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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Rosina Lippi

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? I’ll start at the second and easier half of the question. Writing is important in the world because human beings are dependent on storytelling. It’s how we make sense of ourselves and the world; in telling stories we pass along cultural goods. Writing makes it possible to share stories beyond the restrictions of time and place, and we simply have to be able to reach each other in that way. Writing (storytelling) is vital to the human spirit, as important as nourishment and lodging are to the physical body. Answering ‘Why is writing important to you’ is far more difficult, so I’ll borrow from George Orwell on this: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Really the question is, what demon drives me? First and most honestly, as the sole breadwinner in the family I find that necessity is the true mother of my inventions. It’s my good fortune that I have had enough commercial and critical success to be able to do that, but if we stumbled across a fortune tomorrow, I would finish out my contracts and probably not write again. I will take great comfort and pride in handing over the next novel, but the process is not one I enjoy.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? Persistence is the key. By that I mean, you sit down every day in front of the computer or typewriter or notebook, and you stare at the last sentence you wrote. If I do that for three hours and produce nothing, I know that my muse is demanding to be entertained and she isn’t going to budge unless I find a way to do that. Reading for fun, for example. Patience and perspective are also crucial. A day, a week, even many weeks of no writing progress is not a true catastrophe unless I indulge in drama.

What is your favorite time to write? My favorite time to write is whenever words flow smoothly. That is usually mornings, but I have been surprised by a sentence sneaking up on me in the middle of the night. When that happens I know I have to get up and write, because otherwise I’ll lose it.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? You have to earn your reader’s attention, and you do that by telling a good story. The story is the thing that will make the reader keep turning pages. Beautiful prose is frosting on the cake.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? If you are fortunate enough to find a readership and if you can keep their attention, it’s satisfying to be able to pass along things you believe to be important. History is so poorly taught, I find it exciting to get people interested enough that they shrug off apathy and start thinking. The best kind of compliment is: I thought I knew about the War of 1812 (or the 1880 smallpox epidemic, or the start of the Thirty Years War), but I had to find out how accurate you were so I went and read more. Hint: For the startling events that launched the Thirty Years War, look up ‘defenestration’.

Rosina Lippi’s Where the Light Enters, written under her pen name Sara Donati, is out now with Berkley.