Introducing Elizabeth Demers - 2nd place winner in the 2010 Summer Flash Fiction Contest
Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Elizabeth Demers started writing when she was a tween, around the age of 11. Elizabeth swears that many of her early pieces, and even some recent writings, resemble short poems and unfinished sketches. Writing and books have always been important to Elizabeth, who comes from a family of bibliophiles, she did not originally set out to be a writer.
Elizabeth graduated Mississippi University for Women in 2002 with a Bachelor's in Biology. Job searching after graduation left her discouraged, so she resorted to the one activity she felt comfortable with: writing.
For the last seven years, Elizabeth's kept busy working as a bookseller turned bookstore manager turned aspiring author. She spends the majority of her day surrounded by and engrossed in the written word. Having come full circle, Elizabeth gratefully returns to her passion while slowly coming to terms with the fact that she might have picked the wrong major in college.
If you haven't had the chance to read Elizabeth's award-winning story, "Charon's Lament," head over to the Summer 2010 Flash Fiction Contest page at WOW! Women on Writing. You'll be so glad you did!
WOW: Elizabeth, welcome to The Muffin. We're pleased to be spending time with you and talking about your story. Congratulations on winning second place in the summer contest! It's a major accomplishment! What first stood out to me about "Charon's Lament" is this beautiful internal monologue from a mythological character. How much research about Charon did you conduct prior to writing the piece?
Elizabeth: Actually, other than the few minutes it took to double-check the spelling of my character's name, there was no recent research. I've always been fascinated by fairy tales, folklore and mythology, and I remember learning most of the Greek/Roman myths as a child. During high school and college, I did take several years of Latin and mythology, which more than solidified my fascination and love of those myths.
WOW: I find mythology fascinating, too. The story is quite impressive! Sounds like you are a strong reader. Good readers make good writers. What do you remember about the first piece you wrote?
Elizabeth: If we're talking about the very first piece I can remember writing, it was an unfinished mystery about a stolen diamond. I was eleven years old and unfortunately that story is still unfinished. From there until after I graduated college, I've written dozens of poems and character sketches, but nothing longer than a few pages. It wasn't until about six years ago that I even attempted anything that could be considered novel-length.
WOW: Perhaps you'll be able to finish the stolen diamond story sometime. (smiles) The rhythm of language in "Charon's Lament" captivates me. That's another sign of the reader/writer connection. Which authors have made a lasting impression on you or have had an effect on your writing style?
Elizabeth: There are so many wonderful authors out there, that I'm sure I wouldn't have enough time or space to name them all. The authors whose writing has stuck with me the most over the years include: Dickens, Tolkien, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Paul Auster, and Joyce Carol Oates. I'm not sure they've had an effect on my style per se, but I do admire and love their writing, which definitely has had an effect on my desire to continue writing.
WOW: I will agree that when you admire a person's writing, it pushes your desire to write. Your writing path has been interesting. You majored in Biology, but you've always been drawn to writing and literature. What advice would you offer to other writers who think they may have taken a detour in their career choice?
Elizabeth: All I can offer is what I've learned about myself and hope it might help pothers who think they've taken the long way around. I think, many times, we have too may things we are passionate about, too many things we might be interested in pursuing. Every child is asked what they want to be when they grow up. I was one of those kids that could never make up their mind. I know I ran the gamut of career choices, more than once, as I grew - astronaut, police officer, concert pianist, doctor, veterinarian - the last decision leading me to get my Bachelor's degree in Biology. It wasn't until the last couple of years, when I was unsure about where my life was headed, that I took time to reevaluate what was important to me. The one constant was writing. Whenever I went through something, good or bad, there was always a poem or a sketch written about it. I guess I never thought about writing for a living because it was so much a natural part of myself that I never considered it a career choice. It would be like choosing a career as an opera singer because I know how to breathe.
I guess if I could offer any advice, it would to be to listen to your heart, and trust you will always wind up where you are meant to be. Detours can be scenic. Enjoy the ride, remember the details and write about the journey!
WOW: Great advice! I've taken a few detours myself. Speaking of detours, let's jump back on the writing track. When you write, do you have a particular audience in mind?
Elizabeth: At the moment, the only audience I try to write for are the characters in my stories. Though it might sound strange, I know it's their story and I don't want to disappoint them. I've always written whatever story was in my head or heart. I can't honestly remember ever writing anything just because someone else might or might not read it.
WOW: It's interesting that you write for the characters. It seems like many writers focus on writing what others might want to read. Your characters definitely come to life on the page! Elizabeth, would you mind sharing what projects you're currently working on?
Elizabeth: I've just successfully finished my fourth year of NaNoWriMo, so I have the very rough skeleton of a story to which I need to add the meat. I have also compiled a new list of contests to enter once the new year begins. The last few NaNoWriMo's have been great fodder for the short stories that I've been entering into contests lately, including the short sketch, Charon's Lament, that placed in this summer's WOW! Flash Fiction Contest.
WOW: Congratulations on conquering NaNoWriMo, as well as placing in the WOW! contest. Readers interested in more of Elizabeth's work may want to peruse her blog.
Interview by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at her website.