So. It’s been a hot minute since my last interview for the Staying Awesome series, which is why I’m super happy to feature this edition’s guest today. I met this brilliant woman via Twitter after discovering the online contest she’d organized for Latinxs writers! Thankfully, she agreed to let me poke her brain for a bit (and fangirl her brilliance).
Today’s interview features the one and only Laura Pohl!
What makes Laura awesome?
She’s Latina, so yep. I’m biased. 🙂
She’s a writer and a Literature grad student at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.
She’s the creator of the Pitch América contest, where Latinx writers can pitch their manuscripts to agents seeking #ownvoices.
She works as a freelance beta reader for both manuscripts and query letters.
She’s a Slytherin like me! Yep. Biased again. 🙂
Okay, folks. Let’s get to know Laura a little more!
1) Not only are you a writer, you also offer editing and beta reading services to other writers! In what ways do you think your beta reading/editing experience informs your writing process and vice versa?
Beta reading definitely gives me a new perspective to my own work – it’s great to see how other writers do it, their process, how they craft the story. Writing can’t be done if you don’t read a lot, and sometimes reading manuscripts gives you a new insight on the process of book writing. I really do love editing and CPing, especially because you get to see a good book become a great book.
Sensitivity reading is a bit different – mostly you have to look out for aspects of representation. It’s a lot more tiring because more often than not, people write offensive things without realizing the stereotyping is harmful. Everyone is subject to this when writing about another culture, even myself. Which is why it’s so important to get sensitivity readers who can point those things for you. No one is exempt from writing harmful stereotypes, but the thing that you can do is try to fix this. It’s fascinating to do the work, and it helps me realize the mistakes I make in my own writing.
2) I must bow down to you for creating this month’s Pitch América contest! The contest’s website states the following: “With a focus on such a large group of people, we want to diversify and give opportunity to all Latinx writers who are looking to get published.” Can you talk about the decision to grant Latinx writers this amazing opportunity? Was it an aha! moment that hit you all of a sudden or did it develop through time?
It was a bit of an aha! moment, I admit. We had the #DVPit event created by Beth Phelan recently, which I thought was a great opportunity for shortening the gap we see for authors of color, but it was also a very wide event – it included POC, authors of color, authors of disability and LGBT. It’s great, but the feed was moving too fast and I felt like there were a lot of interesting pitches that didn’t get enough attention. LL McKinney created the WCNV contest, and I decided to follow up with #PitchAmérica. Being a Latina myself, I’m close to this project and I really want to see more representation in literature than what we have today. Latinx is also such a diverse group of people, englobing all of south and central America, with such different cultures and influences. I’d love to see more stories told by this people, and I feel like #PitchAmérica gives an extra opportunity to showcase these stories and make them shine.
3) Like me, you identify as a feminist. I always love reaching out to women and girls who embrace the term, especially since it can mean different things to different people. How do you define feminism for yourself? In what ways does it shape the stories you choose to write?
I think the most important thing feminism has done for my writing is to broaden the idea that women can do anything – be heroes and villains, be good or bad. We’re so deeply stuck in the idea that women should be kind and forgiving that we often forget that in books, this doesn’t need to happen either. I can’t not write feminist heroes, women and girls who believe in the same ideals I do. For me, feminism is about intersectionality – if your feminism isn’t for everyone, for WOC, for Trans girls, for genderqueer individuals, for disabled people, then who is it for? Including everyone in my writing comes naturally because I have lived this reality my whole life, and when I write, I want to reflect the reality I live in.
A lot of times I struggled with this, especially because what we see in books is often white heterosexual cis characters, and for a long time in my life, I felt like other stories that featured huge families, LGBT characters just didn’t fit into my writing. It took me a long time until I could deconstruct my own internalized prejudices and finally write people who are more like me. Feminism helped with that – it let me know that I’m important, that my stories are important and there’s a place for them, too.
4) You mention in your Twitter bio that you “obsess frequently” about unlikable female characters. What are some of your absolute fave unlikable female characters? What do you think makes them unlikable?
I read this definition about unlikable female characters that I absolutely agree with – they’re women who are unapologetically themselves. They don’t pretend to like something, they don’t pretend to fit inside the rules. They go after what they want. I guess that’s what makes them unlikable because they don’t fit the expectations of what they should be – they don’t apologize for who they are and what they want. They’re not necessarily kind, or motherly or compassionate, or any of those things that are supposed to “make a woman”.
Of course, defining it is very hard. Sansa Stark can be an unlikable female character, because she’s considered weak when you compare her against her sister. Sansa doesn’t fight, she doesn’t pick up a sword. But she resists, and that’s what I love the most about her. Her resilience, how she refuses to go down. It can be a character who’s too much of an asshole, or not feminine enough, or too much of a feminist, or anything at all. What I would say is this – it’s someone who refuses to apologize for who they are, or to conform to the norms of being just average.
That said, my favorite of favorites is Amy Dunn from Gone Girl. Talk about problematic. I absolutely love the way she was written, and how insane she is. I love Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass, who’s arrogant and vain. Scarlett O’Hara is a classic, and I want to shout my love for her from rooftops. Even Katniss Everdeen, who’s considered unlikable by so many because she has break downs and thinks of herself first. Even Cersei Lannister, who I have a love/hate relationship with. I love those women who are more than the usual stereotypes, who are allowed to be selfish and vain and arrogant and ruthless.
**Bonus question: Favorite Star Wars character?
I both hate you and love you for this question! Han Solo was my first love. Anakin Skywalker is my problematic fave. Obi-Wan is the teacher I wish I had. Luke is the light that shines in the world. Leia and Rey are the women I wish I can one day become.
Thanks so much for this interview, Amparo! I really loved answering your questions.
Major epic huge THANK YOU to Laura for letting me interview her! Here’s where you can find her online: