Interview With Author Shuly Xóchitl Cawood

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I’m Shuly Xóchitl Cawood (yes, my middle name is even harder to pronounce than my first, but I would not trade either one), and I have written two books: The Going and Goodbye: a memoir and 52 Things I Wish I Could Have Told Myself When I Was 17.

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

The things I write about are insistent: they nag at me until I write them. Even characters are insistent—they roam around in my head and refuse to leave until I finish their stories.

How do you deal with creative block?

I write fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, so when I get stuck in one genre, I just hop to another. That always works. If I am dealing with a specific problem in my writing, I take a walk. That often allows the solution to surface.

Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

I used to hate coming up with titles, and then a few years ago, I realized what great opportunities they were, and I started to love titling things—stories, poems, essays. For stories, I like unearthing a phrase I used in the piece that seemed insignificant but really encapsulates the story, or seems to mean one thing initially but has a different (or double) meaning once you read the work. I love titling a poem with something that gives the poem a different/deeper meaning. (For example, if it’s a poem that on the surface is about learning how to run, but the title is, ‘One Year After My Son Died,’ you’d read it differently.)

As for covers, if you have a choice, go with your gut. For my memoir, my publisher presented four initial options for my book cover, and I absolutely loved one, but I was worried it would not be right for the book and told my publisher I was going to pass on it. A friend of mine (who is an avid reader and books podcaster) told me to rethink that—she also loved the cover—and my publisher made some tweaks to it that made it perfect for the book in my eyes. I now can’t believe I was ever going to pass on it.

How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

I used to read all reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, checking in almost daily, but then I read something that Roxane Gay wrote that was something along the lines of: reviews are for readers, not for the writer. I took that to heart, and although I read reviews, I don’t do it nearly as often—maybe every couple of months—and I don’t read them all.

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

I always, always write what I love, and I honor the story that wants to be told in the way it wants to be told. It’s of course really wonderful if editors and readers like it, but the first and most important thing is that I have fun writing it. That way, if the piece of writing never finds a home in a journal or never becomes a published book, it still has great value to me.

What are your plans for future books?

I have recently completed a short story collection and am trying to find a publisher for that now, and I am working on my first novel.



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