Laura Harrington is a novelist, playwright, and librettist who has received two Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellowships and numerous other awards and honors. She’s just published her second novel, A Catalog of Birds, and has upcoming readings in Beverly, Belmont, and Rockport.
ArtSake: Do you find the writing process to be basically the same, whether for the stage or the page?
Laura: The actual writing process, the day-to-day activity of writing is the same no matter what the form. You have to show up and give yourself to it. I found I had to make my life very, very quiet in order to create the mental space for a book.
ArtSake: You’ve written about the exile of Napoleon Bonaparte, about a young couple in the aftermath of 9-11, and about events surrounding the Civil War, WWI, Vietnam, and the Iraq War. What draws you to the subjects you explore in your drama and prose?
Laura: I write about what obsesses me, the things I can’t stop thinking about. I’m also drawn to the voiceless and the displaced. And I’m deeply disturbed about war and wish that I could do something to make a difference.
ArtSake: On a military spouse-themed blog, an early reviewer of your book Alice Bliss wrote of your characters, “As one of the 1% who are being impacted by the multiple deployments, these people are mine.” How did you find your way so believably into the day-to-day reality of military families?
Laura: My own family was blown apart by war and it’s something we rarely, if ever, talk about. My father returned from WWII and suffered from what was then called battle fatigue. My mother said, “The fellow I married didn’t come home.” In 1966, both of my brothers enlisted in the Air Force, one out of high school, one out of college. One went to Viet Nam, the other worked with NORAD. My parents were both grieving during those 4 years, as was much of the nation. Those were dark times. And nothing was ever the same again. Our family, as I knew it, was gone; my brothers were both changed by their experiences, and in a chain reaction, all of our relationships were interrupted, and some damaged beyond repair.
ArtSake: Can you point to any one decision you’ve made as an artist that has had the most impact on your career?
Laura: There’s one decision I’ve had to make several times that seems like it’s had the most impact. It’s a decision that’s often been made in very dark times. And that decision is simply to keep going, to keep writing.
Laura Harrington reads from A Catalog of Birds:
Wednesday, July 19, 2017, 6:30 PM
The Bookshop of Beverly Farms
40 West Street, Beverly, MA
Thursday, July 20, 2017, 7 PM
79 Leonard Street, Belmont, MA
Friday, July 21, 2017, 6:30 PM
Toad Hall Bookstore
47 Main Street, Rockport, MA