-- World of Writing --
Yep - time for another World of Writing interview - this time with Robert Uttaro who is in his eighth year of working and volunteering as a rape crisis counselor, public speaker and community educator. Inspired by his undergraduate studies in Criminal Justice, he continues to embrace a life-long commitment to activism and advocacy for survivors of sexual violence. Serving as a counselor, Uttaro supports rape survivors and their significant others through various legal and case management issues. He also facilitates workshops aimed at education, prevention and exposure of the realities of sexual violence. Uttaro is currently touring many universities and high schools throughout Massachusetts. Find out more about his book HERE
Q: Who inspired you to pursue a career in writing?
A: I did not consider myself a writer and never once tried to write a book until one experience changed my life. This experience was a dream I had. I woke up from this dream and said, “I have to write a book”. I interpreted this dream as a vision from God. I sat down at my computer that morning to write and that is how the book To the Survivors began. God inspired me to pursue a career in writing.
Q: How does writing help you make a difference in the world?
A: My writing has helped women, men, and children who have been raped and sexually assaulted, as well as their significant others. The ways in which To the Survivors has helped people affected by sexual violence is impossible to quantify, but hearts continue to be moved. Teenagers have been inspired to become rape crisis counselors and others have been inspired to participate in their own activism. Rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters throughout the United States have officially accepted To the Survivors, which means staff and clients are using the book as an educational and helpful tool. My writing, as well as the written and verbal stories of the survivors in the book, has strengthened others to use their own voices to share their personal stories. My hope is that To the Survivors will always help and educate people in life and through a very difficult topic: sexual violence.
Q: Can you tell us what editors typically look for in a query letter or project proposal?
A: I may not be the best person to ask this because I was lucky enough to have the best editor who is a friend. When I proposed the idea of this project to her, my editor agreed to work with me because she shared my passion for this issue and she believed I would commit to the hard, long work of revision. Though we were friends, my editor looked for four things early on in the process: my sense of vision and purpose for the manuscript; my willingness to work together on brainstorming ideas and enhancing existing content; my willingness to heed direction on the technical/ grammatical side of things; and my willingness to revise, revise, revise. We both knew the editing process was not going to be simply about word-smithing or inserting a semi-colon here or there, although that certainly was part of it. The editing work of To the Survivors involved our shared goals about clarity of voice and message; we met weekly for the better part of a year to discuss the impact of each sentence on ourselves and prospective readers.
Q: What do you do when you are not writing?
A: I work a lot. When I am not working, I try to exercise and play basketball as often as I can. Music is a huge part of my life, so I listen to music as much as possible and always enjoy new music. Cooking for people is also one of my passions. I love cooking while listening to peaceful music and spending time with loved ones.
Q: What gave you the idea (inspiration) for this book?
A: The inspiration for To the Survivors came from a dream; I woke up from this dream and said, “I have to write a book”. I sat down at my computer that morning to write, and that is how the book To the Survivors began. That one dream inspired me throughout the writing process, and it continues to inspire my education and activism. Also, the men and women who have shared their painful stories with me of being raped and sexually assaulted and the millions of survivors I will never meet inspired To the Survivors.
Q: What were some of the challenges you faced in writing your non-fiction books?
A: A lot of my challenges were driven by insecurity, so it’s important for writers to not be insecure. I often didn’t think my writing was good, or I didn’t think my words would connect with others. I also had difficulty trying to convey what I was trying to really say. There were many times I felt lazy or nervous and wouldn’t write, and other times when I wanted to write but couldn’t. It’s imperative to not be nervous, to not fear anything, and to fight through whatever blockage one may have. Write, write, and write some more. Believe in yourself and your abilities, and don't stop writing if you have the desire to write.
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