Interview with E. Izabelle Cassandra Alexander, Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, January 14, 2020
E. Izabelle Cassandra Alexander was born and raised in a little village in Hungary. After immigrating to the US, she first lived in New York. There she graduated with honors from Monroe College with a Bachelor's in Information Systems before moving to Chicago, where she earned her MBA in Business from Webster University.

Izabelle wanted to write her first novel at age eight and wrote her first poem in fourth grade. In 2013, she refocused to pursue her life-long dream of writing and began taking writing classes at Oakton Community College and online. Since then, she’s a member of numerous writing and poetry groups, attending workshops and conferences, continuously updating her writing and editing skills.

Izabelle writes short stories, creative nonfiction essays, flash fiction, plays, and poetry. She’s currently working on a few novels and a series of children’s books along with illustrations.

Several of her short stories, creative nonfiction essays, and poetry have been published by Oakton Community College in 2016, 2018, and 2019 issues of their annual print literary journal, Spark, as well as by The International Library of Poetry in four of their print anthologies between 2004 and 2008. By The Scarlet Leaf Review on their website in 2018, and by the Illinois State Poetry Society (ISPS) on their website and in the ISPS print anthology, Distilled Lives, Volume 4, 2018. Also, in Yearning to Breathe, a print anthology by Moonstone Art Center in 2019.

Her nonfiction essays “Disciplined Discipline” (2017) and “My First Camel Ride” (2019), and her flash fiction “Invisible Love” (2018) each received an Honorable Mention in contests by WOW! Women on Writing while they chose many of her flash pieces as finalists. In The New York City Midnight Challenge Flash Fiction Contest, she won the first round within her tier with her flash fiction titled “What Eyes Can’t See” in 2018. Some of her poems, fiction, creative nonfiction essays, and plays had been selected by Oakton Community College as a finalist to represent them in the annual Skyway Competitions over the last six years.

You can find Izabelle at:

And on Patreon at:

Read Izabelle's unforgettable story here and then return to learn more about the writer.

----------Interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: Welcome, Izabelle, and congratulations! “Fragments of Bones” is a haunting and introspective story that unfolds at just the right pace. What are some of your favorite genres of writing to experiment with?

Izabelle: Last year, I experimented with fantasy, science-fiction, ghost stories, and some light horror. I want to do more of that in 2020. I’m reading Steven King’s “On Writing, a Memoir of the Craft,” and it inspires me to write a sci-fi/horror piece and see what happens. I’m also interested in supernatural and paranormal stories and planning to write in that genre, too, this year.

WOW: Those genres are right up my alley, and I know a lot of readers here enjoy them, too.  We can't wait to see what you come up with. Your work has been published in several literary journals. What tips would you offer writers offering to break into this medium?

Izabelle: Once I read that, “it’s a numbers game.” So my advice to any writer who’d like to see their work published in a literary journal or magazine is to submit, submit, and submit. The more you submit, the more chances there are that your story or poem will find a home and encounter the readers you intended to reach.

Also, although evaluating literary work is subjective, it helps to read what the journal usually publishes. So you can send your work more fitting to their “taste.” Always follow submission guidelines.

WOW: Very good advice, thank you. It is indeed a numbers game and tied to how appropriate your piece is to the tone of the journal and their themes. Writing flash fiction is an art form. How do you write and revise pieces when you have a limited amount of words?

Izabelle: I first write the story, which may be much less or more in terms of word-count than what is needed for a particular call for submission. If I need to cut it down to fit into the word-count requirement of flash fiction or micro-fiction, I need to evaluate if the story is right for this compression. Some of my stories land themselves for longer lengths, where I feel that if I try to distill them down to 500 or 750 words, they will lose a lot of substance. In a way, the stories do have their own life and form, and it’s a delicate balance to find which should be a flash piece and which should be a two to four thousand words short story or longer. Sometimes, I will write two versions of the same story, the longer work, of course, expanding on the flash piece’s ideas.

So, let’s say the limit is 1,000 words (which is for WOW’s creative nonfiction essay contests), and my story is 1,500. I will begin by cutting anything unnecessary or redundant. Then I go through the piece, again and again, replacing words of three or four with one or two to say the same thing with brevity. I cut anything that’s not essential for the story and not needed for clarity.

Usually, those last five or so words are the hardest to cut, but I always find the way, so I’m confident, it can be done. I find that my best short pieces are the ones where I had to painstakingly delete anything above a certain word-count. Having to do that forces you to examine each word. Each word must earn the right to be included.

WOW: You mention in your bio that you enjoy attending writing conferences and workshops. What has been your favorite so far, and why?

Izabelle: My favorite one to attend is the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference’s Writers Competition and Festival. Eight community colleges compete against each other in several genres, fiction, creative nonfiction, drama, and poetry.

I usually submit to this, and many of my stories and poems have been selected to represent Oakton Community College. I’m enrolled and have been taking classes at this college over the years. The event not only provides exposure with an open mic session, but also offers four different workshops (fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and drama) each year hosted by one of the eight participating colleges.

WOW: Oh, that does sound fun! Festivals are a great way to get your work out there. After earning an MBA, what made you decide to refocus on your writing career several years ago?

Izabelle: I wanted to write since I was about eight-years-old. I remember going to the library to do research on the jungle because, in my book, the plane would crash there, and I needed to be able to describe it. In fourth grade, I wrote my first poem (a translation from a Russian poem about the four seasons, a class assignment). I continued writing after that, especially in my teenage years. From an early age, I’ve been journaling. Writing seems to be something integral to me, and I always dreamed of one day writing my life story.

Several years ago, I’d read Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life.” Twice. It made me realize that writing is not an option for me. It’s something my experiences were preparing me for throughout all my life, but it never had the center stage. Always it was something I’d do later.

I began attending classes at Oakton Community College to attain a teacher’s certificate. My first love was to be a teacher one day. When I was five, that’s the answer I gave if anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. Also, I took a writing fiction class, which lead me to one of the writing groups I have attended for seven years now.

During the thirty observation hours required for one of the classes, I was also working on my first NaNoWriMo. I wrote a short story about a little bluebird, Millie (around four thousand words), and the teacher suggested that I share it with the children (3rd and 4th graders). They loved it and said, “Ms. Alexander, we want to see what happens to Millie and Cecilia, you need to make this a chapter book. We want to see it there on the shelf. You need to write a whole series about Millie.”

It was an honor to be asked by the children to continue the story and make it a book. I’d go and read to them after completing the first, second, and third books and invite them to come up with the chapter titles. I’d also read Millie’s stories to the 5th and 6th graders (my son’s class at that time). What an amazing experience! That is what got me to refocus on writing. Those children were and always will be an inspiration to me.

"The Amazing Adventures of Millie" will be a series of seven or eight books with my drawings as illustrations (also suggested by the children). They are books with heart and effortless learning and a little bit of magic.

WOW: What an incredible story! You know you are on to something if children are continuing to ask you how the story ends. It sounds like you are quite the multi-talented writer and artist. I love how you say you realized writing was not an option for you. We are glad you chose to follow your heart and pursue your dream with a fervent passion. Good luck in all your writing and publishing endeavors.


Angela Mackintosh said...

Renee ~ Thank you for doing this interview, and for asking great questions.

Izabelle ~ I love your story, and I appreciate your solid advice on cutting down a flash piece! I agree, some stories just won't work for flash, and I use a similar method when it comes to word count. I use extra contractions, eliminate anything that uses "of" and a few other tricks. :) That's such a great story about the children's book series, and I had no idea you drew. You're so creative and prolific. I've done NaNo with you for two years now, and I'm pushed and inspired by your massive word counts. Good luck on your projects! :)

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