Shire (Really, it isn’t fair. At all. My envy goes past jealousy into anger and resentment.)

Ta-Nehisi Coates (Needs to teach a class on being self-taught and killing everybody in sight. I think he’s kind of peerless.)

Junot Diaz (He writes culture without being explanatory. And I love him for that. He doesn’t pander. It’s the only way I can think to explain it.)

Michael Wolff (Was at Vanity Fair. Now at Ny Mag, I think. Biting. Acerbic. Kind of an asshole. Which I like. He did a great piece a while back about he and his siblings caring for his very ill mother which was just fantastic and full of shit you aren’t supposed to say: http://nymag.com/news/features/parent-health-care-2012-5/ .)

Heather Havrilesky (NY Mag “Ask Polly” writer. I hate self-help as a genre and I hate advice columns but she goes so above and beyond and is funny and personable and she’s a great tweeter, too.)

Dead, but listing: Lorraine Hansberry, Zora Neale Hurston, and sometimes Capote.

—Maya Francis

Jozen, I feel you on Shea. He probably makes me actually laugh out loud more than any other writer I can think of today.

I didn’t think to name guys, but I guess I can do that too.

huny is right. All things considered, Chuck Klosterman is probably my favorite writer, just because of the fact that he’s the only one whose books are must buys.

But, as far as my favorite at this very moment, it’s Wesley Morris. I honestly believe he’s the Lebron of this culture writing shit. There’s no one anywhere that does what we do better than he does. Reading his shit makes me feel the way Steve Francis must’ve felt in the dunk contest with Vince Carter. Like, how the hell do you even compete with that?


This is difficult for me because after I decided to pursue my writing career I made a point to meet most of the writers I liked which inadvertently ruined them all for me. (Also moving up in my own career and dealing with my own situation affected this as well.)

Most of my favorites are/were magazine writers, obscure authors and newspaper reporters who were big in the 90s (or big to me) and have since gone on to other things (some bigger and better to the point that they are obnoxious to be around now as it’s all gone to their heads … Some lost their personal battles with addiction and mental illness and languish in obscurity). So I don’t even know anymore. Learning that all my favs were basically either more or less fucked up versions of myself sort of ruined the fantasy for me. I still think a lot of writers are amazing and love/envy their work, but I don’t fall in love anymore. Or even like.

I guess the closest I can get is I really admire Ta-Nehisi (we were supposed to meet years ago but it never happened, but we exchanged a few emails before he became more notable). And I never met Heather Harvelasky (sp?), a former writer from Suck.com who was awesome on Salon years ago that inspired my own writing, but I have no clue what she’s doing these days.

I know that answered nothing, but the last decade has left me pretty nonplussed no matter how much I like someone’s writing.

Never meet your idols. Never.

—Danielle Belton

Havrilesky! I just saw Maya mentioned her too. Everyone ignore me. I’m old and jaded.


Okay I definitely have to add Jesmyn Ward and Daniel Jose Older. Daniel is my good friend so I have met him but he is one of the best doing it now and I can’t leave him off. Plus he challenges and inspires me in the way only a great writer can.

I’ve also had a writer crush on Michael Datcher since he wrote one of my favorite books, so… him too.


I’ll co-sign Daniel. Also a friend of mine but whatever, I’m not biased when I say he is fucking brilliant.


Ta-Nehisi Coates all the way. He gives me all of the feels .

Some of you guys too, but I’m not gonna plus one y’all though because Maya’s ego is big enough.

—Shamira Ibrahim

My list includes Jesymn Ward, Isabel Wilkerson, Chimamanda Adichie and Junot Dìaz.

If we can now add the deceased I’ll include Richard Wright and James Baldwin.

—Tunde Akinyeke

Yeah Maya is one of my writer baes. Lol

Fiction is my thing though so Maya, Damon and Ta-Nehisi are probably the only strictly non-fic writers I’ll read on a regular basis.


Paulo Coehlo – he exudes wisdom, inspiration and deference. his writing is alluring, like he’s reaching into the most intimate parts of me.

Malcolm Gladwell – his cognizance and keen observations make me want to lick his brain.

—Gem Jones

paul beatty and marlon james.

ps. alex hardy please marry me.

—Samantha Irby

I try to read as much of what Junot Diaz produces as I can. That motherfucker is gifted. There were about a dozen or so times during “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” when I just had to close the damn book and shake my head at the brilliance. I like my berries (and my men) Black as fuck, but James Frey’s writing (see: “A Million Little Pieces” and “My Friend Leonard“) feels like what I imagine a week-long coke binge to feel like. And that’s a good thing.

Kiese Laymon’s aggressive honesty and literary sternum kicks make me want to be better at writing and living. As Roxane Gay said:

“I love writing where it feels like the writer has peeled back their skin and is allowing readers to see the bloody mess pulsing beneath.”

And I get that same feeling from Jesmyn Ward, Clover Hope, and Madame Maya Francis. And, Rembert Browne’s writing always leaves me with a good feeling. Reading his writing, I feel like I know him.


Meanwhile onto people who know what they’re doing because OHEMGEE I FORGOT TO MENTION and this is WANTONLY negligent of me:

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah – I love. Love. LOVE her. She is from Philly (+500 pts.) and she does amazing, thoughtful long-form culture writing. She did a great piece about Kendrick a few years ago, and she has done the only Beyonce Thinkpiece that’s ever been worth thinking about. Writes for the Paris Review and other places for people who actually read.


Seems like we definitely need to set up a maya lapdance booth at the next VSB event. And a room for alex and samantha to do…whatever they’re going to do.


*wishes I was a true hipster and had invested in maya lapdance stock when it was underground*


Maya gentrifying her lapdances?


Rebranding. Less KOD, more Dita Von Tesse.


(Photo: blackcongolese)

  • ha! I love all of ya’ll!

    But Stacia L. Brown writes with a deftness I wish I had. She’s lyrical without stuffing the adjectives; she is incisive without a single hint of snark. I’m stoked for her new gig.

    I’ve been in writerly crush mode on Coates since The Beautiful Struggle came out, back when he was still blogging on his own website (pre-Atlantic). The opening paragraph to that book is an incredible piece of writing in its spare but punchy language. I go back to it frequently.

    Helena Andrews. I like her voice.

    I love just about everything Rebecca Walker touches. Rebecca Carroll, too.

    Ashley Ford is a monster. Devastating work when she gets personal and raw.

    I could go #AllDay, but I will quit here lol

    • Because I don’t have a list, ghostwrite mine. I need to have a set of go-to writers. :)

      • My favorite writer is Eric Hoffer. Anytime I’m kind of looking for a deep insight into human nature, I usually refer to his collection of books I have on my kindle. If you’d ask me, before I ran into him, that I’d end up having a white german longshoreman as my favorite writer I’d have laughed at you.

        It also helps that his books are very short.

    • afronica

      I found my way to Stacia through you. Thank you for that. When she’s hittin’, she makes me think and feel at the same time.

  • i think most of the authors listed are crush worthy for anyone who loves to read the thoughts, perspectives and creativity of others.

    thanks for the prompt to reflect on dooe ass writers, D Money.

  • Perhaps this renders me a cultural savage, but IDGAF who’s writing, so long as it’s funny. I tend to judge the piece above the writer. Then, after a while, do I begin to check for who’s on the byline. This is strange, considering how much I actually read. Then again, I’m not one for idols like that, so that’s just my mental makeup.


    • I appreciate humor writing because I’m really not that funny. My humor is kind of dry. So folk that get me to crack up are so much win.

  • Medium Meech

    Dara and Agatha. That’s all I’ve got. I don’t read books. I have an iPhone.

  • Val

    Okay, here you go;

    – Suheir Hammad
    – Audre Lorde
    – Edwidge Danticat
    – Walter Mosely

    • afronica

      Do you like all of his stuff? I’ve read almost all the Easy Rawlings books, but can’t really find my way into his sci fi (Blue Light) or what I call his Interracial Tales (Leonid McGill books). And have you tried his non-fic?

      • Val

        I read a bit of one of his sci-fi/ supernatural books but in general I’m not a fan of that genre so I didn’t get into it. I haven’t tried his non-fiction yet. I just really enjoy his story telling about Black folks.

      • kid video

        You should try Mosely’s “Killing Johnny Fry”. It’s an erotic thriller. A real page turner.

    • See, I knew as I was creating my list I was going to leave off folks. Suheir Hammad is just everything!

    • june jordan forgot about her.

  • 909girl601world

    Khaled Hosseini, Dianne McKinney Whetstone, Isabel Wilkerson, Khalil Gibran – oops, he’s been dead, GradyDoc(blog), 37Paddington(blog)

  • Toni Morrison. I haven’t read everything she’s written (and Beloved still eludes me), but Song of Solomon and Sula do it for me.

    Jesmyn Ward is a new favorite based solely off the strength of Men We Reaped (which had me putting the book down a few times because I was getting too caught up in my feelings).

    Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose blog for The Atlantic I’ve followed for the past couple of years. The Case for Reparations sealed it for me, though.

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie allows me to get even closer to my Nigerian heritage than I am now.

    James Baldwin is just…just. He may be the only writer whose televised appearances and debates I search high and low for.

    • TNC has pissed me off more over the years. He’s become more maudlin and willing to play to the Amen corner too much for me. He has a brilliant mind, but he seems afraid to use it.

      • The Amen corner? In what ways?

        • I think it all started when he laid a heavy hand on the comment section on his blog. Once he did that, he stopped being introspective as much and played to a comment section that was shaped to his liking. He has a tentative streak in him, and playing to the comment section seemed to heighten his vices. He has it in him to be better, and I’ve seen it, but I don’t know if he’s willing to take the lumps it will take to get there.

    • MostlyMax

      “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie allows me to get even closer to my Nigerian heritage than I am now.”

      Yes. Me all day. I’m learning so much about my Nigerian heritage behind her. And she’s fly as all hell too.

  • StillSuga

    My Goodreads list is about to be even more off the chain…smh

  • SuperStrings

    I’ll shamefully admit that this piece exposes my contemporary literary unfamiliarity. I do admire writers though.

    • Lea Thrace

      Same here. I have a hit list now though thanks to this post. I am about to get busy with Amazon and B&N this weekend!

      • SuperStrings

        I need to do better. All of my favorite writers have passed. Cheikh Anta Diop, Ivan van Sertima, Octavia Butler.

  • Aaron

    Let’s see. I noticed nobody pointed out Erika Ramirez at Billboard. So her, yeah.
    Jamilah Lemieux.
    Rembert, Wesley Morris, and Shea at Grantland. So fire.
    used to read Fooler religiously.

    • Aaron

      I am sure that I’m missing several.
      But if I think of them I’ll come back.

    • I do like Rembert and Wesley.

    • afronica

      Fooler’s 140’s are already like Turkish coffee. But then I stumbled onto her blog – coffee crack concentrate.

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