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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Dashka Slater

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Our brains are wired for stories. Stories are how we make sense of the world. One reason I love writing for young people is because I have a chance to furnish their imaginations by telling them some of their first stories. It’s an honor and a privilege to write for people who pay such close attention to what they read and think about my books so deeply.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? I tell my students: writer’s block isn’t a problem of lack of ideas, it’s a problem of lack of engagement with the ideas you have. Anxiety, depression, impatience — all of these get in the way of the mundane work of writing until you produce something good. The cure is simple–to paraphrase Isak Dinesen: Write a little every day, without hope and without despair. Sometimes you have to write a bunch of terrible stuff before anything good shows up — I think of it as running the faucet to clear the rust. But if you keep opening the tap, the water runs clear eventually!

What is your favorite time to write? I’m a 9-5’er. I sit down after breakfast and work until I’m no longer productive. I try to write before I do anything else, but sometimes I have to put out a few email fires before I start. I’m quite unfussy–I don’t wake up early and I don’t stay up late, I just punch the clock like any other working stiff.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? “You can’t rewrite something you haven’t written.” Just get the words on the page and see what happens.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? There are so many ways to engage with readers! When I first started as a journalist, I used to lurk in caf├ęs on the day my pieces came out so I could watch people read them. Now I have readers posting photos and videos of their kids reading my books, messaging me with funny stories from their home life, plus whole social media accounts devoted to classroom explorations of my books, as well as kids making YouTube videos, posting art on Instagram, and so much more. It’s thrilling!

Dashka Slater’s The Book of Fatal Errors is out now with Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR).