Author’s Roundtable: Erynn Rowan Laurie

A recent interview with Erynn Rowan Laurie


How long have you been writing? Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

 I’ve been writing all my life, and getting published since I was in junior high school during the 1970s, in various venues from the school paper to the regional Mensa newsletter. I think the first time I got published in national circulation was a short piece I contributed in the late 1980s for a Pagan newsletter, Circle Network News. My first professional publication was an article in Sage Woman, in 1994, another Pagan publication. I framed a copy of that first check and kept it on the wall for several years to remind myself that I was a “real” writer. It was a very exciting moment. Several of my articles and essays, and some of my poetry, have been translated into at least half a dozen different languages over the years. My first book, “A Circle of Stones,” was published in 1995 and has been reprinted in a second edition, which was released in May.

Writing is definitely something I always wanted to do, ever since I realized that every word in the books, stories and poems I had ever read had been written by another person. I was very young when I started reading – about three, according to my mom – and to me it seemed like magic. The ability to create worlds, to make music with language, to convey emotion, information and mystery, has always impressed me very deeply. There’s something holy about creating like that; I think that to write well is to share in that power, to touch the heart of what it is to be human. Words well-used have the ability to change the world, and to change the hearts and minds of those who read or hear them.

What books or stories have you written?

I have a fair list of publications out these days from various small publishers and three more projects that came out in 2012, with a few more anthology pieces waiting for the editing process to finish. I enjoy working with small presses because it feels so much more personal, and because I think I have considerably more control over what the finished work looks and feels like. Small presses are, in my experience, much more willing to work with an author rather than dictating content. They don’t pay as much, but I don’t have to worry about making a living with my writing, so I’m content with what comes.

My work is mostly nonfiction. I deal with disability issues and veterans issues in my writing, as well as Celtic Pagan spirituality and poetry, so my work covers a pretty broad spectrum of interests. My biggest project so far has been my book on the early Irish ogam alphabet, “Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom.” People use it for divination and magic, and I spent about 18 years researching and writing for it before it was finally released in 2007. Part of what took so long was the fact that I’d had to throw everything out and start over entirely, four times. It was very frustrating, but I think the end result was much better for having done all that.

My approach is very much based on history and research, but the applications are as much influenced by practical modern use as by the historical context. I’m always very clear about what’s history, what’s conjecture, and what constitutes my own interpretations of the material, so that people can decide for themselves how they want to handle the material and what they want to do with it. I’m all about the footnotes; I tend to be a little obsessive about them, but it’s largely because when I read, I want to know where things come from, so I’m giving my readers that same ability to chase down sources themselves if they want to.

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