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The Life of a Writer

The life of a writer can be magical and adventurous, but it’s also a lot of hard work. Aside from the year(s) it takes to write a book and the revision and editing process associated with it, there’s the business aspect. Some writers can afford to write full time but most have full or part-time jobs to help support that lifestyle.

Even some of the most successful writers hustle to maintain a balance between their writing, speaking gigs, and family life. I remember reading that after their success, Gone With the Wind’s author Margaret Mitchell and Harry Potter’s JK Rowling had difficulty finding time to write with the nonstop phone calls from the media and people making numerous requests or offering them dozens of opportunities. The hard work and unsteady income could cause a person to want to quit. For the dedicated, however, when they try to stop, the art always wins. Over time, they learn to simply surrender to it. They persist, despite the instability of it all.

Author Laura Bernstein-Machlay is a good example of persistence. Rejection letters never deterred her from doing the work, at one point repeatedly and boldly but politely sending to the same magazine until they accepted her piece. Laura teaches literature and writing at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit where she also lives. Her poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and magazines including The American Scholar, Georgia Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, New Madrid, Poetry Northwest, Redivider, Southern Humanities Review, and so on. She’s been nominated for six Pushcart Prizes in both the nonfiction and poetry categories (including one this year).

Last summer, Laura completed a multi-essay series on Detroit for The American Scholar. Her full-length collection of creative-nonfiction essays, Travelers, was published on May 1st of 2018.  The essays map her journey as she makes sense of her recovering city, Detroit, the generations that preceded her, and her own definition of wife, mother and home. The intimate, humorous and heartfelt essays offer an honest and discerning look at the moments which both challenge and redeem us; the shaping of our lineage; and the profound necessity of hope.

Deftly observed and thoughtfully crafted, Laura’s lyrical prose brings to life Detroit’s survivor spirit and the indefatigable nature of family. This collection discovers the inherent grace and defining necessity of place, heritage and the search for our own footing within the vast world we inhabit. Travelers examines the intersection of the connections we form and those we inherit and how, with distance and trust, and a little luck, we might find more than just our way home.

At the Detroit Working Writers (Nov. 10, 2018), Laura will lead a workshop called “The Tinkertoy Essay” which is a form of creative nonfiction that eschews conventional transition devices and instead utilizes short, vivid scenes “to tell stories in artfully arranged fragments rather than in one specific narrative line.” (Elena Passarello). By throwing away the restrains of rigid, often chronological, plot structures such as conflict and rising action, the writer is freed to focus on voice and image to surprising and powerful results.

Laura’s story is inspirational!

Through my decades of writing, I’ve met and worked with hundreds of writers from different backgrounds and “success” levels, from emerging writers to award-winners and bestsellers. I was most impressed with those who have found a balance in their lives, who enjoyed a “success” that was based on their terms and not everyone else’s.

When we take ourselves too seriously, we tend to also take the joy and creativity out of the writing process, even take it out of our lives. Our egos can get in the way of our authenticity, causing us to forget why we became writers in the first place. Our light becomes absorbed by pain and a sense of failure. As long as we don’t get ourselves stuck in that state too long, pain and darkness can be good in that they raise us to new awareness and create more depth in our writing.

So much happens in the writing process. You become informed of the subject you’re writing about. If the subject is close to your heart, you heal and transform as a person. After you release the story into the universe, you may touch someone in a way you’ll never know about. Then you have, knowingly or unknowingly, served yourself and others. You have come full circle.

To learn more about the DWW Conference, click here

To read more about Laura’s book, visit this link: