Hazel Hayes, OUT OF LOVE

Hazel Hayes, OUT OF LOVE

Although Hazel Hayes is technically a debut novelist, she has been creating and sharing stories for her entire career: following her start at Google, Hazel became known for curating talent and producing content for YouTube. Now, Hazel joins Zibby to talk about her novel Out of Love which follows a relationship in reverse from its last day all the way back to the beginning. The two discuss the necessity for rituals and routines, why it’s important to show all of the different forms interpersonal violence can appear in, and which experiences from her own life Hazel loaned to her protagonist.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Hazel. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Out of Love.

Hazel Hayes: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to do this interview.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, I really, really loved this book. I regret not reading it sooner, but whatever. I read every page. I enjoyed it like it was a delicacy. I only gave myself a little bit each day to make it last longer. I don’t always have that luxury to do that with books. I just loved it. Well done.

Hazel: Thank you. That means so, so much. I only do that with stuff I really, really love, so that means a lot. Thank you.

Zibby: I was trying to describe it to somebody. Why did I love it so much? I was trying to analyze it. There are, obviously, really cool, neat things you did with the structure and going backwards in time and all of that, but I really just loved the character. I just love the narrator. She’s somebody I want to spend a lot more time with. I enjoyed being with her. I just loved her.

Hazel: Thank you. Again, so lovely to hear. I never know. I’m still terrible at receiving praise. I will take that on her behalf. I think that’s something that I, not worried about, but was definitely aware of. She’s a very flawed person. She comes a whole warts-and-all package. There has been that thing in the media lately, particularly with female characters — we saw what happened with Captain Marvel where if a woman isn’t likable enough, there’s an issue. I personally don’t care whether they’re a likable person. It’s more, for me, whether I like spending time with them even if they’re a little bit evil. Sometimes it’s kind of fun. It’s nice to know you liked spending time with her.

Zibby: How would you describe the book to somebody? What would be your elevator pitch? Sorry to put you on the spot here.

Hazel: The elevator pitch, which is getting more weary every time I repeat it.

Zibby: I’m sorry.

Hazel: I went away this weekend and met a few new people. Every time they asked, I’m like, it’s a love story in reverse. I’m like, I need to stop doing that. It is a love story told in reverse beginning with them breaking up and moving backwards through a series of vignettes of their time together all the way back to when they met and fell in love.

Zibby: Amazing. As I showed you before, I’ve dogeared like every other page. I’m just going to pick this one passage which is towards the end. We’ll at least start with this one. I’ll just read it. The character doesn’t have a name, which I just realized trying to remember it. I was like, why can I not remember this name?

Hazel: She’s kind of become known as Angel because Theo, her boyfriend, calls her Angel as a pet name a lot. You find out why. She’s just shorthand now as Angel, but no, she doesn’t have a name.

Zibby: To be honest, the only times I really liked Theo were when he called her Angel. That was a moment of redemption. Whenever he would say that, I’m like, oh, okay, I guess he does care.

Hazel: He would only ever call her that in moments when he was really connecting with her and things were good between them. He doesn’t really call her that when things aren’t okay. That tracks.

Zibby: I know. Anyway, just this one passage. “And so having spent the best part of my childhood in survival mode, what should have been a temporary measure to cope in a crisis became my way of dealing with everyday life. Stay on high alert, push your feelings down, and always, always have a plan. To this day, I have a faulty security system running constantly in the background sounding the alarm and sending me into fight or flight over every perceived threat. I live life with a proverbial tiger in the room, but I can somehow withstand its presence as long as everything else is in order. Una understands. She knows why my wardrobe is color-coded and my kitchen is always clean.” Una is her older sister. “She knows why my books are arranged alphabetically, why I need to know the route before I start driving, why I panic when people don’t come home on time, and why if one domino falls, they all come crashing down. Rituals and routine, they keep the tiger at bay.” I love that. I think this is how I live personally. I crave doing all this stuff. Is this what you are like too? Is this just something you decided to do for your character?

Hazel: No, I loaned that to her. She has many elements of me on loan. Not even me. I’d say a version of me. Certainly, a past version of me. Although, that is, to some degree, not as true as it used to be, but it’s still very true for me. That’s weird, that phrase came up for me yesterday. I was talking about — this is so strange — my skincare routine changing because I changed my pill. I got acne. I had to go on a different thing. Now I’m not using all the same creams and stuff at night. I’ve noticed that this little ritual, this bedtime ritual I used to have of all my lotions and potions and even the self-massage and everything, it’s kind of gone because I’m afraid to put certain things on my skin. The phrase popped up. Rituals and routine, they keep the tiger at bay. I’m noticing lately, and definitely over the past year and a half, so many of our rituals are gone. I think they’re really important to us. Whether or not you have trauma, they’ve very important. For neurodiversion people, whether that’s trauma or PTSD or BPD or autism or whatever, I think there’s a real safety in structure for a lot of people. It doesn’t surprise me that your books are color-coded there. There is also just an aesthetic beauty to it. It could be one or the other.

Zibby: I am so reluctant to change my skincare routine. My mother continues to give me these anti-aging creams. I’m like, “I’m good. I have my three things that I use that somebody prescribed to me a hundred years ago. I just want to keep using them.” Finally last night, she was like, “You know, they were actually quite expensive. Could I just take my retinol back if you’re not going to use it?” I was like, “Okay.”

Hazel: That’s probably fair. I think it’s only fair that you give — god, everyone is banging on about retinol these days. Do I need to be putting retinol on?

Zibby: I know. I don’t know.

Hazel: My routine is baby wipes and micellar water at this point.

Zibby: Oh, yeah, my daughter got me into that. That, I did change. The guy she follows on YouTube swears by micellar water. I have to listen to him now. You had a lot of interesting characters throughout, not just your main girl and Theo. Her relationship with her mom was so interesting, and her mother-in-law. Not mother-in-law because they weren’t married. In fact, I recently told somebody else I was talking to who was having trouble with her partner’s mother, I was like, “You have to read — this girl that I’m reading about right now has the same thing with her in-law.” Even Theo’s first roommate and how he can be mean, I found that passage really interesting. You talked about how a dog, when it’s scared, a dog gets backed into a corner just like this guy does, essentially. Theo does, really. Maybe I’m mixing the metaphors with the descriptions. People lash out when they’re scared and upset and hurt themselves. She’s able to look into the drawn swords to see what’s happened and what’s causing that, which I think brings such an interesting take on, why do people disparage people? Why does he always put her down? Why do people do things? Talk about that a little bit. It’s a random part of the book. I don’t even know why I brought it up right now, but I just did.

Hazel: You brought up several parts of the book mixed together, so I’m trying to figure out which one to —

Zibby: — I know, I’m sorry.

Hazel: No, don’t be. I love it. I love that you’re this excited about it. The dog backed into a corner metaphor came up in the chapter called “Are You a Banana?” where she goes to therapy for the first time. She’s been having these panic attacks. The first big one was brought on by her first fight with Theo. She devolved into some sort of feral animal version of herself and then didn’t really have any control. She will later discover she is suffering from PTSD and that she was triggered in that moment. Her initial chat with the therapist, she explains that they did these studies on puppies, which are terrible and awful and they don’t happen anymore, but where learned helplessness came into play. Puppies were exposed to certain different stimuli. They would respond differently. The point she’s making is, we’re not that dissimilar to dogs. Sometimes our higher brain just shuts down. We’re working off a fear response. The amygdala lights up. We’re basically animals. That’s kind of the level of logic we have to work with. The narrator is remembering a time when she was a kid. These guys were throwing stuff at a dog out the back alley of her house. When the boys had gone away, she went out to the dog to bring it some food and was trying to show compassion. As she approached, it snapped and bit her. The therapist makes the point, “Were you angry with the dog?” She’s like, “No, this was a dog. It was afraid. It didn’t distinguish between me and those boys.” The whole point being, if somebody has brought trauma into your life, then later on, another thing is going to trigger that. They might receive the same response because of that faulty security system when it’s not necessarily warranted in that situation. Because she’s had to learn that much about herself, she starts to apply it to other people more.

That’s an experience that I definitely had through therapy, having compassion for yourself and the reasons why you do things. Why did you stay in that relationship so long? Why did I put up with that shit from that person? It can be really difficult. It can take a lot of work to finally come to the conclusion that there were a lot of factors at play. I was kind of playing with a losing hand. I shouldn’t be angry with myself for that anymore. Because she’s able to start doing that with herself, she starts applying that to other people. When Theo’s first roommate — as you mention, he’s just a bit of a dick. He’s quite meant to her. He’s quite mean to this other girl who’s a friend of theirs. Then it all clicks for her. She’s like, oh, he’s in love with her. He’s still in love with her. He’s lashing out over those feelings of jealousy and regret and remorse for losing her. Then she begins to be able to apply that to her mother-in-law, potentially, who is lashing out out of fear. That’s really important for me, which is why it ended up in the book, this practice of compassion. It doesn’t always mean you can forgive. It doesn’t always mean you should put up with that crap. It’s just interesting sometimes to be able to step back and see the bigger picture and know why that person’s lashing out. Suddenly, it’s not personal. Suddenly, it’s like, oh, she doesn’t hate me. She hates what I represent, which is something that could take her son away from her, could take attention away from her and time away from her. She felt the same about his job and that taking him away from her. It’s something I try and practice. I don’t always get it right, but I try.

Zibby: You also exhibited several times, this inherited mental state. I want to say inherited trauma, but it’s not necessarily always inherited trauma. I don’t want to give things away that happen towards the end, but some things emotionally that her mother goes through that she sort of finds herself mirroring and how she replicates in her male relationship, some of the things that have gone in her own family. You even talk about how to cope with abuse. You said, “Abuse, I thought, was bruises and broken ribs. Abuse left marks, but I’ve since learned that abuse can also be insults and isolation, veiled threats and accusations, a clawing, cloying control that stifles and suffocates until you forget what it was like to take a full, deep breath.” That was good.

Hazel: Shit, did I write that?

Zibby: You did. Yeah, you wrote that. It was really good, oh, my gosh. Tell me about writing through this abuse part of the book.

Hazel: It was the most difficult part to write. A lot of it was difficult. It’s fiction, but the feelings are real. This is what I always say to people. The facts aren’t real, but the feelings are. That event didn’t necessarily take place. Something similar happened in a different place with a different person. What I’m bringing to the table is how I felt about some other event, maybe. I’m bringing it to this fictional one. It’s funny, people can’t quite seem to get their head around that sometimes. They’re like, so it’s not you and it didn’t happen, but it is real? It’s like, yeah, part of it. It’s a big, heavy topic for me. The childhood that I describe that she had isn’t a million miles from my childhood. It was very chaotic. It was abusive. It took a whole family to try and drag themselves out of that. We’re still dealing with it today. It’s really tough. The abusive relationship that she went through, I went through something very similar. I was with someone for eight years who was deeply abusive. I didn’t know because you don’t. I was seventeen when I got into that relationship. He was a lot older than me. You sort of take their word for it because you’ve never had a relationship.

Particularly for people who are already on the back foot in terms of maybe having dealt with an abusive male earlier on in life, whoever that may have been, you’re sort of accustomed to it. Some part of your body is welcoming it. Some part of you is familiar with that kind of pain. It’s almost comfortable there. As much as it hurts, it’s comfortable. You stay in these situations because it begins gentle. It gets worse and worse and worse until you can’t quite remember the beginning. It’s not like on day one they start lashing out and punching walls in front of you. On day one, it’s a little thing. On day two, it’s another little thing. It builds and builds and builds until suddenly, it feels normal. That’s what I was trying to get at there. That’s the thing that’s difficult. When you come out of it and you try and tell people about it, it’s like, so he didn’t hit you? He didn’t do this? He didn’t do that? It’s like, well, no, but it doesn’t always leave marks.

Zibby: Excuse me. Sorry.

Hazel: You’re allergic to this topic, which is fair.

Zibby: Yeah, exactly. This is my emotional response to this conversation. In a way, if it were just — not just. If it were physical, women know that that’s a signal. They know, oh, I am being physically abused. I see this in the movies. This is one of those things where there are ads that if I’m being abused, I should leave.

Hazel: Yeah, you see these ads around with women with black eyes and women with marks and women with scars. Those ads are important. We should absolutely have them. Representation in the media of that kind of abuse is important, and that kind of domestic violence. What we actually have seen in the media for way too long is men gaslighting and negging and love bombing. Everything that we grew up with was the guy turning up outside our house with a boombox. Oh, isn’t that so sweet? It’s like, she fucking told him to go away. He’s really not listening to her. Every rom-com is sort of like, she said no, but I’m going to chase her anyway. Not to call that abuse, but that’s the kind of thing that we’re being told, is that they get to do this. They get to cross these boundaries. Then the boundaries that they’re crossing get bigger and bigger and bigger. We don’t know where the line is.

When it’s more insidious, it’s emotional. It’s verbal. It’s cerebral. It gets in your head. It gets under your skin. It can be just something like that, a kind of isolation. It can be telling your friends and loved ones, they’re not the right ones, it’s me. It can be taking control of your bank account and saying, that’s okay, I’ll just do all the finances. Now you’re not financially independent anymore. There’s so many tiny ways that it happens that you don’t see because that’s your partner. Oh, he’s taking care of all the finances. Isn’t that so sweet? Then you break up and realize you can’t get any of your money back. These are the little things that creep in. I thought it was important to talk about that in particular in this book because it’s something I experienced. It’s something that so many people who I know personally have experienced. When you start to have these conversations, the Me Too-ness of it, it’s devastating, especially with friends you’ve known for years and you love dearly and you care about. Then suddenly, they say, actually, my ex did this thing and that thing and the other thing. It starts to come out. You’re like, holy shit, I can’t believe someone treated you that way. They didn’t feel like they could say it, you’re right, because it wasn’t this cut-and-dry, black-and-white abuse.

Zibby: Wow.

Hazel: Sorry.

Zibby: No. It’s just such a creative way to put it out there. You could’ve written a memoir. You could’ve done this a million ways. You chose to do it in this form. Some of this doesn’t even come out until towards the end where you really go into it because we’re so focused on her current relationship and the breakup. Saying it’s about a breakup, I think, is so minimizing this book. That’s really not what it’s about.

Hazel: I tricked people. I have always loved sci-fi. I’ve always loved horror. There’s something in the book about that as well. I love the way that horror and sci-fi in particular can deal with human themes through the lens of something very alien. Star Trek was doing it for years. I grew up on Star Trek. I loved it. There was one episode where there was an alien species who were non-binary, for example. That’s just a random thing. They were all non-binary, non-gendered people. They got to know them. They were interesting in other ways. That wasn’t really the big thing about them. It just happened to be part of it. There was a planet where women were in charge. There’s time travel. How would you interact with a past self? They are actually just very, very human questions. Similarly, with something like comedy, I think we’re seeing a lot more of that now with stand-up. People Hannah Gadsby and Bo Burnham and Mike Birbiglia, it’s not strictly gags. We’re having real, deep, meaningful conversations here about sociopolitical stuff and about emotional stuff, but I’m wrapping it in a little bow. You’re getting a little giggle. You’ve come here to have a nice night. You will, but you’re going to leave maybe thinking about some stuff.

That’s all just storytelling. That’s the power of storytelling. That’s why I choose this artform. If it’s directing or if it’s a book or if it’s a series, whatever it is, the power of story from day dot, from the gods in the sky and fables and Bible stories, there’s so many ways of teaching lessons that aren’t just, do this thing. It’s actually, here’s some characters that were going through it. You’re going to relate to them. You’re going to get involved and invested. You’re going to care. Then this thing’s going to happen. It’s going to make you think, how would I deal with that? How should they have dealt with that? Was that the right thing? Was that fair that that happened to them? I just think it’s a very nice plate to serve up different kind of ideas on. I don’t know that people would’ve picked up my book on abuse with a pink font. It’s just another way. It’s another way of exploring it as well. Sorry, I feel like I’m talking a lot. It’s another way of exploring it for me. I was doing some very, very, very heavy lifting in therapy while I wrote this book, which made it interesting. There was several chapters I had to go back and rewrite because I changed as I was writing them. Then it didn’t make sense anymore, particularly because we were going backwards. Sometimes she felt a certain way about a character. Then that would change, but in the future, so I had to change it.

I was doing a lot of heavy lifting too. I didn’t sit down and go, I’m going to write a book about trauma. I wrote a story. I just wrote a short story about a breakup because it was in my head. It was keeping me awake. I wanted to get it on the page. I just kind of vomited that out. Then that sat there. That sat in a drawer for months and months and months. Then eventually, there was talks with my agent about, “Do you want to write a book?” I was like, “Yeah, that’s something I maybe want to do.” He’s like, “What about that chapter?” I can’t remember how it came about, but I was like, “I could expand on that. I think maybe I could turn that into something, but I don’t want to go forward. I’m not that interested in seeing her get over this breakup. That’s an interesting story, but it’s not the one I want to tell right now. I think what I actually want to do is look backwards at who they were before this and how it all came undone.” The next chapter I wrote was the last chapter. Then I went back, and I just dotted all about the place. I didn’t write in any particular order. It was kind of where I was at the time. For example, that chapter which, more than the others, dealt with abuse, which is called “Canadian Geese,” that was at a particular time where I was thinking a lot about that. It was never really meant to go in the book. I just thought, I want to talk about this right now. This is what wants to come out of me, so it’s going to happen. That’s how it all came together. It never was like, I’m going to teach some people a lesson.

Zibby: Wow, that’s amazing. I’m so glad you kept that in. I loved it, obviously. The first thing I did when I read your last chapter, I was like, oh. Then I had to go back and start reading the first chapter again. I was like, oh, oh, oh! Meanwhile, sorry, I’ve been so inefficient with our time together. I’m sorry, I had so many things I wanted to talk to you about. Now the time’s almost over.

Hazel: Oh, my god.

Zibby: Tell me, how did you even start writing? What have you been doing with your whole life up until now?

Hazel: So sorry, we don’t have much time, but if you could just give me your whole life story.

Zibby: We don’t have much time, but just answer the story of your life. What you were saying about story, by the way, before you go into your life story, that’s how I feel. This podcast is not a — books and reading are what I say it’s about, but it’s about stories. It’s about life and how we connect and all of that. You have to get into it some way. You can’t just be like, let me tell you a story. Anyway, so give me a little more background on you as a person.

Hazel: Grew up in Dublin. Definitely, my passion for storytelling and how I got into it all, I have loaned to this character. What I did was I gave her a lot of things that didn’t impact other people. I didn’t necessarily give her stories about other people that would be affected or named in any way. A lot of my personality traits are in there, a lot of why I came to be what I am. I did a degree in journalism after I left school. That was a four-year degree in what I don’t want to do. I did not want to be a journalist by the end. It was very prescriptive. It was like, news is news. It’s very objective. I’m not an objective — I mean, I’m objective, but I don’t like to write that way. I want to write creatively. It became more and more apparent that you’re not going to get your own column straight away. You may not ever, so you’re kind of going to be stuck with this particular type of writing. Within that, we did so many other modules that really interested me. We did a lot of TV and film stuff. We studied art and semiotics and politics and loads of other things that interested me. It was more the campus life that I got involved with that I stayed with. I was on various societies. I was in the musical. I was that kid. Then I stayed on to be on the student’s union as the education and welfare officer. I was dealing for a whole year with students who were going through all kinds of different troubles and maybe struggling with exams or struggling at home and trying to help them out and find ways of campaigning for mental health. I knew that was important to me. I really enjoyed it.

Then I got offered a job at Google, and I sold my soul, because you do. It was a lot of money. I was young, and I wanted it. I went to work with them. At the time, Google were one of the only organizations that were offering a certain percentage of your time to work on charity projects, and we did. That was really lovely. It was such an amazing experience for me to be in a corporate environment like that, to have to work as part of a team, to have my own projects, my own portfolio to manage. I was there for seven years. I moved into YouTube where I started managing YouTubers, most of whom are now my very best friends. Moved to London with that job. Continued to work with them. It was them that inspired me to start my own channel. I was helping them out with their content. I wanted to act. I thought I wanted to act. I always wanted to be an actress. I wanted to be a star. There were no parts, really, for women. There were no good parts. I thought, well, fuck it, I’ll just write my own parts. I hadn’t done script writing before. I’d studied at the Irish Writers Centre for several years and studied short story writing specifically and loved that form, which is why my book is basically short stories. Loved that form. Then sent one to a friend. He was like, “Hazel, this is kind of a script. You write so visually. This so easily could become a script.”

It got me thinking. I started writing scripts. Started making my own stuff on shoestring budgets. When you’re your own team, I had to produce, write, direct, edit, star, get my friends involved, call in a lot of favors. Did that for a few years. Started my YouTube channel. When people ask about what the YouTube channel is about, I don’t know. It’s just telling stories. Either it was a story that had happened that week or it was a story of my life. It was about mental health. It was about a film I loved or whatever. It was just me yammering on and then the occasional scripted content. Kept doing that until I got more bigger directing gigs. Directed a horror series for a platform called Fullscreen in the States. That was an eight-part horror series, which was so much fun. This is the speed version of my life. All the while, I was doing YouTube, doing other little bits. It was all just slowly coming together. Then wrote that chapter, continued working on other stuff, wrote a few other chapters, came back to it. The book happened over the course of a few years while I was doing a million other projects that pay the bills. Then the book came out. The book came out in the UK last year and then got picked up by Penguin for the US this year. It’s just silly. Then Barnes & Noble picked it as their fiction pick of the month, which is just insane. That kind of brings us to now. I’ve just started book two.

Zibby: Wow. Same character or somebody new?

Hazel: No, it’s not a sequel. I haven’t actually said that . No, I needed to step away from them. I put up a video on YouTube about it recently. Actually, that’s what YouTube has become now. It’s really been lovely. I’ve built this lovely community. It was never about, I got to get to a million subscribers. It was just like, I’m going to put myself out there. If people like it, great. Oh, a dog, love it. It’s great. Always a bonus to have a dog. Now YouTube is not every single week. It used to be a full-time job and lots of collaborations and a lot of thought put in. Then I stopped because it got too much. With writing and everything, it was just so much. Then I picked it up again and thought, you know what, I’m just going to care less. Now when I feel like when I’m in one of those moods where I’m like, I want to have a chat, I want to connect with people, I’ll pop my phone down. I don’t even set up a camera or lights or anything anymore. I’ll do it in daylight, pop my phone down, barely edit it, just have a chat. People have said it’s just like having a friend on FaceTime. I’ll just yap away. The views are so much less than they used to be. I don’t care. If you enjoy it, great. If you want to cook your dinner or tidy your room or whatever — particularly Irish people living abroad during the pandemic, I was like, I know I want to hear the accent right now. If you do, here’s an hour of me talking crap. You can just do what you want with it. You don’t even have to look at the screen. It’s not pretty. It’s not interesting. That’s what YouTube is now. My last video was about the writing process on the new book, which I’ve only written one chapter for, so I need to be very clear that it’s not going to be out for a while.

Zibby: Awesome. I’ll have to go back and watch that one. I’m really sorry I hadn’t seen it yet.

Hazel: Oh, god, no, don’t be silly. As I said, they are not that interesting. You can if you want.

Zibby: I feel like now you need to go adapt this and star in it. All your worlds could collide. Are there plans?

Hazel: It has been optioned. It’s been optioned for a TV series. There’s a producer involved. We actually put it on the backburner for a couple months because I went away for a month to start the new book. We had a million other things going on. There’s a pilot script. We’re in the process of getting people attached and on board. I don’t know if I will star in it. I will see. I don’t know if I have the acting chops to take on Angel. I want the part to be served as best it can. There are far better actresses than me. If with some coaching I could do it, then great, but I think I would prefer to be behind the camera. The end to that whole story was I thought I wanted to be an actress and then wrote parts for myself, got behind the camera, and went, oh, this is much better. Now when I get to be on set and I don’t have to be in front of the camera, that’s the dream. I much prefer that. Ideally, I would be involved in writing and directing instead.

Zibby: Very cool. Last question. Sorry again for taking so long.

Hazel: It’s absolutely fine. I promise.

Zibby: What advice would you have for aspiring authors?

Hazel: Oh, god. What advice would I have for aspiring authors? Write. Just write. So many people talk about writing. I’m going to write a book. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that. Well, sit down and write it then. Often, it takes thousands and thousands of words before you even hit on the thing you wanted to start writing about. Then you have to scrap all of them and start from that one nugget. Write. Practice. Get good. It is, I’m sure, like ballet or ice skating. There’s probably people who were just born adept at it. It’s a muscle. You have to use it. You have to practice it. As I said, while I haven’t become a journalist, I did do four years of journalism. I did do years at the Irish Writers Centre. I have been writing scripts, many of which will never see the light of day, for years and years and years and making short films and just writing in any form. Particularly, I would say my short story creative classes were probably the biggest help for me.

Take classes. It creates an impetus to submit something every week. It means you’re in a room full of people who are likeminded and care and will give you honest feedback, which is important. You don’t want your friends just going, yeah, it’s great, I loved it. It might not be great. You might need some criticism to get better. I got a lot of criticism over the years and still do. I think that that’s healthy coming from a professional, coming from a group of people who are doing it for the right reasons. Then you’re reading their stuff. You’re helping critique their stuff. I think that was just such a great environment to get better at my own stuff. Then being handed out these incredible writers every week who I never would’ve known about — go read this. Go read that. Go read this. I would come back full of ideas and so inspired. That’s the other thing. Learn to write. Consume. Just consume as much as you can, stories, books, essays, films, albums, any kind of storytelling. Consume good stuff. Consume bad stuff. Decide why it’s bad. Why don’t you like it? Why is it good? What did it for you? That will really help you find your voice.

Zibby: Amazing. Hazel, thank you. Thank you for this. Thanks for taking so much time. I know you’re coming to my book club soon too, so that’ll be fun.

Hazel: I am. When is it? December? It’s a while away.

Zibby: December, yeah. Have a great day. Go back to .

Hazel: You too.

Zibby: Thanks so much. Bye.

Hazel: Thanks, Zibby. Bye.

Hazel Hayes, OUT OF LOVE

OUT OF LOVE by Hazel Hayes

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