I didn't know that one of my favorite books was written by a woman.
My dad was an English teacher and he often gave me extra books to read outside of my required reading from school. One of the books that he gave me was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I loved the book and read it in one or two sittings. I was probably 13 and I knew that the book had been written by a 16 year old, but for some reason, I totally missed that the someone was a girl.
What I learned from Hinton was that you didn't have to write "like a girl" just because you were a girl. As someone who doesn't have a particularly feminine writing voice, it's always been encouraging to me to go back to that book and remember that there isn't a single way that women are supposed to write and that the best thing we can do is to be true to our own writing style.
In recent years, probably the most influential writer has been Rachel Held Evans. My dear friend Tina linked me over to her blog a couple of years ago with this post and I've been a fan ever since. I've said more than once that she writes what I would write if I were significantly more eloquent (well, I've said it worse than that, but after Tamara's post yesterday, I'm trying to correct that). I read her and feel like I'm looking in a very flattering mirror. Of course, because her picture was at the top of her blog, I knew she was a woman.
She was one of the first authors that I read who dealt with the issue of doubt at a time when it was screaming at me in all caps. I saw someone who had a very similar up-bringing to me who ran into doubt for similar reasons as me. She writes in a way that makes me feel like we've been friends forever (and I'm quite sure that if we knew each other back in the day, we would have totally been bffs). Her content has challenged me to be more honest with myself as a writer and her voice has helped me to find a way to bring that honesty out in a more kind and gentle manner. I loved her first book (Evolving in Monkey Town) and am totally stoked about her next project.
These women have taught me that we don't have to write in a girlie voice or about girlie topics to still be a successful, influential woman writer. I appreciate that I have the opportunity to have learned from them, even if I didn't know one of them was a woman.