Into the Spotlight

Posted on 02 October 2013

During my undergrad days, I briefly worked as a teaching and resident assistant at a summer arts camp for high school students. One of the girls in my dorm suite was an aspiring actress. When I asked her how she liked the camp’s theater program, she said the instructor told her this: “There’s a special feeling you get by standing on stage with an audience looking at you. My advice is to try to find that feeling any other way you can aside from acting.”

He didn’t mean to be discouraging; he was simply offering the type of advice that so many writers receive, too: If you can picture yourself doing anything else, then do it, because this is not an easy path.

What also struck me about this girl’s story at the time is how different people crave wildly different things. She was the sort who longs for the spotlight, to be looked at — the things I typically want least out of this world.

But even if writers would prefer to hole up with their cats and computers and avoid the spotlight (and by “spotlight” I more likely mean “various means and methods of marketing our work”), it’s nice to know that we can still have it in us. Like my friend Huda Al-Marashi, who is so well-spoken and calm in the face of having to do something like sit on stage and discuss not only her writing, but the greater implications her religion and culture has for her gender.

On September 21, I attended the Cleveland Public Library’s Writers & Readers series to see Huda speak on the “Young, American, and Muslim” panel. The event also featured editors of the anthologies Love, InshAllah (which Huda contributed to) and I Speak for Myself, publications that address the lives and concerns of American Muslim women. Huda was a pro, as usual, and I hope her ease in the spotlight can somehow rub off on me.

Huda also recently participated in a Q&A for another anthology, Beyond Belief. Here’s an excerpt:

What advice do you have for women who are struggling with their faith?
Having a religious identity is like any relationship. You have to grow and mature within it, and it requires study—not just of the particulars of your faith but of religion itself and how it operates in the world. All members of religious communities need to be aware of how their society, culture, and history influence the way their faith is practiced in the modern day. Sometimes we try to justify things in our faiths that don’t make sense to us. We tell ourselves this has to be right because this is what my religion says. Those are the moments for which we must be alert. Instead of justifying things that don’t make sense, we have to research those points of tension. We have to ask ourselves, what society produced this thought and do I really need to carry this into the present?

So here’s to Huda for all her recent success — and to any other writer who can capably face that spotlight.

Photo: mfhiatt

4 responses to Into the Spotlight

  • Downith says:

    Was just thinking about you yesterday Laura. Hope it is all going well.

  • “Having a religious identity is just like any relationship.”

    I love this!

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