10 Questions for Lindsay Sproul
- By Edward Clifford
We knew our answers, but they weren't what you were looking for: What do you want to be when you grow up?
A man with stronger arms than mine.
A person with the courage to bite down.
An evil queen.
—from "Please Don't Ask Us," Volume 63, Issue 1 (Spring 2022)
Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
The first words I learned how to write were “cow” and “mom.” In preschool, I distinctly remember writing a picture book about a cow mom who lost her baby in the supermarket.
What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
Aside from Carson McCullers, Alice Walker, Jo Ann Beard and some other greats, I would have to say the work of my students. Especially during the pandemic, the majority of my conversations with other humans happen in the classroom, discussing the bold, honest pieces my students write. Their fearlessness pushes me forward every day, and also reminds me of how important it is to read and discuss the voices of young writers.
What other professions have you worked in?
My first jobs were at a chocolate shop (where I looked a lot like Lucille Ball when I used the enrober) and as a camp counselor (I loved the uniform—who doesn’t want to wear sailor tops and bloomers?) but other than teaching, I think dog grooming was my favorite job. I made a lot of mistakes, but it taught me a lot about patience and compassion, and prepared me for both teaching and writing in that most of the dogs were afraid, and the most important part of my job was helping them emotionally through a tough time.
What did you want to be when you were young?
My mom told me I could be anything I wanted, so I wanted to grow up to be a truck. When I realized I couldn’t be a truck, I wanted to be one of those people working on utility poles who got to ride on the crane. That didn’t pan out, but being a writer and professor is pretty solid.
What inspired you to write this piece?
I used to be extremely ashamed of my childhood trauma, but then I decided—after a lot of therapy—that I need to stop feeling that way. Every time a survivor of childhood sexual abuse tells even a small piece of their story (if they feel ready and safe to do so, of course), I think the world becomes a bit more educated and the topic becomes a bit less taboo. This is one little slice of my attempt to overcome my shame.
Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?
Even though it’s been decades since I lived in my hometown in Massachusetts, it still pulls me back emotionally, for better and for worse. It’s beautiful, but the beaches are cold and rocky and harsh, and full of horseshoe crabs. Now that I live in New Orleans, the polar opposite of where I grew up, it finally feels safe to mentally go back “home.”
Is there any specific music that aids you through the writing or editing process?
My childhood was full of folk music. Now, I love finding a song to put on repeat, getting in the car and listening to that song while I drive and imagine scenes from my books as though they are film montages. It doesn’t always help (sometimes I start imagining my books as musicals. . .) but a lot of the time, it really does.
Who typically gets the first read of your work?
I mostly share my work with my friend Kamala Nair, a gift to me from MacDowell. She is talented at everything I’m terrible at, and I can’t express how grateful I am to her for being my main trading buddy.
What are you working on currently?
I’m trying to write a young adult book about the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. I think there are teens who need to feel less alone.
What are you reading right now?
The School for Good Mothers by my friend Jessamine Chan—highly recommend!!!
LINDSAY SPROUL’s debut novel We Were Promised Spotlights was published with Putnam/Penguin in 2020, and her short fiction and essays have appeared in Glimmer Train, Witness, Epoch, Hayden’s Ferry Review and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from VCCA, Columbia University, and MacDowell. She serves as the first queer editor-in-chief of the New Orleans Review and teaches at Loyola University New Orleans.