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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Allison Gilbert

author Allison Gilbert looking directly at the camera and an image of her book Listen World!

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? American writer Elsie Robinson once said, “I started writing for exactly the same reason that a starving man starts eating – to save my life.” This has been, in many ways, true for me. I was nearly killed on September 11 and three days later, unrelated to the attacks, my father died of cancer. Putting some very big feelings on paper became a lifeline of sorts, a sunny path out of a very dark place.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? There is only one that helps me: doing more research. I have consistently found that when I struggle with writing it’s because I don’t have enough information. If I know the facts required of a specific passage, if I understand the background, the words find their way to the page.

What is your favorite time to write? My alarm is set every day at 5:30am. This habit began when my children were young and continues. I relish the absolute quiet.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? I’m a bit obsessed with the advice I’ve gleaned from writing Listen, World!, the first biography of Elsie Robinson. In the 1920s-1950s, she was William Randolph Hearst’s highest-paid woman columnist. In 1939 she quipped, “It’s the Parked Profile, not the Divine Spark, which is the secret of success.” I’ve come to recognize Robinson’s right. A lot of people have a “great idea” for a book. Published authors have something more important: stamina.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? Writers have a role to play in making sure historically marginalized voices are heard. I was shocked to learn that only 24% of all historical figures taught in U.S. public schools are women. Knowing this fuels my writing about women’s history.

Allison Gilbert’s Listen, World!: How the Intrepid Elsie Robinson Became America’s Most-Read Woman, co-written with Julia Scheeres, is out now with Seal Press.