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The Impact of Writer in Residence Maggie Shipstead

Posted by Lilly Earley '20 on Oct 31, 2018 10:10:00 AM

Maggie Shipstead is an accomplished novelist, travel writer, and author of esteemed short stories and articles. Prior to her week-long visit to Tabor, this is all I knew of her.

Maggie Shipstead - 8733107Upon her visit, my AP Language class met with her, where she spoke about writing techniques that she utilizes. One specific piece of advice she imparted upon our class was the cure to writer's block: “Change perspectives, just keep writing.” Not only is this encouraging advice to someone who stumbles across writer’s block frequently, but it is comforting to know that even professional writers hit multitudes of stumbling blocks along the way. The changing of perspectives, she shared, was the key to creating a well-rounded, dimensional character, allowing for developed readers to analyze characters tones and attitudes reflected by their reactions. She also encouraged us to be honest, write bluntly, and avoid puff pieces. Throughout her writing, it is her blunt style of portraying a situation that deeply develops a reader’s understanding and relatability of both the specific characters and the piece itself. In this day and age, when we often read pieces that are too “fluffy,” and inherently exhibit no integrity, it is important for young writers like me to cultivate balance between honesty and perfection within our writing as Ms. Shipstead advised.

Her enthralling honesty about not only writing, but business, spoke to me so much that I went to hear her speak twice more in search of more valuable advice. In terms of business, she explained her career in travel writing, and how you can pursue what you love while also making a living. While going back to hear her speak with my yearbook extracurricular group, she touched upon how pictures in her travel columns would “sometimes come out of the most unexpected moments.” I related this to my position on the yearbook team because often the best pictures come from these situations, which is what makes the publication so special in the end. Additionally, considering myself a creative person, it was refreshing to find that you can have a successful career encompassing both writing and art, with the ability to maintain artistic control in terms of cover work.    

In the final session, Shipstead’s description of these aspects were exemplified in the reading aloud of two of her writings: “I’m sorry, Taylor Swift”, as well as a snippet of her newest book to be published in 2020; her stark humor and honesty unwavering throughout both pieces.

In summary, Maggie Shipstead’s visit to Tabor was a unique opportunity to get an outside perspective on writing and business. Her words of wisdom have reinforced an undying inspiration within me to follow my passions and find honest and balanced success in my life. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity, and look forward to keep learning more from beneficial speakers and mentors like Ms. Shipstead.

Maggie Shipstead - 8733132

Topics: Academics