Meet a Resident: Laura Lampton Scott


 Laura Lampton Scott, a Portland, Oregon-based fiction writer, has published stories and essays in journals including  Notre Dame Review, Okey-PankyMichigan Quarterly Review, Electric Literature, Monkeybicycle and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from MacDowell Colony and Mineral School, where she will return this summer as a volunteer. She recently co-edited a nonfiction oral history book about residents of Haiti. (Read an excerpt here.) She’s also currently working on a novel.  Author Kait Heacock conducted this interview.

What are you working on now?

In July, with two other editors, we launched an oral history collection about the lives of people in the city of Port-au-Prince called Lavil: Life, Love, and Death in Port-au-Prince. It was five years in the making, and I’m extremely proud of the book. Now I’m completing final edits of the novel I was working on at Mineral and will be sending it out for consideration in the fall. That takes up most of my brain space.

You write short stories, essays, and are working on a novel. What is your system for moving between these different modes? Can you write two at once or do you need total separation? 

I do well working on multiple projects at once, coming to a stopping point on one piece (a draft, a question, the need for research, a deadline) and switching to another refreshes me and keeps me moving forward. With the novel, my (most recent) mistake has been pushing too hard to reach a submission-ready draft and not pausing to work on an essay that’s been running around my head, taking up space. I don’t think I’ll ever be a single-project writer.

You relocated to Portland. How would you compare and contrast the Seattle and Portland literary communities?

My experience of the Seattle literary scene was heavily skewed by working at a literary institution, Hugo House, for the few years I was in the city. Seattle has an embarrassing amount of riches in its writers. Portland is the same, but here I don’t go to work every day at a place that offers writing classes, readings, and lectures, putting me in front of a ton of local writers. I stay home a lot?

Tell me about your time at Mineral. What was the residency experience like up there? What did you work on?

 Every day was beautiful: wake up to see the mountains, eat lovely food, work, more great food, work, hike or swim, nap, read, more food. Usually some more work before bed. The rhythm fed the work. It’s hard not to talk about the residency without talking about the fellowship with the three other residents, our “dorm mothers” (as the Mineral parlance goes), and cook. Everyone was supportive, engaged, and inspiring. 

In my time at Mineral, I finished a draft of a novel I’d been working on for four years. It had seen many drafts, but this was the first iteration that was ready to show to readers. It was thrilling to print it out in the Mineral School principal’s office. The building itself feels spectacularly haunted, not with ghosts but with portions of the individual lives carried out in the building: teachers, students, principals, parents. Their shadows are there, feeding the work everyone is making about living lives.

What do you look forward to the most about being dorm mother?

I should say: the writers. When writers are focused on their work and thinking about it constantly, there is so much to learn from one another. I get to support that. But I’m also really excited about the amazing food and swimming in Mineral Creek.