Episode 423 | Leslie Schwartz Interview

Today’s author interview is with Leslie Schwartz, author of The Lost Chapters: Finding Recovery and Renewal One Book at a Time.

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Leslie Schwartz’s powerful, skillfully woven memoir of redemption and reading, as told through the list of books she read as she served a 90 day jail sentence 

In 2014, novelist Leslie Schwartz was sentenced to 90 days in Los Angeles County Jail for a DUI and battery of an officer. It was the most harrowing and holy experience of her life.

Following a 414-day relapse into alcohol and drug addiction after more than a decade clean and sober, Schwartz was sentenced and served her time with only six months’ sobriety. The damage she inflicted that year upon her friends, her husband, her teenage daughter, and herself was nearly impossible to fathom. Incarceration might have ruined her altogether, if not for the stories that sustained her while she was behind bars–both the artful tales in the books she read while there, and, more immediately, the stories of her fellow inmates. With classics like Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome to contemporary accounts like Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, Schwartz’s reading list is woven together with visceral recollections of both her daily humiliations and small triumphs within the county jail system. Through the stories of others–whether rendered on the page or whispered in a jail cell–she learned powerful lessons about how to banish shame, use guilt for good, level her grief, and find the lost joy and magic of her astonishing life.

Told in vivid, unforgettable prose, The Lost Chapters uncovers the nature of shame, rage, and love, and how instruments of change and redemption come from the unlikeliest of places.

Leslie Schwartz is the author of two literary novels, Jumping the Green (Simon & Schuster, 1999) and Angels Crest (Doubleday, 2004.) Jumping the Green won the James Jones Literary Society Award for Best First Novel and was published in three languages. Angels Crest was a Book Sense 76 pick and was published in nine languages. The film version of the book debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival and the Edinburgh Film Festival in April and June of 2011. It was released and distributed nationally by Magnolia Pictures in January 2012.

During her career as a writer, which has spanned over two decades, Schwartz has been named Kalliope Magazine’s Woman Writer of the Year and has won many awards for her fiction and her community service as a writer, including three artist-in-residence grants from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the West Hollywood/Algonquin Award for Public Service in the Arts and a California Council for the Humanities Fellowship.

In addition to her novels, Schwartz has published short stories, articles, essays and book reviews in various newspapers,  magazines, and literary journals. Some of these publications include the Los Angeles Times, Poets & Writers, Teachers & Writers, Sonora Review and the online journal Narratively Speaking.

She has won fellowships to Soapstone Writers ResidencyMillay Colony for the ArtsUcross Writers Residency, and was twice awarded residency fellowships to Hedgebrook.

A past president of the board of directors for PEN USA, Schwartz has worked collaboratively with PEN USA in their many programs designed for at-risk youth and young writers in programs such as Pen-in-the-Classroom and PEN’s Emerging Voices Fellowship. She taught writing and published two literary magazines for Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention agency in the United States. She recently curated, edited and published the literary magazine Charlotte.

She has taught writing at UCLA Extension, the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing FestivalJewish Women’s Theatre at the Braid and Homeboy Industries. She primarily teaches privately in workshops and one-on-one mentoring and works as a freelance editor and writing mentor for both fiction and nonfiction authors.

Schwartz received her undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley and her MFA from Pacific University.
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