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Member Spotlight: Lyzette Wanzer

author Lyzette Wanzer and an image of her book Trauma, Tresses, and Truth

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing is more than just a medium; it’s a tool. When 2020’s summer of racial reckoning occurred, my rage crested into a monstrosity I barely recognized, my days fraught with unrelieved gavel-to-gavel fury that leaked into and compromised my everyday functioning. The coronavirus lockdown, with its enforced curfews and isolation, exacerbated the situation. The one weapon I knew I could wield was my pen. In many ways, writing Trauma, Tresses, & Truth‘s book proposal that summer helped me survive the tsunami of corrosive emotions I experienced in the midst of worldwide protests and calls for justice. With ongoing attacks against critical race theory, complete with rampant book-banning, writing has become–remains?–a revolutionary act that resists erasure and silencing efforts.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? I don’t get writer’s block as it is typically defined. However, when I feel I’ve encountered a brick wall during the creation of a piece, or when I feel that my “ideas well” has run dry, I simply pivot to reading. And I’ll read all sorts of material, not just works from the literary canon. Poetry, graphic novels, literary journals, and action thrillers featuring impossible operatives are all game.

What is your favorite time to write? I’ve always done my best writing either early in the morning–I’m talking the wee hours when I should be asleep–or very late at night, after 9pm or 10pm. Of course, these hours aren’t always practical for my schedule, so I often wind up writing during regular daylight hours.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? You should always have something under submission somewhere: several essays. stories, poems, plays, whatever it is that you write. Submit to literary journals, writing contests, artists’ residencies, grant, fellowship, and scholarship opportunities, and submit proposals to conferences like AWP, MLA, PCA/ACA, Sigma Tau Delta (if you’re a member), and other conferences in your genre or subject matter area. When a rejection comes in, update the response in your electronic submission tracker, and send something else out or submit an application for another opportunity.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? I’m enjoying the broadening opportunities that have become available for writers of color since the summer of 2020. I’ve sensed a real shift in discovery and earnest efforts to suss out and elevate these voices since the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. I’m not certain that Trauma, Tresses, & Truth–in Fall 2020– would have received as many publishing offers as it did at any other time.

Trauma, Tresses, and Truth: Untangling Our Hair Through Personal Narratives edited by Lyzette Wanzer is out now with Chicago Review Press.