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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Donna Hemans

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world?
Stories–whether told via music, song, dance, the written or spoken word–connect us. With the upheaval we’re experiencing in 2020, stories are especially important, not only to capture the experience for future generations but for us in the present to begin to bridge the gaps. Beyond the larger political and social issues, stories about the everyday ordinary things capture the essence of who we are. And that I think is what we all want: to see ourselves and to know that we belong.  

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block?
Read. Read. Read. Falling into a story gets me thinking about words and structure and story, and inevitably opens up a window that allows me to get back into my own work. Sometimes that window is a single word, a turn of phrase, a beautifully written paragraph, a well structured book. And sometimes, it’s the complete opposite. Either way, reading removes the barrier that prevents me from moving forward in my writing.

What is your favorite time to write?
Generally, I like to write first thing in the morning, before I see and start thinking about all the possible distractions. There’s something inspiring about looking up every now and then from the screen to see the sky lightening and the  sun rising. Plus, writing in the early morning gives me a sense of accomplishment that sets a good tone for the day.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers?
“Once a book is published, it can’t be unpublished.” I think about this bit of advice anytime I feel the urge to rush through writing or publishing a piece. As writers, we’re often asked in interviews “What’s next?” If there’s momentum with a book, essay or short story, there is pressure–sometimes internal, sometimes external–to ride that wave and publish sooner rather than later. While momentum is important, waiting until a piece of writing is ready to be published is even more important.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age?
I’m excited about and hopeful for greater opportunities to see a wider range of voices and cultures reflected in publishing. As we’ve all seen from recent surveys, the publishing industry has a long way to go to improve representation and diversity, both in the professionals it hires and the projects it chooses to publish. My hope is that shedding light on the imbalances leads to improvements in representation and a greater diversity of books published.

Donna Hemans’s Tea by the Sea is out now with Red Hen Press.