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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Angelica Shirley Carpenter

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world?
Reading is important to me, essential throughout my life. I didn’t think of myself as a writer until I reached my 40s and started writing books with my mother, Jean Shirley, a published author. Reading, and now writing, take me to amazing places. I write biographies of Victorian authors, so studying them is like time travel. They are different from people today and yet similar in many ways. Writing connects people around the world.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block?
I don’t allow myself to have writer’s block. I just make it a rule to write, no matter what. I don’t wait for inspiration. I try to make myself pick up where I left off the day before instead of re-reading and re-writing endlessly. Sometimes I have to answer emails and write blogs and post on social media, so these distractions can be helpful if I want to take a break from my manuscript, but really I’d rather be writing.

What is your favorite time to write?
Any time. All the time, at least in the daytime. Now that I am retired from my career as a librarian, I write every day, stopping only for Zoom meetings or trips to the grocery store. Writing has kept me sane during the virus lock down. Usually I stop writing at 5:30 to have a glass of wine and watch the news while cooking dinner. I save evenings for reading and watching TV. My mother used to get up in the middle of the night to write, but that doesn’t work for me, so I read.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers?
Write for yourself. Trust your own voice. Read, read, read. I was a childhood Oz fan and Oz has shaped my entire career as a librarian and as a writer. I wrote books about L. Frank Baum and about his mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage. I didn’t plan it this way, but I feel so lucky to have had this lifelong interest that led to so many interesting people and places.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age?
My first picture book, The Voice of Liberty, comes out next week. Each step has been thrilling–having it accepted, working on the manuscript, compiling research pictures, and especially seeing what the illustrator, Edwin Fotheringham made of these. An art teacher, Dave Kelleher, who is a friend from the International Wizard of Oz Club, has designed Statue of Liberty craft projects for me to use with this book and kids. Each time I open my email there is something exciting now, like this survey.

Angelica Shirley Carpenter’s The Voice of Liberty, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, is out tomorrow with South Dakota State Historical Society.