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)

  • candygirl

    That’s easy. Panama ;)


    So I guess I’m in good company with my writer crush on Junot Diaz, except for me I have more like a crush on his mind than his writing. I LOVE to hear him interviewed. He is so smart and he really makes you think, but he also cusses freely and kind of mumbles a little. I love it.

    Edwidge Danticat is probably my favorite writer ever.

    • The Farming of Bones was brutal.

  • Pinks

    yessssss to Khaled Hosseni.

    I’d add:

    Alice Walker
    Harryette Mullen
    Toni Morrison – so I can be like WTF do you be talking about sometimes?

    • oooh Harryette Mullen is a hidden gem.

      • Pinks

        My women’s poetry professor in senior year put me on. My crazy a 5 5 uncle threw away a bunch of my books when I moved back home and I’m so mad Recyclopedia was one of them.

  • Shire is the only one off top where I have viscerally responded to her work and made me actually analyze myself.

  • menajeanmaehightower

    No one’s writing has ever moved me to the point of getting into my feelings probably since, and this is bad, i rarely if ever look at who wrote the article i am reading. Books are kinda the same way.

    • ED

      whew! I was a little embarrassed to say I do the same thing. Malcolm Gladwell is as close as they come but that was because his book “Blink” made me realize I had a love of reading

      • menajeanmaehightower

        I’m not afraid to say that when i read i barely if ever look at the name of the author. Just because no one’s writing has ever moved you to the high heavens doesn’t make you any less intelligent or enlightened.

      • Malcolm Gladwell is too good! I find him to be terribly convincing even on issues where I know he’s wrong. Love his stuff! Outliers is, of course, my favorite.

  • Cleojonz

    too many books and not enough time. Beefing up my reading list just reading this post! I have read a good number of the authors mentioned, but clearly I have more work to do.

  • h.h.h.

    i don’t do crushes, but the only writers i kinda like for their wordplay and worldview are Robert Greene, Malcolm Gladwell, and Negro Libre.

    not saying anyone is bad, not saying i run to buy these folks books. but i think they make me think more and encourage me to keep reading more stuff so that i can know what i’m talking about as well.

    • h.h.h.

      oh and Sean Carter, he said he’s a writer for himself and others, and i like the way he rhymes everything together

      • Decoded tho… Maybe he should just never write anything down ever

        • h.h.h.

          i blame that on whoever wrote down what he said lol

    • Wow, thanks man.

  • Charlisia Nwachukwu

    Oh you have my girl pictured up top Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie … I am so in love with her. I read everything she writes or says she loves.. I’ve watched every interview/talk she has done on youtube. If she was in the room at a dinner party, I would fan out like a crazy person. I struggled a lot with Nigerian half growing up and she is one of the people that made me really take another look at it and embrace it. Plus we have the same middle name.. in my head, she is my wiser older sister. Her characters are so complex and i love that I can never put them in a box.

  • Charlisia Nwachukwu

    Other Likes… since Chima took up my last post.. I loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, love… moved my soul. I also like this girl I have read in a few places Pia Glenn.. I think. She writes like a friend telling a story to me.. i love it. And my favorite local Atlanta writer Tayari Jones.. Silver Sparrow is my fav!

    Who I do not like:
    Walter Mosely – I have tried a few books but I just cannot with him

    • Val

      Have you read, “Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned”?

      • Charlisia Nwachukwu

        no.. last one I tried was Cinnamon Kiss.

        • Val

          You should check it out. There are three in this series and this is the first one.

          • Charlisia Nwachukwu

            Ill try it… *Adds to Goodreads list*

            • Val

              If you remember, let me know what you thought of it.

    • Cleojonz

      I loved Eat Pray Love too. As a rule I don’t like self help books, but this totally read like a novel, not even a memoir. I keep meaning to pick up the sequel. Did you read it?

      • heard it wasn’t as good. cleaving? or was that the julia/julia woman?

  • Charlisia Nwachukwu

    I would also like to add .. Zane, Eric Jerome Dickey and the like to my list of dislikes… those sex scenes go on for PAGES!!

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