Interview with Elizabeth Barton - 2009 Summer Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up
Elizabeth Barton has been writing stories for just about as long as she can remember. After attaining degrees in psychology and nutritional sciences, she began work as a medical writer and editor. She participated in the Writer’s Loft workshop in Chicago for more than four years and has recently begun seriously pursuing a career in fiction writing. Elizabeth has dozens of short stories in varying degrees of completion and is polishing a draft of her first novel. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Ian, and two cats, Roxie and Gordon. When she is not writing, Elizabeth is an avid reader and enjoys travel, theater, and wine. She also loves to dabble in, but never master, various pursuits including drama, sewing, painting, ceramics, and stained glass work. She believes that every experience can be an inspiration. She recently won third place in WOW’s spring flash fiction contest for her story, The Wedding March
If you haven't done so already, you should definitely check out Elizabeth's prize-winning story "Not Tonight." When you've finished reading, return here for a chat with the author.
WOW!: Congratulations on placing in the 2009 Summer Flash Fiction Contest! You have managed to pack so much emotion into your piece of flash fiction. Do you believe it’s easier or more difficult to create such vivid feelings under the constraint of a small word count?
Elizabeth: Honestly, neither. I think that one can create vivid feelings in a sentence or two. Of course, it's harder to create a character with depth and tell a complete story when you have word count restraints. On the other hand, it's hard to maintain the intensity you often get with flash fiction when writing longer pieces.
WOW!: Yes, I agree. Despite the word count restraints of this contest, I think you have done a fantastic job of creating a complete story with meaningful characters. In your bio you say that every experience can be an inspiration, and I completely agree. Can you describe or give an example of how some of your other artistic endeavors have inspired your writing?
Elizabeth: I can't think of any specific instances where my other artistic endeavors have directly inspired me in my writing. It certainly could happen, though. For now, I find that it those endeavors allow me to create in a different way. I don't have to think about ceramics or painting in the same way I have to think about writing, so my mind can sort of relax.
WOW!: As an avid reader, I'm sure you’re in the middle of reading at least one (if not two or three) books right now. Are you reading anything interesting? Which writer or story has most influenced your writing?
Elizabeth: Right now, I'm reading Timeline by Michael Crichton, which has an interesting mix of science and history; plus, I've always been a sucker for a time travel story. My all-time favorite book is Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Although I enjoy both Crichton and Vonnegut, I wouldn't say my writing really resembles either of them. It's hard to pin down one particular author or story that's influenced me most, but I'd list Michael Chabon, Nick Hornby, David Sedaris, and A. Manette Ansay among my influences.
WOW!: I know, it’s difficult to pin down just a few influential writers because inspiring or helpful attributes can be found in so many pieces of writing. In your interview after winning 3rd place in the WOW! Spring 2009 Flash Fiction Contest, you spoke about working on revisions to your novel. How is your novel progressing? Have you had any breakthroughs or run into any roadblocks?
Elizabeth: No, there haven't been any breakthroughs or roadblocks. I'm making steady progress, but it's always slower than I would like!
WOW!: Yes, I know what you mean! When I'm excited about a writing project, it always seems to progress slower than I’d like. What do you enjoy most about writing?
Elizabeth: I just love seeing what happens when I start writing. There's stuff I never knew I had in me that ends up on the page. Also, when I start a story, I rarely know where it's going to go. Just like with reading, I like writing to see how the story ends.
WOW!: Thank you, Elizabeth, for your time, your insightful answers, and your impressive piece of flash fiction. We wish you the best of luck with your writing in the future!
Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt
Labels: Anne Greenawalt, Elizabeth Barton, Runner up, summer 2009 flash fiction contest
Interview with Elizabeth Barton - 3rd Place Winner in the Spring '09 Flash Fiction Contest
According to Elizabeth Barton, she's been penning stories for just about as long as she can remember. After earning degrees in psychology and nutritional sciences, Elizabeth worked as a medical writer and editor. She participated in the Writer's Loft program in Chicago for over four years and recently ventured into fiction writing. An avid writer, Elizabeth has multiple manuscripts in varying degrees in completion, and now, she is putting the polishing touches on her first novel.
Elizabeth lives in Chicago with her husband, Ian, and two cats, Roxie and Gordon. When she isn't writing, Elizabeth enjoys reading, theater, and wine. Elizabeth likes other artistic pursuits, including painting, drama, painting, and stained glass work. She believes every experience can be an inspiration.
Elizabeth's story, "The Wedding March
", is located on WOW! 's Spring Contest Page. If you haven't had the opportunity to read her work yet, head over to WOW! Women on Writing
. Her story will resonate with anyone who has experienced pre-wedding jitters.WOW: Welcome, Elizabeth, and congratulations on winning third place in the Spring 2009 contest! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with WOW! readers today. "The Wedding March" examines the nervous jitters a bride experiences prior to her wedding. What was the inspiration for your story?Elizabeth:
It actually began with a writing prompt: "Terrified, she opened the door..." I knew I didn't want to write a horror story, so I began to think of what other kinds of things people find scary. The idea of getting married to someone you're really not sure about is pretty scary to me, but I know it happens.WOW: I agree with you! It happens quite often. I like how you incorporate wedding traditions and terminology. To you, how important is the use of detail ?Elizabeth:
I think details are important, especially in flash fiction. Since the story is so short, you don't get to know the character(s) as well as you might in a longer piece. Every detail can help bring the reader into the story, and when you are specific in your phrasing, you create something uniquely your own.WOW: And creating something unique is an important element of a story, and especially true of flash fiction. Your bio states you have a stash of short stories. Do you also write a lot of flash fiction? What genre do you prefer?Elizabeth:
I do write a lot of both flash fiction and short stories. It's hard to say which I prefer, but I have been writing more flash fiction recently. Although flash fiction doesn't allow one to delve as deeply into characters and conflicts as longer pieces do, it offers its own challenges. When you're writing such a short piece, it really makes you think more carefully about every single word you put on the page.WOW: Word choice really makes a difference in flash fiction. Flash fiction writers learn to be precise. Precision is also a key element of medical writing, which you spent time doing. Plus, your background is in Psychology and Nutrition. Do you incorporate any of those non-fiction ideas into your fiction?Elizabeth:
Every story incorporates psychology. Even if psychology is not actually mentioned in the story per se, a character's thoughts and actions reveal his or her psychology. I can't say that I've incorporated nutrition or medicine/medical writing into my fiction thus far, but perhaps I will some day.WOW: Great! Critique groups and workshops are a benefit to a writer. You participated in the Writer's Loft Workshop in Chicago. Share your experience and what you learned.Elizabeth:
It was a great experience. I learned, not only from someone who had been writing and teaching for decades, but also from other aspiring writers as we critiqued each other's work. It really helped me grow as a writer. I learned that you can write about almost anything and make it interesting as long as you have conflict (whether internal or external) and characters to identify with. The leader of the workshop (Jerry Cleaver) always said, "If your characters are having a good time, your reader probably isn't." I think that's great advice, and I always like to keep that in mind while a write.WOW: Wonderful advice for all writers to consider. Thanks for sharing! What additional advice would you offer writers who are contemplating entering a contest?Elizabeth:
The worst thing that could happen is you don't win, and no one wins every contest she enters. You really have nothing to lose except a (usually nominal) entry fee, and you might just surprise yourself, so do it!WOW: So true! Surprises are always welcome! And, like you said, there's nothing to lose. What current projects are you working on?Elizabeth:
I'm almost always working on at least a couple of short/flash fiction pieces. However, my main focus lately has been revising my novel (working title: Thick and Thin). It tells the story of two young sisters who endure a tumultuous childhood touched by abuse, alcoholism, and suicide, as they discover whether the bonds of sisterhood can survive and help carry them through it all.WOW: It sounds like a powerful story! Thank you again, Elizabeth, for talking about writing and your story with WOW! readers.Interview by LuAnn Schindler
Twitter - @luannschindler
Labels: Elizabeth Barton, LuAnn Schindler, Spring 2009 Flash Fiction Contest