You’ve written for everyone from celebrities to NASA, and you are a powerful voice in the literary world You’ve accomplished and experienced so much… How did this transition into writing happen?
AGA: The goal of this series is to discuss themes that tie in with travel, such as place and identity — and even to widen what we consider to be “travel writing.”
But before we even begin this journey of exploration together, I’d like to talk about you a little and your life. You’ve done so many things: you’ve been a Franciscan nun, the editor of a Hassidic Jewish magazine, a university professor of both literature and writing, a consultant to the SyFy Channel, and a multiple award winning author. You’ve fallen in love with Wales, and written about it extensively, in your both own work and as a Writer-in-Residence at the University of Wales. You’ve written for everyone from celebrities to NASA, and you are a powerful voice in the literary world. You’ve accomplished and experienced so much, and somewhere along the line, you became a brilliant writer as well. How did this transition into writing happen? When did you know you were a writer?
HS: Well, what a wonderful thing to say. I think “brilliant” is in the eyes of the beholder, but to answer your question about the writing part, or rather to not answer it: I don’t know. I can’t remember ever wanting to be a writer. I don’t consider myself a writer, as such, now.
AGA: But you have written about being a writer, and calling yourself one — or not. Can you share a bit of that here?
HS: Yes: For me, and for me alone, calling myself a writer feels like calling myself a commuter. Yes, one commutes (I don’t now, but I did) but that’s just a way to get somewhere. It doesn’t begin to describe where I am going, why, or from whence I came.
AGA: That’s very interesting, to say it is like calling oneself a commuter. I can see that: it does leave a great deal out, when explained that way.
HS: I just don’t feel it is a badge of identification. All my fellow academics write and most of them write well, but if you asked them what they do, they would not call themselves writers. They’d identify as academics or professors. I’m certainly an author. That has a clear definition: Someone whose writing is published. I have no difficulty with that.
But my doctors and lawyers have written books and are also authors. My priest and rabbi friends have written books and they too are authors. My husband, the former head of three movie studios and a producer/director, and elder son, a designer/design professor, have written several very highly regarded books. But none of them would answer a question about who they are — or even what they do — by responding, “I am a writer.” Nor would I. I call myself a writer because it is practical to do so at times, but with regard to Wales, I’m a stenographer. I take dictation from a voice I cannot hear and I don’t know from where it comes. Or from whom.
And so to return to your question, Gigi, “When did you know you were a writer?” I guess the answer to that has to be, “Not yet.”