Interview with Elinor S. Laurier, Runner Up in the WOW! Q3 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Sunday, August 27, 2023


Elinor S. Laurier writes mostly short non-fiction works and enjoys travel, long hikes, and spending time with her loved ones. Often, you can find her at her favorite local bookstore, where she gobbles up carrot cake and books in equal measure. She and her husband call Arizona home. Twitter handle: @ElinorLaurier. 

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

 WOW: Congratulations, Elinor! “Flip” is a realistic portrait of how Alzheimer’s disease affects more than just the person affected—it can affect the generations to follow. What was the process like unpacking this difficult topic in essay form? 

Elinor: Early onset Alzheimer’s affects individuals decades before the more usual form of the disease, and is inherited via a dominant gene. I don’t think there’s a lot of public awareness about EOA, because it strikes just a very small percentage of the population. If a person has a parent who carries the gene, there’s a 50% chance of inheriting it. The disease progression, once it begins, tends to be much faster than the typical Alzheimer’s patient. Tragically, it’s currently affecting my ex-husband, who is just 53. So, I’ll be honest, for the longest time I didn’t think I would be able to write about this topic. It was raw, and too close. To really dive in I would have to feel deeply, and remember the past, and face the question of what the future holds for my kids. As a mother that’s one of the hardest things imaginable. It’s excruciating, actually. So, it was easier to push it down and away, and tell myself that it was just too hard, that I wasn’t ready to face writing about Alzheimer’s. And I was okay with that, because to actually dive deep and unpack it all was terrifying. Then, last summer, I was enrolled in a workshop which included prompts, and one of the prompts started with “I remember,” and my mind instantly flipped it to “You won’t remember,” and it was like a floodgate opened. The essay just came pouring out, and took me by surprise, because apparently my subconscious had been working on it all along. The initial rough draft was written in just three days. I bawled at the end, when I realized that I had done it, I had written about what most scares me, and I had actually found it therapeutic, bringing my story out into the light, saying this is how it feels. It’s my greatest hope that others who are going through something similar read this and know they aren’t alone. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing that heartfelt experience with us. It's amazing to learn a piece of writing has been simmering underneath the surface without us even knowing it. What advice do you have for other writers looking to explore personal topics in their writing but not knowing where to begin? 

Elinor: I can only advise what worked for me, and the first thing that comes to mind is to listen to your gut. If you’re not ready to write yet, trust that your subconscious may be working through some things, and honor that. Know that the right time will come when you’re ready, and your story may come suddenly and unexpectedly, as mine did, through a prompt session, a dream, or something similar. If you already know that you want to write about something personal and feel ready but aren’t sure where to start, one way to find inspiration and get going is to read craft essays or memoirs to see how other writers have approached personal topics. Many times, while I’m reading another writer’s brilliant work, my mind will suddenly go “sideways,” and veer off, taking me somewhere entirely new and unexpected. That’s when I grab a pen, so the magic doesn’t have a chance to slip away! 

WOW: What do you think are the characteristics of a great piece of creative nonfiction? 

Elinor: There are several things that I feel make a great piece of CNF, like interesting structure and a compelling voice, lyrical language, clever use of metaphor, and a strong narrative arc. But, for me, the greatest hallmark of a fantastic piece of CNF is when everything falls away but the story, when I’m so swept away that I feel as if I have become the author, when, at the very end, there’s a moment where some greater understanding opens and I see the world a bit differently. When that shift sticks with me I know I’ve read something great. 

WOW: What is your writing process like with essays? Do you prefer to work off an outline or are you more of a “pantser?” 

Elinor: I’m a “pantser” for sure! I’ve actually written essays using an outline as well, but it didn’t feel as natural or fun for me. I don’t think there’s just one way to do it, of course, whatever works best for a writer is great. I just feel that my own writing is more creative, inspired, and fluid when I allow myself the space to explore without constraint, at least initially. 

WOW: When you visit a bookstore, what is the first section you go to and why? 

Elinor: I always go to “new releases” first, because it’s exciting to see what’s just come out. I love all kinds of books, but tend to gravitate towards fiction, and historical fiction, specifically. It’s fascinating to think about the past, to read about people living through historically significant and challenging events. I’m very drawn to characters who must endure impossibly hard situations and make morally difficult choices. I’m compelled to think, what would I have done?


Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top