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Member Spotlight: Mel Laytner

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Until we implant the diodes that enable telepathy, we’re stuck with words. To give words longevity beyond random tones of a tuning fork, we write them down. Everything else flows from there (unless your name is Mendelssohn and you can compose songs without words that are that good…but he’s the exception that proves the rule.) Even van Gogh felt compelled to pen missives to his brother Theo about his craft. How much poorer our appreciation of da Vinci would be without the revealed secrets of his coded scrawls? Still, it’s not easy, not for most of us. We will always struggle for the right word, the right phrase, to form into sentences, and sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into stories–hopefully all of it clearly, cogently, honestly. Therein lies the fun, and the challenge.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? Whenever confronted with a bout of block, I turn to the Bible to calm and soothe, specifically Genesis, Chapter 1: God created the world in six days (period). On the seventh day he rested. (paragraph) Never has a more profound lede been penned. Bearing this in mind will remind you to keep it simple–subject/verb/period. The rest will flow. Or to paraphrase Hemingway, don’t confuse big words with big thoughts.

What is your favorite time to write? First thing in the morning or after dinner in the evening.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? Rule #10 of Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing: “10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.”

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? The casual ease with which even the piss poorest of writers can inflict their words on readers around the world.

Mel Laytner’s What They Didn’t Burn: Uncovering My Father’s Holocaust Secrets is out now with SparkPress.