The Alchemist Review

Interview with Dr. Sarah Webb


Dr. Webb is is a professor in the English and Modern Languages Department at UIS. Her publications include: “I’ve Never Experienced White Guilt, “Colorism in Police Killings of Unarmed Blacks: A Retrospective Descriptive Analysis from 1999-2014,” “Mentions and Melanin: Exploring the Colorism Discourse and Twitter Culture” and others.


If you could have lunch with any author, who, where and why?

Right now, I would have lunch with- do they have to be alive? No?- right now I would have lunch with Gwendolyn Brooks because she wrote the book Maud Martha which is currently my favorite book. I wrote my dissertation on it and I love how it’s written in vignettes, it’s like a poet’s novel, right, so it’s not a traditional narrative, it feels more like prosaic poetry and I really identify with the main character, Maud Martha so I would want to pick her brain about how she developed that character, what it was like being a poet who crossed over into another genre, that sort of thing.


What inspires you to write?

Everything, usually. Just interesting ideas, and they can come from anywhere, and interesting conversations, or a beautiful landscape, that sort of thing. So writing for me is a way to think and that’s kind of where my inspiration comes from, if I’m trying to think about something or ponder on something, writing is my favorite way to do that.


Who would you want to write your biography and why?

I would want- I almost said Stephen King cause I feel like he would, I feel like if Stephen King wrote it they would probably turn it into a movie and have it be really dramatic and a lot more interesting than my life actually looks. But I think also maybe Alice Walker or Toni Morrison because I like the story that they’ve told about black women, you know, in the past, that sort of thing. I feel like they would understand some of the essence or like the spiritual, psychological of my life so I think they’d be good.


What’s your favorite thing you’ve written and why?

I think my favorite thing I’ve written is a blog post called Brave Love and it was my most personal piece of writing I’ve published and it’s the one that people respond to the most, so I think that’s why it’s my favorite because people say like I’ve got an email from someone saying “thank you so much for writing this, it really relates to my story” and that sort of thing, so because of the effect it’s had on people it’s my favorite.


Why is literature and writing important you?

Well, I could say it’s the one thing I’m good at. So I think it’s the way I think. I used to be an architecture major but I didn’t do well in architecture school, I almost flunked out, and so for me it’s important because it’s my best way-mode- of communicating and connecting with the world, and engaging with the world, and it’s just been a part of my life so long, I couldn’t imagine myself not reading, for sure, and then writing.


What’s one piece of advice you have for aspiring writers?

Okay so I’m going to say a couple of things.  A is to write as much as possible and read as much as possible. I just put this quote up in my classroom on Monday, Stephen King’s advice is to read a lot and write a lot. You can only get better if you write a lot, and writing a lot doesn’t necessarily mean publishing a lot, so you might never do anything with what you write and you might have a whole journal full of stuff that  no one else ever sees, but it’s the act of writing that helps you get better. The other thing I would say is writing is a skill that can be learnt. So don’t think that oh, someone gave me bad feedback this time around, I must not be a good writer. Or they rejected my poem or my play or my short story so I must not be meant to do this. I would say persist. So even if you’re not achieving the success you want, however you define it, right away, don’t give up. If you really feel like you’re a writer, then continue to write, continue to share it with people even if you aren’t the next J.K. Rowling. Your voice matters.