Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Interview with Elizabeth Eidlitz: 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Third Place Winner
Elizabeth Eidlitz is a retired independent school English teacher, a writing workshop facilitator, and newspaper columnist who recently became intrigued by the demands of flash fiction. She has coedited a textbook, published a few short stories and many feature articles. She is amazed at what writers have created with only 26 alphabet letters. In her own work she tries to define both factual and emotional truths. She loves E.B. White, animals, laughter, French onion soup with lots of melted cheese, and unvarnished people. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts.
If you haven’t done so already, check out Elizabeth’s award-winning story “Our Day” and then return here for a chat with the author.
WOW: Congratulations on placing 3rd in the Winter Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story?
Elizabeth: Confronting ghosts. Wondering if I really told my mother’s classmate that I was adopted—or simply wanted to—has always haunted me. Though never discussed, the unresolved moment, like much flash fiction, illuminates a landscape of conflicts.
WOW: I like that connection between unresolved moments and flash fiction. I’d never thought about it like that before. Did you learn anything about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece?
Elizabeth: It sharpened my understanding of a critical moment by exploring what led up to it and what followed.
WOW: In your bio it says that in your writing you try “to define both factual and emotional truths.” Can you say more about this? How do you accomplish that feat?
Elizabeth: Truth is a slippery fish. A friend’s adult daughter in therapy asked, “Mother, how old was I when you locked me out of the house in the snow?” The feeling of maternal rejection and coldness is her emotional, imagined truth. The factual truth is that since she grew up in southern California, it could not have happened. Another friend remembers her terror at age six when she was held over her aunt’s open casket at the funeral. The imagined emotional truth is factually false. Her aunt died when she was 23.
We misremember events, particularly those of our childhood, and act on our conviction of powerful emotional truths. We forget the words people use, but we remember the effect the words had us.
WOW: Great examples. They sound similar to what you previously said about wondering about the actual versus imagined exchange between you and your mother’s classmate. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?
Elizabeth: I was interested in the NYTimes review of Our Souls at Night, written by Ken Haruf under a death sentence. The premise is original and convincing and the back story is suspenseful as it develops.
Actually, I frequently reread Charlotte’s Web and essays by E. B. White, an inspiration, for his unique point of view, vivid descriptions, humor, and absolutely perfect last lines.
WOW: If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why?
Elizabeth: Real writing is REWRITING. Does anyone get it right the first time? There’s a huge difference between deboning a chicken and being a skilled thoracic surgeon or running down the street and winning the Boston marathon.
Like swimmers, writers have times when they can only splash in frustration and times, when stuck, they need to tread water until they find a new direction. And then there are nourishing times when they feel they’re swimming with the current. Because “Our Day” was one of these, it partially wrote itself.
WOW: Such vivid metaphors! Thank you for sharing that advice and for your other thoughtful responses! Congratulations again, and 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.