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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Ruth Spiro

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world?
Writing is important to me because I’ve always been a reader. Discovering a passage in a book that “speaks” to me, one that captures an emotion or common experience feels like nothing less than magic. As a children’s book author I imagine the child reading or listening to my words and hope they find that same magic. Writing is an important medium for the world because it helps us learn, and laugh, and find ways of connecting with each other.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block?
While no one thing works every time, when I’m feeling stuck I find it’s best to step away from writing for a bit. I may try another activity that doesn’t require heavy thought, such as baking cookies or organizing a drawer. I’ve discovered that when I feel blocked its usually because I’m trying too hard and taking my work too seriously. The best remedy for that? Laughter! I’ll turn on a silly kids’ cartoon or vintage sitcom and while it may seem like I’m procrastinating, I’m actually finding inspiration in the stories and dialogue. Cookies and cartoons–this writer’s secret weapons to cure writer’s block!

What is your favorite time to write?
I’ve always wanted to be a morning person, but the reality is that I do my best writing late at night. At first it didn’t make sense–how could I get so much accomplished at the end of a long day? I realized that writing when I’m NOT totally focused helps me produce some of my best work because my “inner sensor” has nodded off and left me to create without judgment. I’m usually left with plenty of editing to do in the morning but my best, most creative ideas seem to flow long after everyone else in my house has gone to bed.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers?
The writing advice I try to remember comes from Seth Godin: “Ship the work.” That doesn’t mean you should hastily send your work out before it’s ready, clearly that wouldn’t be a smart career move. But many of us know the feeling of endlessly tinkering with a piece of writing, changing “happy” to “glad” and then back again without really improving anything. I know writers who have been working on the same manuscript for years and I suspect it’s not because they believe it isn’t ready. I think they don’t “ship the work” because they’re afraid to finally send it out into the world. Afraid of what their agent or editor or critique partners will say. Afraid of rejection. But then that one piece of work becomes far too precious and if we allow ourselves to continually revise until it’s absolutely perfect it will never, ever be finished. And we must finish, because there’s more writing to do. Write, revise, polish… then ship the work!

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age?
I don’t recall ever meeting an author when I was a child. Unlike today, we never had authors visit our school or interact with us directly. At best, we could write a fan letter and wait weeks or months for a reply. Now, it’s easy to connect with readers through email, social media and school visits. I love reading my books in a gym filled with enthusiastic elementary students or answering questions from kids on the other side of the world via Skype. Social media has its problems, no doubt, but it also provides exciting opportunities to engage with readers. When I’m tagged in an educator’s photo of art projects inspired by my book, or open an email from a parent whose child wants to hear my book read every night, I’m reminded of the importance, and the joy, in the work that I do.

Ruth Spiro’s Baby Loves Political Science: Democracy! is out now with Charlesbridge Publishing.