All the latest news, ideas, and opinions from Denver's Independent Literary Center: lighthousewriters.org
Continuing our conversation with Stories on Stage-winning author Laurie Sleeper, whose story “Naomi and the Writer” will be featured this weekend at the Secrets & Lies event (buy tix here, and get a discount with the code “lighthouse”), we learn of a meandering path bringing her to this moment.
Laurie mentioned having some elementary-school indicators that a life in story was in the works (see that Q/A here), so I asked her how she navigated from “Gory Laurie” through a series of family-and-career obstacles to arrive at this point. Here’s her answer:
Is this one of those “How did you become a writer?” questions, because if it is, all I can say is “don’t do what I did!” I wanted to be a writer, but for much of my adult life, I avoided being a writer (so to your specific questions, I did not have the ability to stick with it and I have not remained steady as I go!). When I was a young adult , I just didn’t have the confidence, and once I was older and taking writing more seriously, I was often interrupted by life circumstances that demanded my full attention. So my path to and through writing has been slow and meandering.
However, I always stayed near writing in some way. After college, I moved from California to New York to work in publishing for a few years. This didn’t help my writing (although I have a lot of journals from that time), but it fed my love of books—I loved the process of making them, of creating them, and it was great being a part of that, even in a small way. Then I moved back to California to go to law school, because—I don’t know, it made sense at the time, and mostly I wanted to get back to California. After I graduated, I worked as a staff attorney for judges for a few years, and learned quite a bit about writing then, about deadlines and appearing neutral in my writing when actually choosing one side or another—when someone compliments me now on not being sentimental in my writing when dealing with emotional issues, I connect that directly to my work as a lawyer.
Then, with the support of my husband, I quit the law so I could get an MFA. It took me three years to get in, and during that time, I took community college courses in creative writing and played music. I finally got into the MFA program at San Francisco State University, and it was the best thing for me. SFSU’s MFA was a three year program which you could take seven years to complete, and I took all seven years. During that time, I had both my children, lost my mother and three other relatives, dealt with health crises for my immediate and extended family, and had all the regular challenges of raising little kids. If I hadn’t been in the MFA program, I probably wouldn’t be writing at all now, but it never occurred to me to quit. Every semester that I returned, I felt like I’d been dog-paddling around in the sea of my life, and as soon as I stepped into class, I felt like an enormous wave had washed me up onto the solid ground of the place where I belonged.
I didn’t write at all after I graduated. We realized that the schools in California were not serving our children well, and we decided to move to Colorado. Once here, I again didn’t write at all. But after a year, I found Lighthouse and slowly (quickly?) became a part of this amazing writing community. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Lighthouse saved my life, but Lighthouse definitely saved my writing life. By being surrounded regularly by smart, funny, productive writers who constantly challenge me creatively, I’m writing better now than I ever would have on my own. And having a great time, too.
Please join us at the SOS 1:30 or 6:30 PM shows. Some of us will be going out to El Noa Noa for food and drinks prior to 6:30, so e-mail us if you’d like to meet there.