I’d liked to welcome Louis Spirito to talk about his writing. Louis is lifelong dog lover and recovering ‘angry guy’, Louis Spirito lives in Malibu, California with his wife, Eugenie, the love of his life, and their rescue Pit Bull, Tanner. Lou has written for magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Men’s Fitness, Woof Magazine, Black Belt and Bride’s Magazine. As a screenwriter, he’s sold material to Alliance-Atlantis, Triumph Pictures and Universal Studios, and his work has been honored by WorldFest Houston, The Nuyorican Poets Café, Writer’s Digest, and the Nicholl Fellowship Competition. His memoir, Gimme Shelter, was awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion for Nonfiction.
Why do you write?
I write to entertain myself. Often that means remembering and refashioning personal experiences and events through the lens of time. I get a kick out of playing with words and ideas, and seeing what results. Even when I’m writing for promotional purposes, like my blog (tannerthepitbull.blogspot.com) I try to have fun with the content, informing and also instigating. Now that I’m reading my answer, I guess I also write to give voice to my inner wiseass.
Literature has always been a part of my life. My parents had a meager formal education (dad junior high, mom even less) but both were whip-smart. My mom read voraciously and she never censored our interests. So I was devouring Perry Mason mysteries when other kids were reading Winnie The Pooh. By first grade I’d tackled Kidnapped, Treasure Island and Tom Sawyer. That’s not to say I understood the nuances or writers’ craft but the stories moved me.
In high school, I had the good fortune to have a caring, veteran English teacher who peppered us with the classics – Shakespeare, Dickens, Walter Scott, , Hawthorne, Jack London, Hemingway. My professors at Iona College (New Rochelle, NY and Fordham University stoked the fire even further and it’s still burning, although these days I’m more likely to read James Elroy than James Joyce.
My first published work was a religious poem I wrote in third grade at Catholic school. Except for an OpEd piece on the Black Power Olympic protest that garnered death threats, I didn’t write again for nearly thirty years when my girlfriend (now my wife of 26 years) began bugging me to give up a stalled acting career and try writing. I took her advice and did some magazine stories on spec. I wound up selling them all. From there, I moved on to film and TV and, in 2013, a memoir titled Gimme Shelter. I’m a prolific idea generator and have dozens of projects sitting on my writer’s runway. It’s just a matter of finding the time, and energy, to give them lift-off. I’m currently sketching out a series of gritty YA novels, working on an urban short story collection, and reworking an award-winning screenplay about the only solider to ever successfully challenge the U.S. Military’s ban on gays.
How has writing impacted your life?
Like martial arts, writing is a key part of my life; it’s a touchtone, a lens through which I see the world and my place in it. Writing has sharpened my powers of observation and forced me to become less judgmental and more compassionate. How big is that! On a practical level, writing allows me to process powerful, potentially damaging feelings and experiences in a positive, healthy way. My work exposes me to people and ideas that I might never have encountered, and I’m better for it.
What advice would you give to beginner writers?
I’m not sure I’m qualified to give advice but, in no particular order:
- Work to become a person of character and integrity. These qualities will shine through in your work and help you find your own, unique voice.
- Strive to be smart, not clever. If you can do both, fine, but don’t sacrifice intelligence and honesty for what’s trendy or cute.
- Spend less time promoting yourself and networking, and more time working and reading good writers.
- Find good mentors to guide and push you.
- Travel, paint, learn a foreign language, take up salsa dancing or karate – engage in activities that will give you a sense of wonder, confidence and perspective, activities that will fuel your creative spirit and imagination.
- Write about what interests you, what you enjoy, and what you hold important. That way, if you don’t get rich, you can still change your life.
- Never give up. A slew of classics and meg-hit books – Moby Dick, Harry Potter, Chicken Soup For The Soul – were all given ‘thumbs down’ by agents and publishers.