1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
Let’s see, I was born and raised in Phoenix, Ariz. (where I still live today) to two liberal, Jewish parents who moved from Queens, N.Y in the 1970s. They were both teachers and always encouraged my creativity. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. In fact, I wrote my first short story when I was seven years old. It was about a girl who befriends a group of aliens named after different foods. I was always a creative, hyper, and somewhat neurotic kid, and I think writing just gave me an outlet. It also became a buffer against relentless bullying, and as life went on, writing became my therapy–my way of processing the world and everything happening around me. I started my career as a daily newspaper reporter, but had to leave journalism due to the Great Recession. I then got into strategic communications and public relations, but I never stopped writing creatively on the side. I just love great stories!
2) What inspired you to write your book?
The story of how “The Condemned: A memoir told through selected early works of short stories, essays, and poetry” came together is kind of random and haphazard. I’ve always written my way through every major life adversity, until COVID hit. I just couldn’t write during 2020; I was honestly traumatized. Things got a little better in 2021, but I struggled to regain my creativity and motivation. I guess that’s a typical trauma response. I began writing a little in 2022, then lost my job due to a COVID layoff, so I stopped. By 2023, I felt depleted and seriously missed writing, yet I could not come up with anything creative. In an effort to reignite my writing muscle, I started re-reading a bunch of older works from my past, much of it unpublished.
What I found was a plethora of stuff I’d written throughout the first 20 years of my formative life: poetry from high school and college, MySpace rants and essays from my early twenties, fictional short stories from my early thirties. I realized that when combined, these writings told my story, that of a millennial coming of age through the 1990s and early 2000s while navigating typical young adult issues exasperated by historical events like The Great Recession, September 11, and personal injustices like Antisemitism. I decided to select my best work from those years, lightly edit it, then combine it into a memoir that became “The Condemned.”
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
“The Condemned” has a variety of deeply emotional pieces that touch on themes still relevant today such as mental health, the search for home, the awkwardness of dating, and love and heartbreak. But ultimately, the most prevalent theme is one of feeling othered. I often struggled to find myself within a confusing and sometimes ostracizing world, especially once faced with Antisemitism that came from a personal and unexpected place. However, I managed to pull through many of those obstacles and found a greater sense of self-acceptance, hope and truth. My hope is that others find empathy, solidarity, and maybe even healing by reading my words and stories.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
I’m not sure! I don’t think I was particularly drawn to memoir; it just seemed to be the right genre for the collection I was putting together. As for the short stories and poetry, I’ve always been drawn to deeply emotional writing, probably because I’m highly emotional. I really enjoy the genres of contemporary fiction (which my short stories fall into), as well as dystopian fiction (which my debut novel, “The Apollo Illusion,” falls under) because they make you think, and they make you feel.
5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
Substack! I wouldn’t consider Substack a social media site necessarily, more of a cross between an email newsletter and blogging platform. However, they’ve woven elements of social media into their platform and really built a tool for writers to grow their followings. My favorite aspects of Substack are that you can use it for free, you can monetize when it’s right for you, and you can access the email addresses of your followers. That means if you ever decide to leave Substack, you can take your followers with you. I sort of see Substack as the YouTube for writers, but with more control. I currently publish my newsletter on Substack, “Rogue Writer,” where I write original serialized fiction, personal and political essays, poetry, and occasional book or movie reviews. I also share updates and deals on my latest books there. Consider signing up as a free or paid subscriber, and stay in touch with me that way!
6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
Write, write, write. If it’s a blog, or privately within your journal, or just on your personal computer, always write. Always work to improve your craft. And READ. Don’t just read what you think others enjoy. Read what excites you. Get to know what works, and what’s boring. Then, incorporate those strategies into your own work. Finally, be patient and persistent. You won’t improve overnight, but if you keep working at it, you’ll see yourself getting better each year. One day, you’ll write a novel that’s good enough to pitch to literary agents. When that time comes, keep pitching, even after years of “no’s,” because it only takes one YES! And if that yes doesn’t come fast enough, self-publish. Get your work out there and start building your readership while you keep pitching to literary agents. Life is too short to wait.
7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
Oh yes! I have one completed novel that I finished several years ago on which I’m currently doing a hard edit/rewrite. I’m hoping to find an agent for that one. I also have another novel that I’m halfway through writing and hope to finish a year from now. Finally, I have a new serialized fiction story that I’m planning to publish in my Substack newsletter, “Rogue Writer,” a few months from now. It’s called “Once Upon a Time on Half Day Road.” Go sign up for “Rogue Writer” as either a free or paid subscriber so you don’t miss it!
Shari Lopatin writes stories that matter. An award-winning journalist in her earlier years, she now writes novels that tie into modern-day social issues, serialized fiction, short stories, personal and political essays, and poetry. Over the course of her seventeen-plus year career, Shari has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer, public relations professional, social media manager, and earned the title of “Cat Mom of the Year.” Her next book, “The Condemned: A memoir told through selected early works of short stories, essays, and poetry” is publishing Sept. 9, 2023. Pre-order the Kindle version now for just $2.99! Prices will go up after publication, so get it for less while you can.