Interview with MINA SAMUELS
Mina Samuels is a full-time writer, editor, and performance artist, and in a previous incarnation, a litigation lawyer and human rights advocate. In addition to her own writing, her current editorial work may include, at any particular time, a diverse range of ghostwriting or editing projects from motivational to biography and memoir to business strategy, sports, and human rights.Mina's most recent book, RUN LIKE A GIRL, for which she appeared on The Today Show, came out in March 2011.
What are you reading right now?
I'm reading Colum McCann's TRANSATLANTIC. I haven't quite gotten into yet, but have high hopes. I just finished Kevin Barry's CITY OF BOHANE, which I loved, and before that Elena Ferrante's, MY BRILLIANT FRIEND, which was also wonderful. As you can tell, I love fiction!
What first sparked your interest in writing?
I loved writing as a child, but then moved away from it for a long time. My father has a picture of me when I was about 6 years old, sitting on the front steps of our house selling "my volumes,” as I called my writing projects.
What do you love the most about writing? The least?
I love the feeling of re-reading something I read and being surprised by it. Least pleasurable is the aftermath of writing - that is, engaging with the publishing industry, which has nothing to do with the creativity of the words.
Tell us a little about your writing process.
I am much sketchier with my writing discipline than I am with my workouts! In general, I try to write in the morning and set a specific goal. But I am, sadly, all too easily diverted into "practical" projects, or really anything to avoid the writing at times. But I have learned that writing on the hard-to-write days is where some of the best writing actually happens, when I feel squeezed dry, but force myself to sit down and do it. The creative process is not a sit-around-waiting-for-inspiration activity. Just as anything else, it requires spending a lot of time committed to the work, even when the work feels fruitless.
What are your passions?
So many!...reading and writing, movies, being outdoors and active, chocolate...to name a few.
What inspires you?
The strangest things. I never know in advance what is going to hit that inspiration spot. Sometimes it's the smallest, most mundane thing (I literally wrote a whole one-act play that sprang from looking at the warning stickers on scaffolding), and other times it's seeing someone else's astonishing creativity. Nature, of course, is incredibly important, but more by way of being a place of calm and reflection, as opposed to the "aha, that's what I want to write about..." Nature is where I go to find the inspiration for problem solving, as opposed to sourcing a new creative project.
How was RUN LIKE A GIRL born?
I was brainstorming non-fiction book ideas with a friend and she kept saying, "But what do you love?" And I woke up the next morning to go for my run, and I thought, "This! I love this - running and how it makes me feel. That's what I should write about."
Why did you decide to write specifically about women running rather than running and athletics in general?
I believe that the impact of sports on girls and women is different (at least for now - the future may hold a different world). I think that women need safe places where they can explore their ambition and their aggressiveness, and sports is an incredibly apt microcosm in which to test those aspects of ourselves, and learn how to bring them out into the world in other parts of our lives.
Did it take a lot of brainstorming to come up with so much to say on this topic or did you find that you already had plenty you wanted to say just waiting to be said?
There was plenty waiting to be said. There was, of course, a lot of brainstorming around finding the right topic areas into which to gather the myriad observations I made through all the 100 plus women I interviewed.
Along those same lines, do you feel you have more to say? Could you fill another book about women and athletics? (I’ll read it!)
There is certainly more that could be said. Each of the topics could be dived into more deeply. I didn't deal with the dark side of many of the issues. For example, the line between sports enhancing our lives and sports becoming an escape from our lives, a way of not actually dealing with things. I also think there is a whole world of interesting material around the international opportunities relating to women and sports. In the book, HALF THE SKY, the authors deal with the plight of women around the world - health issues, education issues, and sexual exploitation, but they totally miss the incredible value that introducing sports into girls' lives could have on solving these problems. There's a lot of talk in women's rights and women's empowerment about creating "safe spaces.” I think the first safe space we create is the one inside our own bodies and sports is a way of reclaiming our sovereignty over our own bodies. If we're engaged in a serious sport, we are far less likely to think that our only alternative is the sex trade. We are more likely to value our education and take care of our health. And so on. I think that's a rich vein that could be mined for another book.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Oh my goodness - I feel uncomfortable with advice; it can be so individual. I think the biggest thing is to keep going. As with athletics, writing is rain or shine, emotionally and psychologically. Write when it feels good and you're inspired. And write when it feels crappy and you think you suck!
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?
There is so much to explore and try and do. I've been on a venture into playwriting and even the performance side in a couple of one-act, one-woman pieces I've written. It's incredibly scary and challenging and every other day I think I should just give up. I don't know where it's going and whether I'll get "there" - wherever "there" is! But it's quite something to realize that I'm still exploring the possibilities and don't know for sure where I'll be with those possibilities in 5 years.