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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Whitney Stewart

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing illuminates, educates, enthralls. It connects minds and hearts. It allows expression of ideas that cannot always be voiced. At least that is true to my experience. Writing let’s me sleep at night.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? Until the 2020 COVID19 pandemic, I’d only had serious writer’s block once before in over thirty years of writing. That was after my helicopter evacuation from New Orleans on September 1, 2005. My family and I had been stuck in a building during Hurricane Katrina, and I had storm nightmares after that. I tried four remedies for writer’s block: Hard exercise, acupuncture, hypnosis, and drawing. I have no special talent for drawing but I took a class with an artist, which helped to unlock my frozen heart-mind. I published four children’s books soon after that drawing class.  
This year I have been stuck again. I’ve written eleven manuscripts (7 for picture books) and only completed and published three essays so far this year. My artist friend lives in another town now but we have been working together over Zoom to activate our creativity. I also take long solo bike rides to see something beyond my four walls. I am certain that COVID confinement and disturbing racial and civil injustices in our country and the world combine to make the situation that contributes to my stalled writing this year. Time will tell if my remedies will work or if I will just have to wait until my frustration melts. Either way, I have confidence that I’m not done writing. I know I’ve written terrible early drafts before and finally found a way through to good writing.

What is your favorite time to write? Morning, after meditation and exercise. No question. I’m useless after dark.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? Read! I know everyone says this, but it’s true. Read in your genre and outside your genre. Read fiction and nonfiction. Read books for adults and books for young readers.
The second piece of advice is to write on a schedule. Whatever schedule you devise, but a schedule. No cheating. Just write. And if it’s crap today, put it aside for some time and come back to it with a fresh mind.   But come back, on schedule.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? Today’s writing world has upended the tried and stale. We are now able to read authentic voices from populations that were overlooked or silenced in the past.

Thirty years ago I searched hard to find books by Black, indigenous, and Asian writers. I looked for translated books when I traveled overseas. I studied foreign languages so I could read original writing. I wanted to understand people from other communities. I wanted to know their stories.

Today’s age has brought us a body of literature that better reflects our diverse world. May writers everywhere find ways to express their thoughts and publish their stories. We are all better for it.

Whitney Stewart’s Genomics: A Revolution in Health and Disease Discovery is out now with Twenty-First Century Books.