Today we’re joined by Sean Shannon. Sean is a phenomenal artist whose a bit of an artist-of-all-trades. She has two main focuses at the moment: writing and creating webseries. She has written a novel entitled The Prostitutes of Lake Wiishkoban that was up for an international award. Sean has also written two ebooks of classroom exercises for humanities instructors, several poems, some short stories, and a seventeen-year-old blog. As if that’s not impressive enough, Sean has also created a couple webseries. It’s clear she’s a dedicated artist who loves what she does, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I am the author of the novel The Prostitutes of Lake Wiishkoban, which was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize and a quarterfinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. In addition, I’m the creator and host of the teaching webseries Socratic Sense, which explores current issues in teaching, and the intersection of education with politics and popular culture, as well as a personal webseries called Musecast. Those are my (current) major efforts, but I call myself an “artist-of-many-trades” because I work in all kinds of mediums, from writing to the visual arts.
What inspires you?
I could name specific artists whose influences I can see in my work, but what inspires me more than anything is the desire to leave the world a better place than I found it. That’s a drive that influences all my work, across all mediums.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
My parents were both artists, so I kind of come by it naturally. I also had a very difficult childhood, and while I’ve never had formal sessions in art therapy, my art has always been a refuge for me, and a place for me to work out the problems I’m having (then and now). I’ve always wanted to be an artist on some level, but I’ve always wanted to be everything. I still haven’t decided what I want to be when I grow up.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
Whenever I’ve tried to include something like that in my work, it always feels forced to me. Other artists don’t seem to have that problem, so I guess I’m just not very good at that sort of thing.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Absorb everything you can. Consume art far and wide, even if it’s not in a medium or genre you want to work with. Everything you experience will fill your artistic well, and could inspire your art five minutes or fifty years in the future.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I am a panromantic asexual.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
The biggest problem I’ve come across is people who assume that I can’t write a novel about sex work, or a novel with sex scenes, because I’m asexual. (Never mind that I fit some people’s definition of the term “sex worker” because I’ve taught safer sex practices before.)
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
That asexuality is synonymous with celibacy, and that asexuals can’t have (or enjoy) sex.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Above all, you are not alone. I don’t believe in making promises like “it gets better,” because I’m not in a position to be able to keep that promise to anyone else (or even myself), but know that some of us out here are at least trying to make things better for asexuals. We would very much like your help if you can provide it, but it’s okay if you need to stay private about your asexuality for now, regardless of the reason.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
My blog, seanshannon.org, has links to my books and videos, examples of my photography, and short written pieces about everything on my mind these last couple of decades, ranging from political essays to narrative non-fiction.
Thank you, Sean, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.