No matter how many writers like to claim theirs is a solitary vocation, I just don't buy it. None of us really writes on our own, and any writer or reporter worth her salt learns from instructors she probably hasn't even met.
Specifically, it's those published writers, alive or dead, with a single book or a dozen, who inspire us with sentences that sing, paragraphs that leave us breathless and stories that stay planted in our souls and hearts and minds for years. They shape our craft. And they form our vision of what writing could—and should—be.