I became a writer because I loved to write, and I was blessed with an utter lack of any other talent. (Can't sing, dance, or hit a softball far enough to make it to first base. Sad, but true.) I read and wrote stories from an early age. Books opened me up and made me feel more connected. Great writing can show you what it's like to walk in another's shoes, but can also make you feel less alone in your own, can take you down streets you've never been, but can also describe an emotion in a way you've never heard before that makes you think, Yes. That is exactly what it is like for me, too. For me, reading a good book is receiving a gift. It's the gift I've always wanted to give, and I felt that if I worked hard enough and long enough, someday I would be able to do just that.

Writers I love.

First, an ode to the Annes: I started keeping a diary in fourth grade, after I read The Diary of Anne Frank. That same year, I visited Green Gables on a camping trip to Prince Edward Island, and bought my now beat-up copy of Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Later came Annie Dillard, Anne Tyler, Ann Patchett, Anne Lamott. and Jo Ann Beard. Each very different writers, but I adore them all.

And now a chorus of praise for the Johns: John Steinbeck, John Updike, John Irving.

I also love other non-Anne, non-John types: Jeffery Eugenides, Jane Hamilton, Nicole Krauss, Barbara Kingsolver, Wally Lamb, Alice Munro — there are too many to list, but that's a start. (Oh, I just have to say this: I read them before Oprah ever picked them.)

My tool of the trade.

Uniball micro pens in black. I've been hooked on them since the mid-eighties. I keep them in a glass jar on my desk, and a full jar feels like abundance to me. When the jar is empty, I will open drawers and lift papers; check briefcase, purse, and notebook, even pad out to my car, still in pajamas — like a smoker searching for a cigarette — to find a uniball to do my morning writing.

I'm not particular about so many things. I buy store brands, or at least try them. I'm not passionate about only one shampoo or one line of clothing or one anything, really.

I can write a check with a Bic, or a piece of charcoal, I don't care. But writing a check is not my purpose in life. Somehow, I am certain that this other writing, the writing that is my way of probing and building and dissecting and planting and sculpting and all the things that people use tools for … it is my life's work. And I've gotta have a Uniball micro in black to get it right. (And a computer, of course. Preferably a Mac. But that's another story.)