Meet the Writer: Sheila R. Lamb

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Sheila Lamb received an MFA in Creative Writing  from Queens University of Charlotte and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from George Mason University. Her stories have earned Pushcart and storySouth Million Writers Award nominations. She’s also the journal editor for Santa Fe Writers Project. Sheila recently took her novel Once A Goddess on a virtual book tour with Grab the Lapels!

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’ve always written. As a kid, I made up stories, complete with stick figure illustrations. My parents read to me each night as well. They  had to tape record (you know, back in the day) them reading Dr. Doolittle and the Pirates because it was my favorite book and I wanted to hear it over and over. Could be the first book on tape.

How have you developed creatively since then?
I leave out the stick figures. I continued journaling and writing through high school and college. Somewhere in there, I became less consistent, maybe thinking it was a now-and-then hobby but not thinking writing was serious. I went into high school teaching and for several years was just busy and burned out. It was during that burn out time (and I left teaching for a few years) that I began writing again. I started with nonfiction, travel stories, then began – in fits and starts – the Brigid stories.

In what ways has academia shaped your writing?
I teach high school English (formerly History teacher and school  librarian) and I currently teach Dual Enrollment composition and literature courses. I feel that my professional life is separate from my writing life. I talk about writing with students – their writing, what can they do to expand or improve, what stories can they create.

I think of academia as my non-creative writing classes. My Sociology undergrad and Education M.Ed. shaped my professional writing. My MFA program was a godsend. I loved it. The instructors and fellow students at Queens pushed me to write better and to push myself in new directions – new ideas, points of view, structures.

What was the first piece of writing you did that you remember being happy with?
I think it was some of those first travel articles (now, I am not happy and could go through them with a mean red pen. But then, it was the first time in a long time I had gotten into the zone. I was awake, writing, at three a.m. and realized how completely happy I was doing it.

How do your friends and family respond to your writing?
My family enjoys the novels. I’m not sure if they’ve spent a lot of time looking at the various lit journals. My friends, many of whom are artists and writers, are very supportive. I have a few friends who are my first readers, and vice versa. My boyfriend is also a writer and we both understand the need to be alone, to go separate rooms and write.

Are you reading anything right now?
Atonement by Ian McEwan — for work. AP Lit. It’s a gorgeous, character-based story. The movie, while good, doesn’t do the book justice.

Are you writing anything right now?
I’m finishing edits on the third Brigid novel, entitled Church of the Oak. Then back to a literary historical manuscript based on my great-grandmother’s dealings with divorce, murder, and moonshine.

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