Flash Fiction: for writers, readers, editors, publishers, & fans


Flash Interview: Elizabeth Ellen Answers To Alina

IMG_6058.JPGElizabeth Ellen is the author of Before You She Was A Pit Bull (Future Tense) and Sixteen Miles Outside of Phoenix (Rose Metal Press). She is editor of Short Flight/Long Drive Books and lives in Ann Arbor where she runs the Great Lakes, Great Times Reading Series. For the record, she doesn't have a problem with 99% of the people who write flash fiction.

At which point do you know what shape a particular work will take--that is, "This one's gonna be a poem," etc.?

Oh, pretty much right away. You just feel the length of it, I guess. How long it's going to take you to say what you need to say.

How did you become involved with flash fiction? What attracts you to the form?

Well, it was the first form I published in, the first form I read online. And it lends itself very well to online fiction, which I'm a big fan of. I like the immediacy of it. I'm more likely to write something fast and not over think or over edit it in this form. For better or worse. So maybe, for me at least, it's the least self-conscious form of writing. The most honest and raw.

Generally, how do titles come to you?

Sometimes a word will do and sometimes you want something catchier, a long phrase. I honestly have no idea. Though I think I usually come up with the title last, after I've completed the piece.

Can you describe your work as editor of Hobart's Short Flight/Long Drive book series?

Well, I feel a great sense of gratitude and pride and excitement about the books we've published so far (Michelle Orange's The Sicily Papers, Mary Miller's Big World, and Adam Novy's Avian Gospels). They're all three so different and yet so amazing. And I'm just so happy their authors allowed us to publish them.

What's the last work you read that totally blew your mind?

Oh, that's easy. "I Look Divine" by Christopher Coe. It's easily the one book I can't get out of my mind or stop reading. it's perfection. every word. and I owe matt bell for turning me onto it. If I could write a book like this, I would die a happy woman. IF.

In the spirit of brevity: In ten words or less, what compels you to write?

Necessity, ego, anger, pride, and the desire to make things right that I've wronged.

Given the confessional, raw nature of many of your pieces--how often do you read your work aloud to an audience? Can you describe what that's like?

Oh, well, until recently, I've hated doing readings. I owe the reading series Quickies! in Chicago for helping to change that. Though my reluctance was never about the nature of my work but about my insecurities about being the center of attention. I don't even like walking to the bathroom in a bar most nights. But a couple shots of bourbon (and an awesome crowd like the ones at Quickies!) helps.

Since you mentioned bars... This is really cheesy, but I'm curious: Pick three writers (living or dead) whom you want to have a drink with. Who are they & why (and for the fun of it, what are you drinking?)

Oh, geez. Three? Wow. Okay... I feel like in answering questions like this, the more obscure the answer the better, but I'm going to have to go with the obvious and say Dorothy Parker, F. Scott (hoping he brings Zelda), and Hemingway because they're all legendary writers and drinkers, or maybe drinkers and writers. And bourbon, hoping to impress.

On to another fun topic: What's the most difficult part of writing about sex? The most enjoyable?

Well, I suppose the difficult part is trying not to be cheesy about it. But mostly I just find it enjoyable. Sex is always interesting to me. How different people approach it, if they're bored or ashamed or braggartly about it. And if they don't address it, too, that's even more curious, I think.

I keep running into this blunt, fierce, wonderfully open female narrator and/or character in your work. Is she anything like you? If so, do you worry about exposing too much of yourself in your work, or do you relish it?

Ha. Well, "blunt" and "fierce" are wonderful adjectives, thank you, So I'd like to think that describes me as well as my characters. That said, I don't worry about exposing too much of myself, no. For me, the whole point of writing is to examine my thoughts and to work through them on the page.

And on that note, do you consider 'confessional' writing to be a dirty word? It seems like so many writers and poets don't want that label anywhere near their work, even if it's what they're doing.

Oh, I don't mind it. Though I'd argue all writing is confessional, to some extent, don't you think? What other reason is there for picking up a pen or tapping on a keyboard? If not to hear yourself think.

About the Author

Alina.jpgAlina Ladyzhensky lives in South Philadelphia, by way of Moscow. Her preoccupations include reading, writing, and drinking middle shelf whiskey--sometimes, all at the same time. She'll earn an MA in Publishing from Rosemont College in 2011, if she can manage to sit still long enough.

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From Michelle Reale

Great interview—I love Ellen’s work so this peek into her process is a treat. Nice job, Ali­na.

From Alina L.

Thanks, Michelle! I’m self­ish­ly hop­ing that the winds of flash fic­tion fate bring EE to Philly; I’d love to hear her read.

From Katie Baker

I real­ly loved Ellen’s answer to why she writes. I also real­ly like how she says that flash fic­tion is the “least self-con­cious form of writ­ing, the most hon­est and raw.” I def­i­nite­ly feel this way when I write any piece of flash.

From Alina L.

Couldn’t agree more, Katie. I’ve real­ly come to appre­ci­ate flash’s impa­tience, of sorts, how it gets me to spit out what I real­ly want to say before I get caught up in writ­ing my way around it. Flash stands in front of me with hands on hips, demand­ing, “Out with it.” 

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