Divinia Shorter is a Towson University graduate with a B.A. in Theatre Studies and minor in Creative Writing. Published in Grub Street, her poem “Mixed Sestina” won first place in the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s national competition for closed (traditional) form poetry. A writer of many forms, Shorter spent much of her time working in and with Towson Theatre Lab as a dramaturg and Managing Director and is now the Literary Fellow at Playwrights Horizons. She is currently working on a collection of sestinas, a romance novel, and a full-length play. While she hopes to continue her writing career with even more projects, her primary goal is to work in the D.C. or Baltimore area as a literary manager–and occasional director—and help new voices and stories make their way into the theatre. Our blog editors, Tricia Nichols and Nicoletta Minutella, interviewed Shorter about the creative life.
What does literary success look like to you?
DS: I think it really depends on the phase of life and my writing that I’m in. Overall, I think literary success is defined by getting your work out there, being published, winning awards, etc., but that has so many steps in front of it that I have to think smaller so it feels attainable with where I am in the world. Right now, working full time and settling into post-graduation life, my version of literary success is just getting anything written at all. A snippet, an idea, a character profile, anything where I can say I made a form of progress, no matter how small.
What is your favorite place to write?
DS: I’ll write just about anywhere, especially now that I’m trying to find any moment I can for it, so I’ve never had a favorite place. I’ve learned to just keep writing materials on hand no matter where I’m going. That being said, I definitely find my best flow happens at home. I’m already more of a homebody as a person, plus it’s nice to not worry about my surroundings like I do if I’m out writing. If it’s going well, I lose a lot of awareness of the rest of the world, which isn’t always practical –I’ve missed train stops, not noticed people speaking to me— and I can get loud with my frustrations or breakthroughs, so sometimes it’s easier to have those at home.
How long have you been writing?
DS: Definitely not my whole life, but at this point most of it. Maybe ten years now? I was very anti-reading and writing as a kid, but I got deep into the vampire book craze happening around my middle school years and suddenly had all of my own ideas that I had to do something with them or else I’d go crazy. I got into poetry not long after that, which helped me make sense of playwriting when I got to college, and now I jump between the three.
What inspires you?
DS: I know this is the typical answer, but it can be anything. My brain latches onto random moments, so it’s whatever stands out enough for me to catch it. Song lyrics, a location, my emotions. I daydream all the time, so when I zone out, thinking about a scene or poem, I end up subconsciously pulling from what’s around me. Writing has also always been very personal for me, and my life really influences what and how I’m writing, which is good since I can always pull from that, but it can also limit my perspective, so I try to be careful with that.
What projects are you currently working on?
DS: I’m working on a few things, which is great and terrible at the same time. I fell hard for sestinas as a form so I’m working on a themed collection of them. I have a full length play in its very early, baby stages of writing. I’m still negotiating what I want it to be and how to write it, so it’s in the back of my mind while I sort that out. My main project is a novel that I’ve actually been working on for a long time, but it’s just now taking the shape I want it to. I spent a lot of time trying to edit it into what I wanted, but I finally gave in and started a whole new draft. It’s made a huge difference and given me a freedom I didn’t realize I was missing, so I’m really excited about it.
How did your time at Towson prepare you for “adulthood”?
DS: Being at Towson was a big step forward, since I got to figure out what I wanted my life to look like for me. Knowing all of the small day to day management, like how to not eat out all of the time, keep a budget, have a cleaning schedule, do meal prep, made transitioning out easier because I knew how to use my free time to get things done. It also taught me the type of person that I am and the type space that I need to be happy and productive, which sounds simple but goes a long way in ensuring your peace. I also can’t thank my mentors enough, especially in the theatre department. I left knowing my career options as well as how to network and reach them, and that’s been invaluable.
Do you have any favorite literary magazines? If so, what are they?
DS: I don’t have a favorite, and that’s mainly because when I read one, I skip around, reading what catches my eye rather than reading the entire thing. I know that’s not the idea of them, and I do love reading the full collection and seeing how those pieces connect, but I always end up speeding through to find the works that I’m excited about, so sometimes I just skip ahead all together and pay more attention to the individual work than the magazine. That is something I want to be better about, and it’s a good exercise in learning more than just what interests me, which can feel tedious, but serves me and my writing in the long run, and that’s always what I’m focused on.