Editor’s Note: our Former Contributors Interview Project showcases former contributors of Stone Soup and the wonderful things they’ve gone on to do.
Abby Sewell wrote “On the Headland,” from our March/April 1996 issue.
SS: What are you doing now?
AS: I’m a journalist, currently based in Beirut. I’m a staff reporter for The Daily Star, the primary English-language newspaper in Lebanon, and freelance for a number of international publications. I cover a variety of subjects, but I’m particularly focused on human rights issues, including the situation of Syrian refugees. I also do some volunteer work, primarily teaching English, and am part of a group called Hakaya that puts on storytelling events.
SS: What did Stone Soup mean to you?
AS: From the time I was around seven years old, I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Stone Soup gave me an early taste of what it would be like to be published, and of course it boosted my confidence to see my work in print. I think I also enjoyed seeing what “the competition” (aka my peers) were writing.
SS: Do you have any advice for current readers, writers, and artists who contribute to Stone Soup?
AS: When you’re learning a craft, whether it’s writing or art, it’s important to expose yourself to works that you can learn from and that will give you inspiration; but at the same time, to develop your own voice and your own vision. Experiment with different styles and subjects. For fiction writers, the classic advice “write what you know” still holds true, but that doesn’t mean that your characters and situations have to come directly from your life. What it does mean it that you should draw from your own experience and observations of the world as you tell your story, even if that story takes place in an imaginary world or in a setting very different from your own. Ursula Le Guin, one of my favorite novelists, called this “imagination working on observation.” Also, try to meet as many different types of people as you can and listen to their stories. And as with any skill, practice.
SS: How old were you when you started writing or creating art? Do you remember what motivated you at the time?
AS: Even before I could write, I used to tell stories (there’s a cassette tape somewhere with some of them on it). My parents both shared their love of books with me. Before I was old enough to read a lot of the classics myself, they used to read to me — everything from Little Women and Tom Sawyer to the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin. Naturally, I became a voracious reader myself as I grew up, and seeing the power of stories, I was inspired to tell my own.
SS: Are you still writing or creating art, and have you since published works anywhere else? Please provide links, if you’d like!
AS: Yes, I write for a living, although it’s a different type of writing. As a kid, I always wanted to be a novelist, but I remember at one point deciding that I should work as a journalist first to learn more about the world before trying to write fiction. And indeed, I do know more about the world now, but I haven’t yet gone back to writing fiction! But it’s certainly possible that there’s still a novel in my future. For those interested in seeing my journalistic writings, you can find some of them here.
Thanks so much, Abby! If you have any questions that you’d like to ask former contributors, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!