Laura Maylene Walter
Laura Maylene Walter
Laura Maylene Walter is the author of the novel Body of Stars (Dutton 2021), an Ohioana Book Awards Finalist, and the story collection Living Arrangements (BkMk Press 2011), winner of the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize. Her writing has appeared widely in publications including Kenyon Review, Slate, The Sun, Ninth Letter, The Masters Review, and F(r)iction, and she has received support from Sewanee, Yaddo, Tin House, the Ohio Arts Council, the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, the Ohioana Library Association, and elsewhere. Laura has taught as guest faculty in the NEOMFA program at Kent State University and Cleveland State University. She is a longtime instructor with Literary Cleveland, where she also served as 2022-2023 Breakthrough Writing Residency Fiction Mentor. Currently, Laura is the Ohio Center for the Book Fellow at Cleveland Public Library, where she hosts Page Count, a literary podcast.
What excites you about writing? How has it affected your life?
Writing has taken me places I never would have visited otherwise. While that includes physical places, like the retreats hosted on islands or the residencies located in sculpture parks, I’m mostly talking about imaginative worlds. I’m the kind of writer who sets out without a complete map, who has to dive straight into the messy work to find my way. As challenging as this can be, it’s rewarding, and it’s why I’ve come to appreciate the quiet hours at my desk as the most meaningful part of the writing life. To not know the full shape of what I’m trying to express until I dig deeper, follow my creative instincts, and allow a piece to evolve over time and in layers—that’s nothing short of magic.
What mindset does a writer need to continue to grow and learn?
To be a writer is to balance the conflicting mindsets of being humble and receptive to feedback while also maintaining the confidence to persist and the resolve to stay true to your own vision. This is often easier said than done, and swinging between the extremes is not uncommon. Ultimately, I think it’s those who maintain their love of the art form (by reading widely, by allowing themselves to play on the page without always fixating on publication, and by finding community with other writers) who are best able to continue developing as artists.
What makes a good writing mentor?
I believe mentors have a responsibility to be generous in their reading, curious about the writer’s vision, open to methods that might be unfamiliar to them, and honest but respectful in their feedback. A good writing mentor understands that their reading represents one subjective opinion, which they should present with experience, professional knowledge, and good faith—but to also understand that they are guides, not gatekeepers or arbiters of any single way to approach a piece of creative work.
What is your style of feedback?
I like to provide in-text comments to show the writer my honest reader reactions as I work through a piece, followed by some holistic feedback that includes my questions and suggestions. I may ask the writer some broad “what if?” style of questions in an attempt to spark new ideas or otherwise open up unexplored avenues. Throughout this process, I aim not to be too prescriptive; I value the writer’s vision and try to understand their specific goals for the piece. I think writers have the best chance of achieving their vision when they feel supported and have the eye of a generous but constructive reader.
Time Well Spent
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t yet published a word, or if you’re unsure of the direction of your current project—I believe that any time spent creating art is time spent well. Writing is also a slow art form that often requires a lot of growth and development, but I consider this a positive, too. If we only continue writing, reading, and learning, we will improve, and our writing will edge ever closer to the vision we’re striving to achieve.