Lisa Sandlin, creative writing professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, is an award-winning author.
Sandlin’s love for writing and storytelling didn’t begin until her early 30s. Her initial dream was to become a veterinarian, but Texas A&M didn’t take women at the time. So instead, she went to college and read like crazy.
“When I was 30 I started writing, and after many uninspiring jobs, I went to grad school. I came to here to teach because kind Nebraska gave me a job,” Sandlin said. “And because a full moon on a harvested field makes you pull over to the side of the road and watch for a while.”
Throughout the years Sandlin wrote three story collections. Her most recent novel “The Do-Right” is a noir detective novel about a woman just out of prison, after serving 14 years for voluntary manslaughter, convicted of killing one of two men who had beaten and raped her. The book tells her journey after prison, the people she runs into along the way and coming face-to-face with her chilling past.
Kirkus Reviews named “The Do-Right” one of its “Best books of Fiction” in 2015 and hand-selected Sandlin’s novel as one of the 18 “Best Mysteries & Thrillers.” The novel also won two awards from the 2016 Shamus Awards and the 2016 Hammett Prize from the International Association of Crime Writers. The Toronto Star review described Sandlin’s novel as “smashingly original.”
Apart from writing novels, Sandlin teaches creative writing in the Writer’s Workshop at UNO. All Writer’s Workshop teaching faculty are published writers. Sandlin explained that they use an apprenticeship model to teach. This means students write and revise their own stories, essays, poems and screenplays, submit them for class critique and then rewrite. Since the teachers are experienced writers, they are able to give advice and guide students through any obstacles they may encounter.
Advice that Sandlin wanted to give to students who want to pursue a career in writing is “like to work.” As for students who are interested in taking the creative writing course, except to read and talk about what you read.
“Expect to write, share it, fix problems with it and make your work better,” Sandlin said. “Then write some more. Expect to get to know your fellow students and to care about what they write too.”
An “extremely awesome part” about writing according to Sandlin is typing the very last words to a novel.
“Besides that, just getting re-immersed in a scene you’ve been writing and having it careen around a corner you didn’t expect,” Sandlin said. “Then finding that direction opens up new possibilities, that’s good too.”
The future continues to hold more novels and storytelling according to Sandlin. She still has a few more stories in mind and doesn’t plan to stop writing any time soon.