Leila Segal was born in London and trained as a barrister. Between 1999 and 2006 she spent time in Cuba, where she started writing short stories. She edits the journal Education Law Update, and works on community art projects, using writing and photography to give marginalized groups a voice. Leila worked on Change the Picture with sex workers in London's East End; and leads the Jaffa Photography Project, with Jewish and Palestinian teenagers in Israel. She blogs at The Other Side.
Why do you blog? > To write and be read. It's an incentive to produce fresh work, responding to the world around you. Knowing you have an audience is a great motivator - it's what writers long for. You develop a voice in tandem with your readers. I love the dialogue.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Having people I've never met email me from across the world.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > My father - he's incredibly clever, but also very patient, and explains things.
What are you reading at the moment? > Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation by Eyal Weizman, and The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard.
Who are your political heroes? > My teacher Dinorah in Havana, and the people of Palestine and Israel who continue to work for a just peace against all the odds.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Short story writers Raymond Carver and Jane Bowles; brave, brutal playwright Sarah Kane; Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Thérèse Desqueyroux by François Mauriac. It's a resistance tale. I studied it at school, and have never forgotten the horror of Thérèse's slow refusal and decline.
What is your favourite poem? > 'For Jane' by Charles Bukowski.
What is your favourite movie? > Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep - set in LA ghetto Watts, in the '70s. Quiet, beautiful and incredibly moving.
What is your favourite song? > 'A Change is Gonna Come', as sung by Otis Redding.
Who is your favourite composer? > Shostakovitch, if I can take it, or Bach.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I used to think that in a society that bought and exploited women's bodies, sex work got women their due. Now I think that the physical and emotional cost is too high. Society has to change - it's not for women to adapt.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > The Writer's Voice, by Al Alvarez. He taught me that writing comes from presence on the page. It's a visceral, not intellectual, act.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Our innate desire to destroy that which makes us afraid.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Work with what you've got.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > Yes - what people profess is seldom what they are.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Compassion.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Arrogance.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To get a parcel delivered in a window smaller than 'between 9am and 5pm'.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Trying to persuade others they're wrong; the use of force.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I'd get things into perspective.
What would you call your autobiography? > You May Wish To Be Here (Bruce Nauman).
What would your ideal holiday be? > Antarctica, surfing with the penguins.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Wandering about, chatting to strangers, drinking coffee.
What is your most treasured possession? > My notebook.
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > Sonia. It's got a kind of exotic Russian spy feel to it, and it's beautiful.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Sailor.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Jack Dee.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > To be cured of insomnia. I am insanely jealous of people who lie down at night, close their eyes and sink into a peaceful sleep until morning comes.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I'd do everything pretty much the same - it would just be a lot easier.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]