writen by Anna Lisa Maugeri
DW(ITALIA).When I read Laura Robbins’ writings published on HuffPost it was like reading words, stories and emotions that I knew, but that for some reason I would never have been able to bring out and express so well and clearly.
To write is to open all shutters to a dark house, break padlocks and gently force rusty locks, open a world hidden inside and let everyone feel and understand, without reservation. Needless to hide them, the words, those who do not want to listen to you could read them a hundred times, yet never heard them.
She collaborated for us by writing about politics and current affairs from the Usac with a unique style, helping to shape the authentic face of the Daily Worker.
Today I introduce you to Laura Robbins.
Laura Robbins, how would you describe yourself to Italian readers?
I am a black, American writer living in Studio City, California. My sons (the loves of my life), Miles, and Justin are 21 and 20, respectively. I am a recovering alcoholic. I have been divorced for just over eleven years and remain on good terms with my ex-husband (I’ve written lots of stories about this). I am in a relationship with a Scott Slaughter, a man that I met in drug and alcohol treatment in July of 2008. In 2019, I launched a podcast called The Only One In The Room that is doing quite well (we have loads of Italian listeners – so ciao to you where ever you
Your writings are a powerful telescope in the female soul, published on the Huffington Post, have aroused many reactions and decreed your success. What does all this mean for you and how did it make you feel?
It’s exciting to publish such personal pieces on a massive platform like HuffPo. It usually takes me two-three weeks to get an article where I want it, and then, because they’re a daily
publication, sometimes it goes live the same day I submit it. After one of my pieces goes live, I
get immediate feedback in the form of comments and direct messages. I also get celebratory
text messages from friends and family. I think I must read and re-read my piece about 50 times the day that it goes live — it’s such a high! But then it all dies down a few days later, and I get this sense of urgency to get more content out there. But first, I spend about two weeks responding to each and every one of the messages I get. It’s incredible to get notes from people going through divorces or recovering from alcoholism – that’s when I feel like maybe I’m actually making a difference with my writing.
What is the spark that ignites your words and allows you to write in such an engaging way?
I get most of my inspiration from reading other people’s work. Not so much the content, but the feelings, or the way they put things. Like right now, I’m reading Holly Whitakers, Quit Like A Woman, and it’s just set my mind on fire. Reading and writing go together like eating well and exercise – I can do them separately and probably get decent results – but when I combine them, everything just flows.
I also never write about significant life events until some time has passed. The great American comedienne, Carol Burnette famously said, “Comedy is tragedy – plus time.” I think the same holds true for personal essays.
From your point of view, how much and in what way has the world of the web changed publishing and given the possibility of many writers and creatives to emerge in the world of communication?
It’s hard for me to say how much has changed as I didn’t really start publishing pieces until 2018. I love the immediacy of getting an article accepted or rejected. I also love how quickly my articles get passed around. In December 2018, one of my HuffPost pieces was trending on Apple News for over a week! That will remain one of the highlights of my life.
How did the idea of The Only One in The room Podcast come about?
In October 2018, HuffPo published my personal essay, “I Was The Only Black Person At Elizabeth Gilbert And Cheryl Strayed’s Retreat,” and it went viral. At the time, I happened to be taking a podcast class, just for fun. In the course, we had to come up with a concept for a podcast, so I decided to make it about feeling othered. It was just a class project, I had no intention of actually becoming a podcaster. But when I posted a picture of me in the recording studio on the last day of class, I got a call from a long-time friend of mine, another podcaster named Josh Levine. Josh not only suggested that I start a podcast for real, he also introduced me to Allyson Marino, who owns Lipstick&Vinyl, an all-female podcasting network. The rest, as they say, is history (or herstory).
Which guest has left the deepest mark in your life?
That would have to be Rebecca Gayheart Dane. She is a long-time friend of mine and was one of our first guests in season one. She’s a well-known actress, and nearly 18 years before sitting down with me, she was in a car accident that resulted in the death of a nine-year-old-boy (she was driving). Every talk show wanted her to come on and tell her story, but she chose to do it for the first time with me. I think you can hear how difficult it was for her to share what happened that fateful day. I will never forget the feeling in the studio, the compassion, the grief, and the relief when she talked about her living amends.
Does being a female, black, beautiful, thinking, writer, podcaster, independent journalist, mother, a divorced partner in love mean that you have to work twice as hard to make your dreams come true? (I answer for Italian women: yes, that’s it!)
Like my sisters in Italy, the answer for me is a resounding, “yes.” In American, people are just beginning to look at privilege, your race matters, your gender matters, your socio-economic status matters. I have had all of these things working against me for most of my life. In order to succeed, I’ve always had to work harder than my white, male, well-to-do peers. For that matter, I’ve also had to work harder than many of my white, female, well-to-do peers. The cost of always having to be hyper vigilant while managing to stay a couple of steps ahead of the pack, is sometimes debilitating and always emotionally exhausting.
What is the success for Laura Robbins?
I’d really like to publish my memoir, I feel like I’ve been writing it for ten years now, and I don’t feel any closer to publishing it. Once the podcast is in a place where I don’t have to be so hands- on, I hope I can really commit to working on my chapters every day. I think I’ll feel like I’ve really succeeded then.
What are your next projects and what are your new dreams?
We’re recording our fifth season of The Only One In The Room. I am so proud of our interviews and grateful for “Hon”, my partner and co-host, Scott Slaughter. I’ve booked a few speakingengagements this year, which I’m very excited/nervous about. I’m trying not to get too far into the future, so I’m taking it all one day at a time.
Thank to Laura Robbins for the time she has dedicated to us, not only for this interview, but also for her splendid work as a correspondent for the Daily Worker from the USA.
You can follow Laura Robbins on her website https://theonlyonepod.com/ to read her songs and listen to all her podcast episodes.