My name is… Liesl Shurtliff. Rhymes with Diesel or Weasel. A soft S is the German pronunciation. A hard S is the American. I grew up with the American version, but switched to the German pronunciation when I married my husband, who speaks German and so always pronounced my name as LEE-zul. My last name is sometimes misspronounced as Shurtliss. Yikes.
I am a… lover of knowledge and learning. I love robust conversations and debates on any given subject. I love to hear other people’s opinions, interests, and expertise. Luckily, I live in a university neighborhood where just about everyone I know is an expert on something, and so I meet a lot of fascinating people who are more than happy to converse with me and share their thoughts and knowledge. It’s great for character study!
As a kid, I was… insecure, desperate for praise and acceptance, and a late bloomer. I struggled to learn how to read, which made me feel like I wasn’t all that smart. I eventually grew to enjoy reading and writing a great deal, but only when it was on my terms. I didn’t like to be assigned reading. My favorite books were always ones I chose on my own. I loved creating stories but didn’t want to share my writing or have it be critiqued or graded. Not much has changed, except I’m a little more a secure, more open to constructive criticism, and less desperate for praise and acceptance. (But still a little.)
Writing is… my way of making sense of what’s going on both in the world and inside my head. I don’t truly know something until I can express it in words. Likewise, I don’t understand how I feel about anything until I write it down. I’ve been writing in a journal and making up my own stories since I was eight. It’s my therapy and my joy. It’s also really, really hard for me. You know those people who say their story just flowed out of them like water or came to them in a dream and they couldn’t stop writing for three months straight? I loathe those people.
Reading is… revolutionary and communal. When we read words written by another human, we take a piece of them into ourselves. We see and experience the world through their eyes. This helps us develop empathy, and empathy is revolutionary.
Books are… worlds captured on paper, treasures and adventures you can take right in your home.
Did you know… when I was born my parents wanted to name me Megan. As it happened, there were a few other baby girls born around the same time and they were all named…Megan. My parents decided they’d better choose something else. So they named me Liesl, which, as I said earlier, is German and also from The Sound of Music. (If you haven’t seen the film with Julie Andrews, please fill this hole in your life immediately.) I played the role of Liesl in my high school’s production of The Sound of Music, right when I was sixteen-going-on-seventeen! And that’s as close as I’ve gotten to experiencing what feels like fate.
You can find me… at Lake Michigan in Chicago. I run along the lakefront trail nearly every day and take a plunge at the end. It’s heaven. (Except in winter. Brrrrr!) If not there, you can visit my website at www.lieslshurtliff.com and @lieslshurtliff on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.