This is the fourth in my 2015 series called Luminaries, about people I’ve met who seem to be guided by their own inner light. I’ve been inspired by them and here relate some of the wisdom I’ve picked up from each one. See Interview 1, Interview 2, and Interview 3.
Laura Stanfill, gracious interviewee #4 for this series, tugs the covers in the complete opposite direction from my other subjects in terms of life path-taking.
If Ward is on one end of the spectrum, with his do-everything curiosity for life, Laura is on the other end, with her insane commitment to being the best writer she can be, no matter the assignment, no matter the time pressure. But let’s start at A Beginning…
Our beginning was at Stumptown Lit 2014, where I was having my first book exhibited as a member of Oregon Writers Colony — so exciting! I was searching for less-cliche, less-network-y ways to engage with people at the event, so when I arrived at the Forest Avenue Press table, I asked Laura, “What made you decide to become a publisher?”
And she had a wonderful, self-aware answer, johnny-on-the-spot. I made a mental note: this gal is the Real Deal. So I was over-the-moon delighted when she agreed to do an interview for Taste Life Twice. I was also delighted to find out that her own publishing career started off with a series of similar interviews with a wide variety of writers in the Pacific Northwest (Brave On The Page).
Coincidence??? I hope not…
Laura has achieved success in every arena she has entered. That comment I made above, about “no matter the assignment”? She once had a freelance job writing for a school district that needed more funding from the local Board of Supervisors. She turned it into a 296-page school district masterpiece, resulting in the Association of School Business Offices’ Meritorious Budget Award, but more importantly, the first time the schools received what they asked for in recent memory!
When I sat down to pelt Laura with nosey questions last month, I realized that she must possess some sort of crazy magic substance (like lembas) to sustain such a drive for excellence and constant innovating: from overachiever school newspaper editor at Vassar College to Publisher of her own press for the last four years, it’s always been about writing. She neglected to mention a source for the lembas (darn!), but said that she’s been a perfectionist forever, and motivated to exceed people’s expectations since before that.
Thankfully, as a parent, she’s learned to turn on her personal ‘Creativity Valve’ when she has a spare ten minutes in order to edit, write, report, or otherwise grow her business, an effort that has always been about strengthening the literary community here in Portland, her adopted city.
One of the points that some of the other ‘Luminaries’ have expounded upon is the breaking away from other people’s expectations as a break for freedom. For Laura, it seems to be more of a synthesis: when the expectations align with her own desire to write, she puts love into the project, and great things happen.
One of the most important questions for Laura was the one about balance: What balances you out in life? At first, she couldn’t think past her perfectionist tendencies. But then the little things, those activities that can seep into the cracks of life, showed themselves. Reading for pleasure. Writing her own fiction. Knitting (in a community of knitters). And oh, what’s this in my back pocket?
That’s right: an annual retreat with a few women writer friends, where they isolate themselves in individual cabins for several days, coming together for lunches and dinners to discuss their current works.
Doesn’t that sound divine? (If you are interested in such a thing, DO NOT HESITATE to contact me. I’m totally starting my own!)
One of my other regular questions is about a defining moment, some memory that points the way to what you know you’re meant to do. For Laura, this occurred very early on, and she had a beautiful anecdote about how her passion was lovingly reinforced:
For a 4th grade writing assignment on an everyday object, she chose a red rubber ball. And what did it do? It went on a journey to the Black Forest of Germany and had adventures. The Schwarzvald, people! The teacher conspired with the school librarian to get the story ‘published’ for the school library.
Ms. Stanfill has been writing ever since.
Images courtesy of Wikipedia Commons and Laura Stanfill