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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Ethel Rohan

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing is my way of connecting with the world and others that, for various reasons, I can’t reach otherwise. I have experiences, flights of fancy, and discoveries of meaning in storytelling that elude me elsewhere. Writing is a gift, as is reading. More than anything else, I write to give readers the experience I love to undergo while reading: The sense that I know a particular moment, experience, and emotion exactly. That I’m seen, understood, and not alone. That’s also why writing is an important medium for the world–it’s an extraordinary, magical art form. Storytelling makes connections and elicits empathy in readers they might not experience otherwise, at least not in the same ways and to the same degrees.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced true writer’s block, and consider myself fortunate for it. For the most part, I enjoy a flow to my writing, and in particular my early drafts. It’s finishing, getting the story right, that I find most challenging. I can write and write, but it’s getting the story done, and done to its best, that’s the beast. I think writing blocks stem from getting stuck in the work, usually because of a wrong choice in the storytelling. Mostly, though, writing blocks are the result of fear and perfectionism. To those more prone to the malady, I suggest giving yourself permission to get it wrong. Getting it wrong means we’re underway. Not starting, or stalling, gets us nowhere.

What is your favorite time to write? The morning. Absolutely. I love nothing more than to write as early as possible in my day, while I’m still cobwebbed with the spell of sleep, and the world has yet to fully intrude and catapult me into the sharp glare of reality.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers.
From Victor LaValle at Mills College: Be Interesting.

From me: Life is too short to be anything else, in writing, and in all things. I love nothing more while reading and writing than twisted expectations and the resulting surprise. Dare. Take risks. Be memorable. Not to shock, but to startle. To make meaning. To make emotion. To make a hell of a story.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? The above. And at long last the cracking open of opportunities for previously overlooked and underrepresented voices. There’s a reckoning, looooooooong overdue, in favor of inclusivity and equality. We still have huuuuuuuuuge leaps to go, so I’m not excited yet, but I am encouraged.

Ethel Rohan’s In the Event of Contact is out now with Dzanc Books.