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1. What advice do you have for grad students, junior scholars and young writers?

Pick a writing project that lights you up. It's tempting to pick a topic that's fashionable or that you think will advance your career, but you are more likely to procrastinate or get stalled if you're not really passionate about the project.

2. What are some good tips for a joy-filled and productive writing practice that you think are often overlooked?

Many artists and writers over the centuries have found inspiration in their unconscious. Techniques like dreamwork and meditation are fun ways to tap into the incredible resource that is the unconscious. These techniques are useful for both creative and academic writers.

3. Is that how you find inspiration in both your creative and academic writing practice?


4. Why did you become a historian?

Firstly, I wanted a job with flexible hours where I could read a lot of books. Secondly, for reasons I can't exactly explain, I was drawn to certain time periods and places.

5. If you were not a historian, what would you like to be?

An astrophysicist, or a nightclub owner. They both get to work when the stars come out.

6. What is your favorite book on writing?

Write No Matter What by Joli Jensen.

7. What is your favorite inspirational book?

Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg, or Grist for the Mill by Ram Dass

8. What are one or two of your favorite quotations?

My favorite Oscar Wilde quotation: "I would do anything for except take exercise, wake up early, or be respectable." Or Gandhi: "If you want to find yourself, lose yourself in the service of others."

9. What is your favorite film?

The Big Lebowski is hilarious. For documentaries, one of my favorites is Fierce Grace.

10. What’s reading like for you? Is there a specific setting, mood, drink set-up?

Reading happens anywhere, anytime. When I’m waiting in line in the grocery store, I don’t pull out my phone. I read a book I keep in my purse, or I read one of the magazines in the aisle. People think you have to have the setting just right and that you are always in isolation, and they forget that reading can happen on the New York subway, in a war zone, at your cousin’s wedding or in the car while you’re waiting for the friend you’re picking up who is never on time. Centuries ago, people often read together in groups with one person reading aloud and the others listening. I am always talking to my friends about the books I’m reading and getting their suggestions. Reading can shut out the world, but it can also be communal.

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