Q&A With Mary Laura Philpott

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Q&A Mary Laura Philpott 

Today I have the pleasure of doing a Q&A with author Mary Laura Philpott. Mary Laura wrote the memoirs “I Miss You When I Blink” and, more recently, “Bomb Shelter,” as well as a 2015 volume of cartoons, “Penguins with People Problems.” Mary Laura’s writings have also been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic, as well as many other publications. 


Q: At what point in your life did you realize writing was your true calling?


A: I’ve always loved to write. I figured out in my 20s that I could do it for a living, when I started working in corporate communications. It wasn’t until my 30s that I began publishing essays under my own name and, later, books.


Q: What advice do you give to anyone wanting to be a writer? What advice do you give to anyone who struggles with writers block? 


A: Read! Writers are readers first. If you want guidance on mechanics and form, take a writing class. As for writer’s block: I think sometimes we’re afraid of what we don’t want to write. Or we could write something, but we know it will be hard. Put your fingers over the keyboard and don’t let yourself get up until you write something.


Q: What were your favorite novels you read so far this year?

A: Oh my goodness, I wouldn’t know where to begin in answering that question! One I’ve been talking about recently is Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley. It’s light, funny, and accessible for any reader, but also really meaningful and memorable. It’s all about friendship and strangers looking out for each other — people treating one another the way I wish they did in real life. I just loved it.


Q: If you had to choose, out of all the books you wrote which one was your favorite one to write?


A: My favorite thing I’ve written is always the most recent thing I’ve written, so right now, it’s Bomb Shelter.


Q: What advice do you give to anyone wanting to pitch ideas to any news or magazine publications like you do? What are the steps they have to take?


A: Know the publications you’re pitching very well. Pitch stories that are in their wheelhouse — in the formats they run, on the types of topics they cover. And be prepared for rejection. There’s a lot more rejection (and waiting) than acceptance in this work, but you can’t take it personally.


Q: Are you writing a new book now? If so can you spoil a little bit about it?


A: Ha! At the moment, I’m still very much in the headspace of Bomb Shelter, because I’m still touring and talking about it with people. I find I have to finish one book’s tour before I can start thinking about another. 

Q: What’s it like writing for the news and magazine publications? It sounds very impressive.  


A: Well, it’s a job. And I do enjoy it. Writing is what I know how to do. And publishing my writing — whether that’s one piece at a time in newspapers and magazines or a larger collection in a book — is how I make my living. I think there was a time when I might have looked at this work from afar and thought, “how glamorous,” but on a daily basis, it’s just me sitting quietly at a computer, thinking. It’s really about as un-glamorous as it gets.