Five writers who inspire me

On International Women’s Day, Sheila O’Reilly on the writers who have inspired her.

Edna O’Brien
Edna was the first author whose writing I could relate to. I felt she was talking to and for me, she wrote about the Ireland I was growing up in. Her stories opened up a world for me in both books and life that began the wonderful journey that I have lived.

J K Rowling
What I admire most about Rowling is that she understands she can use her influence to change how people think. She could have sat back, lived off her earnings and enjoyed a quiet life. Instead she uses her influence to great effect despite often receiving abuse for it.

Anne Enright
Her writing about family life in Ireland and the manner in which she questions how the country deals with modern day issues is brilliant. The confidence in her writing as she challenges these preconceptions encourages others to do the same as well as influencing readers.

Emily Dickinson
Emily was the first poet I read whose words touched me, poetry that I could read out loud and understand. She was a poet beyond her time and not the dainty hapless women often portrayed.

Jeanette Winterson
Oranges are Not The Only Fruit and Why Be Happy When You Can be Normal should be required reading for all year 10 and 11 students. Her writing is accessible, engaging and helps challenge our thinking. Having heard her talk many times I also believe she is what the Irish would describe as “great craic”.

Sheila O’Reilly is consultant at Dulwich Books.