Tuesday, January 02, 2018
Interview with Elle Marr: Summer 2017 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up
Elle has been a writer since she was a kid, filling journals with short stories and sneaking into Prodigy forums for adult writers. As an adult herself, she’s graduated to full-length novels, and is probably revising for the umpteenth time at the moment you’re reading this. Her love of flash fiction was born from an appreciation for quick yarns with endings that resonate; she is lucky enough to have had her story “The Bataclan” place 4th in WOW! Women on Writing’s Fall 2015 contest.
Elle’s education includes a Master’s degree from the Sorbonne University in Paris, the setting of her second novel. Moreover, she is one of the many alumni of UC San Diego who never learned to surf. During all hours, she can be found blogging about story structure, publishing, and greenery at www.ellemarr.com or followed on Twitter @ellemarr_ and Instagram @ellemarr1. Although originally from Sacramento, California, she now calls the great Pacific Northwest home, with her fiancé and cat-baby.
If you haven’t done so already, check out Elle’s award-winning story “The Good News” and then return here for a chat with the author.
WOW: Congratulations on placing in the WOW 2017 Summer Flash Fiction Contest! What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write it?
Elle: I actually wrote this about two years ago, and have been revising it off and on. At the time, I was interested in examining the relationship between mothers and daughters, and how those roles evolve the older we get. When we're children we view our parents as these demi-gods, then as adults we gain perspective on how our parents (mothers and fathers) are simply people who had kids. Then, if we have children ourselves that perspective takes on another layer of empathy and understanding. I've also always been fascinated with adoption, as my mother was adopted, and grew up with the mystery of her biological family lingering in the back of my mind.
WOW: How interesting—I’m sure that kind of mystery could spark many questions and stories. What do you enjoy the most and/or the least about writing?
Elle: The thrill of effective writing is what keeps me coming back! When I can read a paragraph and enjoy the rhythm of a well-written phrase, or when my own throat closes with emotion despite rereading a story for the hundredth time - that's what I love the most. The least? Probably the waiting. I am horribly impatient and the nature of the publishing industry is hurry-up-submit-your-writing-and-wait.
WOW: Ha ha, yes! I think we can all relate to that hurry-up-and-wait culture of the publishing industry. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?
Elle: I am reading China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan. It's the second book in the Crazy Rich Asians series, and I want to finish the series (three books) before the movie by director Jon Chu comes out next year. It's a hilarious and immersive story set in several countries in Asia - basically a Pride & Prejudice and Romeo & Juliet mash up (two of my favorite stories). Crazy Rich Asians is a big step in the movement We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) and a fun depiction of Chinese culture, one that I wish I would have had growing up. Representation is so important in art, and it's only recently that major progress is being made.
WOW: What an interesting concept for a mash up! And I agree—more diversity is still needed in books, but I’m glad there has been some progress with books like these. What effect has living in Paris and getting your master’s degree from Sorbonne University had on your writing and creativity?
Elle: I actually lived about thirty minutes outside of Paris, but I went into the city every chance I got. Living there realized a long-held dream of mine, and I pinched myself every day when I bought a croissant or baguette from the local bakery. It fed my creativity, as it does now, re-living the experience in certain aspects of my writing, simply knowing how much art had come from the country, and Paris, specifically. I actually lived across a cobblestone walkway from the birthplace of a major playwright from the 1700's - talk about surreal! Getting my master's degree from the Sorbonne was also surreal, in that I never imagined it was possible for me, as a kid from Sacramento, California. Beyond the historic setting of the Sorbonne, the experience taught me that story structure, knowing how to craft a sentence, and ensuring themes are consistent throughout, are essential in any form of writing - whether that's a manuscript or a twenty-paged research paper. Completing a master's degree in both English and French honed that understanding in me, and now I apply that to creative writing.
WOW: What an amazing experience! Thank you for sharing a bit of it with us. If you could give other creative writers one piece of advice, what would it be and why?
Elle: Keep writing. If it's not very good in the beginning, it will be the longer you work at it - like anything. And give yourself a break from writing. Not too long, but it's important to recharge.
WOW: Thank you for that wise advice. Anything else you’d like to add?
Elle: I'm super excited “The Good News” was chosen for the Top Ten stories this past summer! Thank you again to the WOW! team and to Quressa Robinson, the amazing literary agent and judge this round.
WOW: You are welcome! And thank you for your thoughtful responses. Happy Writing!
Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive female athletes.