#8 - An interview with writer Alison Lowenstein

literature -

#8 - An interview with writer Alison Lowenstein

Here, we celebrate intellect. And we try to learn as much as we can about our teams' disciplines from experts in the field!  To better understand literature and its importance, we interviewed Alison Lowenstein, writer extraordinaire in her home in Brooklyn, NY. Alison is the author of numerous articles (including The Washington PostMcSweeneys, and L'Chaim Magazine), guidebooks, and plays. She has written books for kids using her own name and a pen name. She has been an editor and has taught literature and writing at the college level.

CI: We’ve just shared a bit of your literature background; When and why did writing and literature become important to you, inspiring you to make a career out of it?

AL: I’ve always loved literature and reading. I was an early reader and just read all the time. When I started reading books outside of school’s assigned reading lists, it occurred to me that I could learn even more, and there was just so much out there. I picked up the "Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" series and just loved it.

CI: Why is literature important in our society, and specifically, in education? Why should we teach our children about literature?

AL: I think it teaches them empathy. There’s only so much you can learn about an event, facts and figures and such, but then reading about people and what happened to them teaches them so much more than that.

CI: I couldn’t agree more. Especially in today’s climate, when empathy is so important to teach our children, this is critical. You and I spoke the other day, and I mentioned that I get really attached to fictional characters.  When we read about Abraham Lincoln, for example, we get a more tangible sense of history.

AL: That’s exactly what historical fiction does it brings you back to a time period. Lincoln is an endless inspiration. One of the most talked about novels of last year was George Saunders's "Lincoln in the Bardo".

CI: Who is your favorite author and why?

AL: I have so many favorites! As a teen I was into Kurt Vonnegut, but in college I discovered many female writers that inspired me including Grace Paley’s short stories and Gertrude Stein’s writing

CI: Right now in the shop, TeamLIT includes Chaucer, Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy. (Side note: more coming this week, including some female representation! You should see an Austen and a Bronte in the shop by week’s end.) Is there anything interesting about any our Team LIT roster you’d like to share with our audience?

AL: Well, I could talk for hours about Shakespeare, but I think Tolstoy is a great example of how literature is timeless.  A small portion of his “War and Peace,” for example was reexamined and brought to life in a wonderful show here in New York called “The Great Comet.”

CI: Sorry to interrupt, but I’m an avid theater-goer! How can I see that show?

AL: Well, it’s not showing any more, but you can try to look for recordings or the music from it – it was such a good show! But I think that’s an example of how timeless great stories can be.

CI: Absolutely. And one of the things I love about the topics we discuss here at Celebrate Intellect is the intersection of the various disciplines. How we learn about history through literature or math through philosophy, that sort of thing. So thank you for pointing this out and giving me a new musical to research and enjoy!

CI: Ok, last question. Do you have any advice for young or aspiring writers? How can they become “the next Alison Lowenstein, accomplished writer?”

AL: Well, I haven’t made it! I’m just a working writer. I’m so grateful that I can work and pay my bills doing something I love [editor's note: we think that means you've "made it" as a writer!], but the answer for writers today is to just WRITE. There is no secret sauce, just do the work. And there are so many platforms today that weren’t around when I was just getting started, when I had to print everything out and submit hard copies. Today, you can put stuff on twitter, submit on submittable.com, build your own audience online – but that’s not a substitute for quality. You still have to put in the work and hone your craft.

CI: Thank you so much, Alison, for joining me today and discussing this important topic!

AL: Thank you for doing this – I think it’s great what you’re doing. It’s inspiring.

CI: Aw, shucks. 😊


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