Putting in the Hours

Putting in the Hours

Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

Lauren Holmes ’07

Barbara the Slut and Other People
Riverhead Books
272 pages, $27.95

A literary talent to watch, Lauren Holmes ’07 was named a 2014 New Voice by the influential literary magazine Granta. Her first book, Barbara the Slut and Other People, comes out in August. The short stories are wry and perceptive and, as her former Wellesley professor Alicia Erian wrote, “deceptively simple.” They focus on young characters, from high-school girls to recent college graduates, as they navigate sex, family, friendships, and jobs. We asked Holmes about her evolution as a writer.

Did you know you wanted to be a writer when you were at Wellesley? You thank Alicia Erian in your book. What influence did she have on you?

I found out I wanted to be a writer at Wellesley. Professor Erian (P.E.) sat me down, asked me if I wanted to be a writer, and told me I could be if I wanted to be and if I was willing to work really hard. I definitely wouldn’t be doing this today if she hadn’t given me that permission. I went on to take a class with P.E. pretty much every semester. She taught me how to write and how to revise, and she’s been giving me encouragement and advice for 10 years now. So I would say her influence on me is infinite.

Did your time at the College contribute to your interest in the topics you write about?

I was a SHE (Sexual Health Educator), and I loved doing that. I think that experience made me kind of fearless about talking (and writing) about sex.

Once you graduated, what steps did you take to pursue a writing career?

After I graduated, I worked full time at a Planned Parenthood clinic for two years. I wanted to go straight to an M.F.A. program, but I didn’t get into any of the ones I applied to. So two years later I applied again, and went to Hunter.

How did you find an agent?

I started that process at the last possible second. I had already been working on the book for five years, and I waited until I had a book-length draft to send out. And I only ended up sending it to one agency, Aragi Inc., where I signed with Duvall Osteen.

Any advice for Wellesley students or recent grads who want to be writers?

My advice isn’t so much mine as advice that was given to me: Put in your 10,000 hours—reading, writing, and revising. Study writing, formally or informally. But also, live a full, mindful, compassionate life. It’s not enough to be a proficient writer if you don’t have anything to say, or if you can’t feel for others, in real life or in your writing.

Potter is a staff writer for the online magazine The Millions and co-host of its YouTube broadcast, The Book Report.

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