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Tamar is a Long Beach-based writer and English instructor. Her writing often examines the intersection of gender, culture, and beauty standards. She is currently working on a collection of short stories that follows the lives of three young Armenian-Americans as they navigate through life and grapple with love, loss, and the weight of their cultural history. Find links to her published works here: http://tamartelian.wordpress.com/
WOW: Tamar, congratulations on your win in the flash fiction contest with your story, "My Sister is Prettier Than Me." How did you come up with the idea for this story?
Tamar: Thank you! I'm so excited to be a part of WOW! Having people come up to me and tell me how pretty my sister is--it's something I've experienced my entire life, so it's been at the back of my head for a long time.
WOW: Real life sneaking in to our fiction--it happens a lot as writers. You use repetition a lot (and well!) in this piece. What made you decide to use that technique?
Tamar: It kind of happened organically; I didn't sit down and think, "I should use repetition!" That said, I think it emphasizes how I was constantly reminded of the fact that many people believed my sister was prettier than I was. Even now, people always tell me how beautiful she is--it's the first thing they say about her, and the repetition illustrates that.
WOW: What are some themes you are exploring in this piece?
Tamar: One theme I'm exploring in this piece (and a lot of my other work) is women and society's beauty standards--how these standards impact us and how they can affect or even define our relationships. There was a long stretch of time during which this was a point of conflict for me and my sister--I let my jealousy of the way people admired her beauty and my own insecurities about the way I looked build a wall between us. For some reason, I always thought we were in competition, which I suppose is natural for siblings, but it was unhealthy. Once I stopped thinking that we were in direct competition with one another, and embraced my own beauty, my relationship with my sister and with the people around me improved.
WOW: Thank you for sharing your personal story with us! Your bio says you are working on a short story collection about three Armenian-Americans. What made you choose these characters as your focus?
Tamar: Well, I'm a huge fan of authors who focus on characters struggling with dual identities, like Amy Tan, Junot Diaz, Sherman Alexie, so I took a page from them. I'm also a big fan of short story cycles, and writing about three connected characters in a collection of stories seemed like a perfect fit!
WOW: Those are some great authors to model after. Is this flash fiction piece similar to the types of stories in your collection? What else are you working on?
Tamar: I have a few flash fiction pieces in my short story collection; however, the majority of those stories are longer works. Right now, the collection is my primary focus, but I also write short pieces that have a magical realism element to them. These usually deal with women's beauty standards as well. To give you an example, one of my recently published works is about a young woman who starts rapidly growing arm hair until the hair on her arms is as long as the length of her body. The story explores our society's stigma about women's body hair and how we expect women to invest time and money to have hairless skin.
WOW: That sounds like an interesting story! Thank you for sharing a glimpse of yourself with us today and best of luck to you in the future.
Tamar: Thank you!