So I woke up this morning and thought, “Oh, I haven’t posted a new interview in my Interviews With Women Writers series in an ENTIRE YEAR!” Well, I must remedy that today, friends, and I’m so excited to introduce you to Leigh Shulman, who I’ve known for a few years now and who is helping writers find their confidence through her mentoring programs! It’s so great to see writers helping and encouraging each other, so read on to learn more about Shulman’s work and mentoring projects… xoxo
Name: Leigh Shulman
Where are you from: I’ve moved around a lot. Right now, I live in Argentina
3 words to describe me: I asked my partner to answer this one for me. Passionate, talented, anxiety-prone
Website: Leigh Shulman
Tell me a bit about yourself…what do you do, what are your hobbies, etc.?
I’m a writer, mentor and book coach living in Argentina with my family. We travel as much as we can. I’ve taught writing and poetry at universities, continuing education programs and at small school programs in the U.S., Panama, Costa Rica and Argentina. My work has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Establishment, Vox, Guernica and more. I’m also the author of The Writer’s Road Map!
These days, I spend my time writing and coaching women 1:1, at international writing retreats and also through The Writer’s Process, my online writing academy for people who want to learn writing skills, find their community and make money with their words. I want to help more women feel confident with their writing, finish their masterpieces and build professional careers.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Was it always something you wanted to do?
I remember sitting down to write in a notebook when I was 12. I was pissed off at something or another — as 12-year-olds do — and the words just poured onto the page. I just kept having things to say. From then on, I thought of myself a great writer. I wrote for the school newspaper, yearbook, for myself, short stories, you name it. I dreamed of writing and traveling the world.
But life doesn’t always work out as planned, right?
After college, I took a job at MTV, and while it was an incredible experience, I had little time and a lot of excuses that kept me from putting fingers to keyboard. Then when my daughter was born in 2004, my writing ground to a halt. Writing has always had a place in my life, although there have been many times I doubted and stopped putting pen to paper. I mean, if I’m not writing, am I still a writer?
Fortunately, I turned that ship around. I got my MA in creative writing and education and began teaching writing. When my daughter was three years old, we sold everything we owned and left Brooklyn to travel. We eventually settled in Argentina, which is my home base when I’m not traveling.
What writers/books did you admire growing up?
I read and totally wanted to be a character in Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary books. But most of all, I loved Madeline L’Engle. She came to speak at my school in third grade. I remember her telling us that people always asked her how to write books for children. She said, “You write them as you would for anyone else.”
What is most rewarding for you as a writer?
When I’m able to finish a piece of writing that makes my readers feel the way I intended. When someone tells me after reading, “Yes, that’s exactly it!” Or when I find a solution that helps me unravel a problem in a new story and helps me find my way to finishing.
What issues do you think women face as writers?
I’ve spent years working with women writers helping the write books, articles and publish. We simply don’t give ourselves enough credit. We feel like we have to first prove ourselves before we can definitively call ourselves writers. We worry that no one wants to hear what we have to say. Really, we just need to stop worrying about being pushy or aggressive or any of those adjectives too often used to tell us that we’re asking for too much.
I met so many women held back by these adjectives and expectations, I wrote a blog post about it!
What is one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were just starting out?
Just do what you want. Don’t worry about mistakes. Everyone makes them, and ignore anyone who tells you it’s impossible to do something you want to do. It never hurts to try. It does hurt to hold back from a dream because someone else has decided it’s not possible.
Be sure to follow Leigh on Twitter to keep up with her writing journey! I’d love to keep this series going, so feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas or if you’d like to be interviewed! We women have to stick together, right?!?!? xoxo