Creatively Speaking With: Shauna Miller

Read about Senior Copy Editor Shauna Miller’s creative hero.
Octavia Butler

Who? Shauna Miller, Senior Copy Editor

Shauna’s creative hero: Octavia E. Butler

Why Octavia E. Butler? For a person who created entire new worlds, Octavia E. Butler still had everyday life and its responsibilities to contend with. Before she began to build a following with her early novels, she worked odd jobs — for a time, she was a potato chip inspector. She would wake at 2 a.m. to write before going to work. That’s incredible dedication to the dream of writing, but also to the grind of it. 

I love her novels because they flip the script of the largely white and male world of science fiction. Her characters include Black women, young people, gender-nonconforming beings. And some of her books are alarmingly prescient. 1993’s Parable of the Sower, for instance, takes place in 2024 in a postapocalyptic Los Angeles ravaged by climate change and income inequality, and it’s not hard to place yourself in the story. How would you survive? How far would you go to be free? To start again?

The piece of Butler’s work that Shauna comes back to again and again: Her journals. The Huntington Library in California holds her archive, and there’s a page from her journal packed tight with her print that lists all of the goals she has for her writing. At the end, she wrote, “I will find the way to do this! So be it! See to it!” She manifested what she wanted and put in the work to get it, even as she had to contend with the difficulties of being a Black, female writer in a space that historically had not been exactly welcoming to that.

How Shauna overcomes creative challenges: Time. It can be hard to come by, but I need to let ideas run in the background of my mind if I am solving a creative problem. I keep my Notes app close and jot down fragments as they come. Sometimes, the answer might even show up in a dream. 

The title of Shauna’s memoir would be: Mistakes Were Made. For one thing, I seriously cannot ever stop editing. Street signs, graffiti, menus — they all get a mental copy edit. Second, life is winding and hopefully long. Mistakes are just detours in a “choose your own adventure” story. 

Her most treasured possession: I have a collection of 1970s, second-wave feminist zines that I get a lot of inspiration from. The more things change, the more they stay the same in many respects, but the tactile connection to a movement that did succeed in changing so much is something I really value. 

Shauna’s favorite word: Conspire. It comes from the Latin word “spirare,” which means breathe, and “con,” which means together. So, conspiring is breathing together, which I really love. 

Her least favorite word: Probably synergy.

Something you might not believe about Shauna: I seem very, very quiet, but once you get me in a small group, I am quite a talker. And pretty funny! I also love to roller skate.