An Interview with Naila Moreira
Sarah Feldman, Straw Dog Literary Correspondent
Naila Moreira is a writer and journalist living in western Massachusetts. Her journalism and nature essays have been published in The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, The Common Online, Science News, and other venues. She works at Smith College as a writing counselor at the Jacobson Writing Center and lecturer in the English department. She also teaches science and nature writing to high school students in Smith’s Summer Science and Engineering Program.
Guest blogger Sarah Feldman met with Naila at Wood Star Café in Northampton to talk about her writing, her experiences as a Straw Dog volunteer, and the “literary life”.
Sarah: How did you start emceeing for Straw Dog Writer’s Guild’s Writer’s Night Out?
Naila: I met Jacqueline [Sheehan] through the Writer’s Room at Forbes Library, and learned about Straw Dog through her. I started attending Writer’s Night Out, started reading there, and one night [about a year ago] I did the announcements. Jacqueline told me that I had a “good emcee manner”…and that she was looking for volunteers.
Sarah: You teach classes at Smith College; you do part-time environmental consulting; you’re writing a children’s novel; you write freelance journalism, creative nonfiction, poetry and a blog; you facilitate the Poetry Discussion Group at Forbes Library—have I missed anything? What makes you decide, Sure why not, I’ll volunteer, rather than, I’m really busy already?
Naila: I think the best way to have a literary life is to be part of a literary community. Not just because that way you hear about opportunities to get your writing published and read by a wider audience, but because one of the ways to be close to literature is to be around people to whom literature is important, who like literature and try to incorporate it into their day-to-day lives. Volunteering is just a way to do that more strongly and immediately, because you’re offering part of yourself, and others in turn are likely to be more open, to offer something of themselves to you.
Sarah: How do you balance having a literary life – staying in contact with those touchstones of inspiration –with creating literature? (You mention in your interview on “The Writer’s Voice” that you get a lot of material from spending time in nature every day….)
Naila: The short answer is I don’t. The longer, and probably truer, answer, is that I alternate. If I go hiking one day, then I won’t get much writing done, but I’ll write the next day. I do try to get out every day, but that might be just five minutes to cross the bridge, or go down to where the beavers live, or go out and look at the stars.
I also try to write an hour every day. It’s kind of a moving target. If I make it, I’m happy; if I don’t, I’m frustrated.
I write, without fail, Wednesdays and Saturdays at The Writing Room at Forbes Library. I can’t thank [Writing Room facilitator] Susan Stinson enough for keeping that space open.
Sarah: What’s one of the oddest experiences you’ve had emceeing Writer’s Night Out?
Naila: One thing I love about the readings is that there’s such a wide variety of experiences driving people’s writing. What I find odd is inhabiting those different skins for a while. It’s almost like “Story Corps”, or “The Moth”, people speaking in this raw, powerful way about their lives, but in a place that’s one of the richest centers of writing in the country.
Sarah Feldman’s work has appeared in The Villager, Chelsea Now, The Antigonish Review and The Fiddlehead. Some of her poems were anthologized in “Undercurrents: New Voices in Canadian Poetry”.