Authors’ Advice to Writers: Find Your Voice
On Monday, Dec. 2, 15 people attended our Stuyvesant Authors panel discussion and networking event featuring four female authors who graduated from Stuyvesant.
- Airie (Dekidjiev) Stuart ’86, an editorial consultant and former editor at Wiley and Simon & Schuster, led the discussion between the four authors who all inhabit different spheres of the publishing profession.
- Lauren Beth Eisenberg Davis ‘75 started her career writing about genealogy and now focuses on National Parks.
- Robin A. Schwartz ’81 started her career as an engineer and later wrote the book “Math Confidence”. Today she’s known as Robin the Math Lady and uses social media and blogs to promote math proficiency and education among students.
- Janis Brody ’83 published her first book “Your Body: The Girls Guide” on positive body image for young girls in 2000. She has since transitioned to screenwriting in Los Angeles.
- Laurie Gwen Shapiro ’84 is a nonfiction writer and documentary filmmaker whose books include “The Stowaway” and the upcoming “Amelia.” She also wrote in the New Yorker about how Alice De Rivera sued the New York State Board of Education to allow girls to attend Stuyvesant.
The women discussed how Stuyvesant shaped their writing despite its reputation as a STEM school. Each of them said they gained confidence at Stuyvesant due to the intense academic demands that they found they could meet. Several shared stories about Frank McCourt, who taught English at Stuyvesant for many years. He was a tough teacher, they said, but pushed them to be the best writers they possibly could be. “I took him five times. He really shaped me,” Shapiro said.
They also shared stories about being underestimated, often due to the fact that they were women. Schwartz said that, as an engineer in her early career and with the first name Robin, people often assumed she was a man until they met her. Janis Brody talked about writing women-driven comedy screenplays only for studios to tell her she needed to make the screenplays “less raunchy.” Eisenberg Davis said she still has people telling her she hasn’t “written the right book, all from young men. I don’t think I would have gotten the same pushback if I was a young man.
All four also discussed the challenges of balancing a public persona as an author with their desires for privacy and private lives with their children and families. They discussed their tactics for engaging with fans on social media while maintaining a more private presence exclusive to friends and family.
During the Q&A session at the end of the panel discussion, the panel was asked to give their advice to young women who want to become writers. Their advice was unanimous: Find your voice, the one thing you can do better than anybody else, and work hard to tell that story. Shapiro added that she always worked hard to make sure she got the story nobody else could get, and that willingness to be the one person with that story ensured she would always be employable as a writer.
On behalf of the Stuyvesant High School Alumni Association, thank you to all the Stuyvesant alumni who attended!
Events like this are made possible through donations and membership dues. Becoming a dues-paying member of the Alumni Association provides a variety of benefits, including early access and members-only access for events and discounted tickets. For young alumni who graduated in the last five years, membership is only $5 a year!
Do you have an idea for our next Stuy Alumni event?
Would you like to see a similar event in your region? Please contact us at [email protected] to share your ideas.