Before They Were Authors: Laurel S. Peterson

shadow-notes-cover-compressedIt’s my pleasure to introduce Laurel S. Peterson to Before They Were Authors. A fellow Barking Rain Press author, Laurel’s debut mystery novel, Shadow Notes, was released in May 2016. In addition to being a mystery author, Laurel is also an English professor at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. Her poetry has been published in many literary journals and she has two poetry chapbooks. She is currently serving as the town of Norwalk, Connecticut’s poet laureate. Let’s find out a bit more about her, shall we?

Judy: What was the best job (besides being a writer) that you ever had, and how has it influenced your writing?

Laurel: The best job I’ve had is being a college professor. I love seeing students master a concept or skill. I like seeing them complete a course they didn’t think they’d make it through. I love classroom debate and laughter, and watching minds probe, toy with, wrestle with ideas. I like reading student papers when the student has invested him/herself in the process or has something fresh or unusual to say.

As far as influencing my writing, the job’s biggest gift is time. I have summers off, a month at Christmas, and a week in the spring. I can also get a fair amount of writing done at the beginning of the semesters as I don’t have a lot of grading yet. It also puts me in an environment with others who love language and ideas. However, there was one draft of a novel way back when that killed off a college president, although not the president at the college where I teach now (and no, it’s true, not just politic!). There are a few people I wouldn’t mind killing off. I imagine I’m on some of their kill lists, too, which is only fair.

Judy: Have you quit your day job?

Laurel: I wish. (Surprising after all that praise above, but I grade an average of 600 papers/1400 pages each semester.) And given that I’m supposed to be promoting a book and acting as my town’s poet laureate and writing a new book in addition to teaching, giving up any one of them would be a step in the right direction. It’s just that they are a) fun to do or b) paying for my groceries.

Judy: What made you decide to become a writer?

Laurel: I wouldn’t say there was much deciding involved. When I was in junior high school, I started keeping a journal. I was being bullied by the kids, while the teachers treated me as an advanced student. The journal allowed me to process that dichotomy. It was just mine, safe from judgment. One day, the bus trip home was particularly harrowing. I wrote a story that afternoon in which something violently awful happened to the bully. I don’t remember what, but it was very satisfying to write! By mistake, I left the journal on the breakfast room table, where my parents read it. Instead of asking about the bullying, they told me they were dismayed I was thinking this way, and that I should never write anything like that again. I don’t respond well to ultimatums.

Judy: Do you have any writing advice for aspiring authors?

Laurel: Don’t let anyone tell you what you should do. Write what you’re curious about. Find someone who knows what they are doing, and get that person to help you write even better than you do now. Pay attention to every word. Allow the reader to revel in your sensory dream.

Judy: Thank you, Laurel, for sharing your story.

Find Laurel on her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

cr7c3tdw8aizgdo-jpg-largeFind Shadow Notes at all the usual suspects. Even better, for the month of September, Barking Rain Press is having a 50% off anniversary sale! Click on the postcard to find out more.


8 responses to “Before They Were Authors: Laurel S. Peterson

  1. I don’t know about quickly, Judy and Michael. That was several decades ago! (I’m not telling how many.) It took me a long time to figure out how to believe in myself. I honestly believe my parents were trying to protect me, an honorable thing. We never know how our words will affect someone. Thanks so much for stopping by, Michael. Good luck with your work!

  2. Judy Penz Sheluk

    So true, Michael. It took me a long time to realize that — Laurel was much quicker off the mark! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

  3. Love this post! Don’t let anyone–even parents–keep you from pursuing what you were called to be! Go for it, and don’t let disappointments or setbacks deter you on your path. It is far better to have lived a life in pursuit of your destiny and temporarily fail, than to never have strived for your dreams at all! (I mention “temporarily” thinking of such greats as Vincent Van Gogh, and others who never “made it” during their lifetimes, but are now recognized for the masters they were.)

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Sheri. It took me a long time to learn that lesson about doing what was right for me. My theory is that’s true especially for women… ? Anyway, I appreciate your comments!

  5. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Happy to have you! Love your story.

  6. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks for stopping by Sheri!

  7. Thanks Laurel, for sharing your before story with Judy! I agree with you on following your own path. I look forward to reading your intriguing novel.

  8. Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Judy!

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