Scarlet Michaelson on Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Life as a Fiction Writer

Noodle Expert Scarlet Michaelson discusses her admiration for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and how writing fiction compares to a nine-to-five job.

Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?

I would choose Ruth Bader Ginsburg, hands down! As the second woman to become a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, she has gone through a lot personally. She has great courage, amazing mental acuity, and a big-picture perspective. I'd love to learn from her as a person, and I'd enjoy getting a backstage pass into the day-to-day activities of the Supreme Court.

What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?

Never give up! Sometimes things happen that throw you for a loop, but you've got to keep trying. Find different ways of doing things, and eventually, you'll find the way that works for you.

Where would you send a student who hasn’t traveled before?

For students from border states like me, I'd go to Mexico, or another country south of the U.S. When I lived in Mexico, I was a foreigner for the first time. I gained a greater appreciation of Mexican history and my Spanish improved rapidly. Plus, I made friends from all over the world.

When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?

When I was a freshman in college, I failed my chemistry class. Luckily, my school allowed students to retake a failed class for a better grade. I found different ways to study, different people to study with, and a study schedule that worked for me. My second time, I passed the class with flying colors. I learned there is truth to "if at first you don't succeed, try and try again."

Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?

In addition to teaching, I'm a writer of fiction. It took me a long time to acknowledge this as my career because people in my family partake in more traditional nine-to-five jobs. As a writer, you're both "always" and "never" working. Everything you do goes into your work, yet you don't go to a cubicle for eight or nine hours a day. I've found that I crave structure and need to impose it on myself, yet I also need to be open to the moments when inspiration strikes — for example, waking from a dream at 3 a.m. and needing to write it down.

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