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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Laura Shovan

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world?
Growing up in a bi-cultural home, I heard two competing messages: children should be seen and not heard, and say what’s on your mind–loudly and without apologies. For me, reading and writing became a way to navigate those cultural differences. Books gave me a place apart to think about what I had to say. Writing allowed me to speak my mind in a way that felt safe. Today when I visit young writers, many of them relate to the idea that books and writing give us a safe place to record and express what we think, feel, and observe.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block?
I love writing prompts, especially for poetry. We all get into habits in our work, exploring particular themes, even relying on specific words or phrases again and again. A good prompt shakes up those habits. It’s a puzzle the writer has to solve with different muscles than their regular routine. “Here are ten words that you didn’t chose,” “here is a vintage postcard,” “here is a poetic form you’ve never tried before”–now go write. The excitement of solving that puzzle helps get me out of writing ruts.

What is your favorite time to write?
I’m a morning person, but when I’m focused on a writing project, any time of day can be work time.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers?
Lucille Clifton once told me that it’s a poet’s job to pay attention. In the context of our conversation, she was saying that writers should not look away from what’s hard or difficult in our lives or in the world. We use language, form, and narrative to reshape those struggles in order to help others, our readers, pay attention also.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age?
As I write this, we are in the middle of a pandemic. I am curious to see how social distancing, wearing masks, and the impact of sheltering in place will show up in books. This has been a rare universal experience, impacting all of human society. How will what’s happening now be incorporated into stories–especially middle grade and young adult novels–in the coming years and decades?

Laura Shovan’s A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, is out today with Clarion Books/HMH.