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Dana Dargos (Author of Einstein in the Attic)

Einstein in the Attic has won 4 award: the Literary Titan Book Award, the Firebird Book Award, and two honorable mentions at the prestigious San Francisco Book Festival and New York Book Festival.

What life experiences have shaped your writing the most?

There aren’t specific life experiences that have shaped my writing, although, many of them sketched out the blueprints of the goals of my writing. When I write, I have many goals I hope to attain. However, there are certainly a few important ones that come to mind. The first one is empathy.

Growing up, I discovered that not a lot of people had compassion or empathy for one another’s struggles. It was suffocating and isolating, both from a personal standpoint and an external one upon witnessing family and friends going through the same thing.

Sometimes that lack of empathy was intentional, other times it wasn’t; even if one were to share their story with others, they just wouldn’t understand. It always got me wondering, “How could I really make them understand?”

To counter this, an important goal of my writing is to influence the reader to develop empathy by capturing every detail of the character’s personality, experiences, and everyday life that encapsulate that individual and his/her struggles. In addition to empathy, this also causes the reader to causing the grow compassion, learn not to judge a person, and understand how life isn’t just black and white; it’s complicated. Everyone has a story.

This brings us to two other goals of my writing: to spread awareness about issues not commonly spoken about and to inspire others. There are so many issues that people of different backgrounds deal with that are hardly spoken about in the media or even in everyday conversation. These are important, eye-opening issues that I believe may change one’s perspective on life and inspire them to make a difference—whether it’s in their own lives or the lives of others.

What aspect of writing have you most improved in over time? What resources helped you most in this area?

One aspect of my writing that has greatly improved over time is using more active sentences as opposed to passive ones. The second aspect of my writing that has improved is learning how to sparingly use flowy, descriptive sentences to not to overwhelm the reader and lose their interest.

The last aspect of writing that I have improved in is creating external challenges for the characters in my stories, rather than just internal ones—thus greatly improving the story’s structure.

The first resource that has helped me in this area is reading. Reading as much as I could helped me improve my writing; I would pick up new vocabulary, pay attention to the authors’ use of language, syntax, and structure, and extract certain linguistic elements that appealed to me.

Taking classes with some of the best English professors at UC Berkeley certainly helped, as well.

What is the best investment you ever made in your writing?