Untold Story #13: Syd Shaw

Untold Story #13: Syd Shaw

Syd Shaw wrote a powerful essay, A shelter of one’s own, for the (Her)oics Anthology, reflecting on her time (previously) living in a domestic violence situation. She brings her powerful writing skills and critical awareness of how women in such situations might struggled during the lockdown.

Note: Events for the (Her)oics anthology are going so well! Get details on all events, including April 8 and 11th, here.

Syd, welcome to my blog. I’m so glad we have your essay in (Her)oics. Tell us more about you as a writer. Are you new to writing? What got you started, if so?

 I’ve been writing for a long time, but this year I finally had the
confidence to put my work out there. Instead of worrying how “well” I
was doing, I set a goal to submit x number of stories, whether they
were published or not. My first acceptance came after about a month of
rejections, but it gave me the energy to keep going. I’ve had some
success with poetry journals and this is my second anthology.

It felt wrong to just fling submissions into a void, and before long I
was looking for ways to get more involved in the writing community.
Even with Covid, there are so many wonderful workshops and classes out
there. I even ended up reading for a few journals. It’s been one of
the most rewarding things I have done this year.

What do you miss most about pre-pandemic life?

Oddly enough, I really miss strangers. I miss those little
interactions you get only from proximity, like giving someone
directions on the street or nodding to the woman who rides the same
bus as you every morning. I feel like every aspect of socializing has
to be planned now, and the spontaneity is gone.

Did the pandemic affect your career? How?

The pandemic really came at a transitional time, when I was just
starting to figure out what I wanted. I finished college, got out of
an abusive relationship, celebrated my freedom for a few short months
and then life locked down.

I lost my job because of the pandemic. While it’s been a difficult
time, it also has led me to reconsider what work is important to me. I
no longer feel pressure to “have a career,” having seen how quickly
that can be derailed; instead, I want to find something personally
fulfilling. I still struggle with the feeling that life is on hold,
but I think I’ll be more prepared in the end.

What is the theme in your piece (grief, love, hope, etc.) and how does
it come through? Is that an ongoing theme in your work?

This essay is about being trapped, and I think there are a lot of ways
for that to come through – in lockdown, in a relationship, in work. I
have definitely written a few poems on the subject and thought “oh,
guess we’re not done with this yet.”

The theme of difficult relationships originally felt like something I
could purge with this essay. I think I dwell on it partially because
it was a hard-won lesson. I also think that some themes really can’t
be talked about enough– part of the process of leaving was reading a
ton of work by people in similar situations. Not that my essay will
magically save anyone, but if it can contribute to that body of work
in any way, that will mean a lot.

Can you imagine this piece developing into a larger work?

I think this piece itself is finished, but writing something
autobiographical for the first time has definitely inspired me. I
could see myself writing more essays. Confronting an abusive
relationship on paper is a daunting task, but it left me feeling that
if I can write about this, I really can write about anything.

You’re very inspiring, both because you share your story and because you write about it with such maturity, using beautiful prose. Keep writing! How do folks find you?

Syd Shaw
Syd Shaw studied poetry at Northwestern University. She has previously
been published in Snapdragon Journal, The Nearness Project, Eclectica
Magazine, Panoply Zine, Other Wordly Women Press, and The London
Reader. Syd is currently a reader for Voyage YA and Passengers
Journal, and an intern with Tiny Seed Press. Her passions include
witchcraft, 80s pop music, and long distance running. She lives in