Why is writing important to you and why do you think it's an important medium for the world? Reading is as close as we can come to understanding another human being’s experience, whether that is growing up as a girl in the 17th century or living through a global pandemic as an emergency room doctor. The conversation between writer and reader is intimate and exciting, and it’s one I’ve always wanted to be part of, from both sides.
What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer's block? I copy my draft and start a new file. Then I tell myself, as convincingly as I can, that I’m just going to mess around in this version. What I do doesn’t matter. I still have the old one, the real one. This new file is just one big experiment to see if certain strange ideas might work before I go back to the other. I rarely do. If that doesn’t help, I go for a long walk by the creek.
What is your favorite time to write? Mornings are by far the best, the earlier the better.
What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received and would like to impart to other writers? A high school English teacher told me to “Tell me something I don’t already know.” This seems uncomfortably blunt, but I respond well to a challenge. Writers start out by imitating (rightly so), and it’s a good reminder to take that final turn into saying what only you can say. Often my motivation to launch into a book or essay is that I learn something surprising that changes my sense of the way the world works, and I have the urge to share it.
What excites you most about being a writer in today's age? Because of the explosion of publishing, from the traditional houses, to smaller independent publishers with a niche or regional focus, to online platforms, so many authors with such a variety of writing styles are finding their audience. Like the late 19th-century (which I researched for my most recent book), this is a moment of great experimentation, which makes it not just an excellent time to be a writer, but a reader as well. COVID-19 pushed me to buy more books than I ever have before, and I still didn’t get to half the ones that seem absolutely necessary.
Kim Todd's Sensational: The Hidden History of America's “Girl Stunt Reporters” is out now with Harper.