Erin Elizabeth Sherman [erinyes]
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
The first "real books" I read - after picture books that I learned to read over my mother's shoulder and my Zoobooks subscription - belonged to the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate. (My mother tried to introduce me to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but it bored and annoyed me, much as The Hobbit would later bore and annoy me.) Those were followed by Redwall by Brian Jacques and, through some inexplicable leap, Discworld by Terry Pratchett and, by high school, Neil Gaiman and Neal Stephenson, along with the more canonical texts we read for class. I think those are the authors that formed me the most as a writer.
I started writing around 4th or 5th grade. Artifacts from that period include a 50-some-page Pokemon fanfiction story and much shorter pieces relating to Final Fantasy VII, Neopets, and Spyro. I have always loved scaffolding off of known facts - even fictional ones - to fill in spaces left blank in the original narrative, and the actual backstories and sequels produced by video game writers have often made me think: "my imagination could have done better with that." Granted, I contained a lot of sticky writer's hubris in my fanfiction days, especially for such a young'n, but seriously - once all the heavy lifting of a fantasy or sci-fi story is done, once the world is mostly established, there's so much room for storytelling!
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
There is a smidgen of my work online. You will have to ask me if you want to see it.
I write whatever I feel like writing, whatever suits the publications I work for, or whatever I'm assigned in school. That means poetry (largely free verse, though I have been known to turn out a sonnet, villanelle, or sestina on occasion), short stories, essays, research papers, policy journalism, think-pieces, blogs, etc. My preferred subjects are faith, nature, love, and madness, which I suppose you could read a lot into (no pun intended), should you be so inclined.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
Myself, sure, but if I were to write in earnest it would be for thoughtful "young adults" - regardless, I think, of my own age. The things I want to impart, the stories I want to tell, are theirs to hear.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
In high school, I won the National Council of Teachers of English award for achievement in writing. Aside from that, I am award-less, unless you count getting into my school's creative writing classes as a kind of "award." (Would I count it? Probably, yes.)
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
"My voice" still eludes me. There's a host of different things I'd like to write, all with the same basic aim - to let people imagine different futures in the real world - but with very different modes of execution. Should I devote myself to serious ecological and metaphysical allegory of the transcendentalists, or to the lighthearted-yet-profound fantasy of Gaiman and Pratchett? Should I write within the bounds of our reality, where the normal rules of detail apply, or outside of them - and how far? There must be a way to combine the things I like and the things I'm good at to arrive at the mouth of my own voice, but I surely don't know what it is yet; I may never know, should life lead me away from creative pursuits.
What are you working on now?
My story currently in workshop is a fairly silly short about a Cyrano de Bergerac-like figure on a college campus. I think my next story is going to have an "inside-the-beltway," Washingtonian flavor, but I'm not sure exactly where I'm going to go with it.
Which is your specialty in psychology?
I am learning to be a conservation psychologist - a social and cognitive psychologist who studies human attitudes, decisions, and behavior as they interact with the living environment. Lately, this field is taking a turn toward climate change. I'm particularly interested in the mitigation end of the spectrum. My work usually asks: "why aren't people reacting appropriately to the risk of climate change? How might stakeholders motivate individuals and groups to change their behaviors in proenvironmental ways?" This makes me particularly interested in the social psychology of persuasion, the cognitive psychology of decision-making, and requires that I maintain an up-to-date knowledge of climate science, politics, and policy.
Some climate-oriented conservation psychology research instead asks: "how will the fallout from climate change affect human psychology? How will we treat ecologically-related psychological illness in the future?" I know that this is an important question, but I'm not ready to face it yet. I'm holding out hope that humans can transcend their natural irrationalities to avert the worst impacts of climate change - and that I can help.
What matters more in deciding your vote: the party, the candidate, or the ideas?
A combination of all of those, plus - crucially - political feasibility. Here in the States, the two-party system makes third parties largely non-viable . . . which is a very mixed bag of a situation.
Are there peoples more civilized than others? Or is it merely a question of cultural differences?
Well, neurologically speaking, morality is culturally programmed. Your brain's cortex contains a key for mapping stimuli to emotional responses, wired through the amygdala to the hypothalamus, and that key varies from person to person, society to society. It's tough to make the case that one type of moral map is, in and of itself, superior to another. One's neurology is connected to one's body, one's actions, and one's sociocultural life. I think you need to take them all together and ask: "how well does this culture work? Do its heuristics add up to a proxy for rational self-propagation? Is there anything unsustainable about it?"
This question, I should add, is so problematic in terms of cultural relativism that any anthropologist could write several books on it and still feel as though her head were about it explode.
Does globalisation help in the development of the world's poorest countries, or does it perpetuate conditions of exploitation?
Both. Neither. It's complicated. Read some Jeffrey Sachs, listen to his critics, evaluate the microfinance system, and get back to me.
Do you defend the ecotaxes?
By that name, no one in America would defend them - at least, no one the least bit politically aware. I support the Waxman-Markey and Boxer-Kerry bills, cap-and-trade systems and all, and I hope to see them streamlined and strengthened over time. In particular, I would like to see offsets shifted abroad and shored up against dubious claims of sequestration, as well as a sustainable standard for renewable fuel. I'm looking at you, Big Ag.
Are you pro-choice or pro-life?
Pro-choice, if only in knowledge of the fact that abortion will always happen, regardless of its legal status. This way, it's safer, and more information is available.
It is my dream to see this question become obsolete in the face of an earlier one: how can we best ensure that young people are well informed and prepared to enter sexual life? Of what consists good sex education? The answer seems uncomplicated, given the data: we desperately need comprehensive sex education in public schools, and we need to support it in our efforts to curb unwanted births and the spread of HIV in the developing world.
Should homosexual couples have the same right to adopt as heterosexual couples?
Erin Elizabeth Sherman