Five Questions with SUSAN SHAPIRO BARASH


1.) When did you know you wanted to be a writer? I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was six years old and decided to write a family newspaper and sell it to each family member. I chose the college (Sarah Lawrence) I attended based on their writing program and I had already had a few accolades in high school. From the start I loved to write all forms: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, journalism. 2.) What do you love most about the writing process? (Or the editing process?) I don't consider writing an easy process, but more that it is compelling for writers —they cannot live without writing. I have been in the same writing group for eleven years and often someone will comment what fun it will be doing a rewrite or changing part of the plot, if it is fiction. Or what fun lies ahead in shapeshifting a nonfiction book. I never view it as fun—I can't believe they feel so upbeat. Rather for me it is that I cannot be without writing. It is a given, it is integral. Editing is a must and sometimes goes more smoothly with one project than with another. I believe that rewriting and editing are essential to the final product. What makes the editing process more welcome than the writing is the fact that the draft already exists —one has achieved quite a feat by the time she sits down to edit. 3.) What do you love most about teaching writing or editing and how does it feed your own writing? What is one of your favorite writing prompts? Teaching is so important because thoughts are shared and there is a common goal, thus mutual support. I have been fortunate enough to study with truly great writers as both an undergraduate student and when earning my masters in creative writing. That motivated me to teach writing and for over twenty years I have, at Marymount Manhattan College. I am a proponent of the study of writing and of the value of writing workshops and writing groups. There is so much to gain in these organic settings. One of my favorite writing prompts is some version of a familiar one: You are on a dark road with your partner. The car breaks down and there is no cell service. The batteries in the flashlight in the glove compartment are dead. A dread washes over you. Together you walk east, not sure why... 4.) What are you reading right now? I am reading two books presently—I like to do that.The first is a novel, Like A House on Fire by Lauren McBrayer and the second is nonfiction, Bittersweet by Susan Cain. Both are quite good! 5.) What's your favorite writing quote and/or the one piece of writing advice you want to share with aspiring writers? It is a tough time in the publishing industry and yet a writer must write. My advice would be to never give up, be open to criticism and instruction, and not worry about how to get your book or article out there. Not at the start of a project.

We can learn so much from others—join a writing group, take classes. If what others say doesn't resonate, one can always discard the suggestion, but try it out at least. And have a few first readers.Family, friends, colleagues, who will read your early pages and share candid thoughts.


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