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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Valerie Nieman

author Valerie Nieman looking  at camera and an image of her book In the Lonely Backwater

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? I’ve been writing since I was a tween-ager. It’s who I am, through school and lousy jobs, a couple of marriages, a lost farm, and careers as a journalist and professor. As much as it’s essential for me, I think writing is essential to us all if we ever hope to knit together this fractured society and ailing planet. Communication of ideas, and of empathy, are what we need as we face another period when “the centre cannot hold.” I’m dismayed at the rise of “alternative facts” and “fake news” and the acceptance not of merely shading the truth but burying it six feet deep. That’s the province of fiction writers: We lie for a living. But the world so desperately needs facts, and respect for science and math and medicine, as we face challenges from disease to war to climate change. All four horsemen are riding. Maybe words are too flimsy to meet the challenge, but it’s what we have and must employ.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? As I was trained as a journalist, I was never given the option of having writer’s block! You have a deadline and a certain space of “news hole” to fill, and if you don’t fill it — well, that would not be good. So I’ve always been thankful for that excellent training, where I learned there is always something to be done, research, revision, writing that one scene you can see clearly though everything around it is in a haze. In addition, I love walking in all forms, hiking, gentle strolls, wandering in cities, and this activity for me has always been liberating and productive. When the words are not coming easily, a walk puts me back into my sensory world and sometimes presents wonderful little human conundrums, bits of dialog, a face, a name. The world is so rich! I never use earbuds when walking, because I might miss something.

What is your favorite time to write? I am at my most productive in the morning, sometimes quite early when it’s still dark. I love this time of year when the dawn chorus starts well before dawn, and the singing swells with the light. I also have a burst in the early afternoon, but after supper I’m pretty much done. That’s time for reading, or streaming, or just sitting and looking at the garden. Replenishment time.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? Persist. Refuse to give up, back down, let it go. The easiest thing is to quit, and certainly if we put a pencil to our writing careers, for most of us, they wouldn’t be worth the effort. Something inside us wants to get out, and it’s to our detriment if we quash it.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? We have the potential to reach readers everywhere, thanks to the internet and the various online sales platforms. I love a physical bookstore, love the quirks and the architecture and the smell of coffee from the cafe, and I support my “locals.” I’m also cognizant of the fact that I have readers in England and Australia and so forth, only as a result of the international commerce in books, ebooks, and audiobooks. That’s the other thing–the rise of ebooks and audiobooks has meant that readers have more access to a wider range of materials that meet their needs in terms of format. I have friends who are visually impaired, hearing impaired, or have difficulty managing a print book. They now can access just about any book they’d like in a format that is comfortable to use. I’m also excited at the interest in hybrid forms and genres. So much energy!

Valerie Nieman’s In the Lonely Backwater is out now with Regal House Publishing.