Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Women on Writing : Elora Ramirez

Today is the second installment in my year-long Women on Writing series, in which I'm interviewing some of my very favorite female authors on the practice of writing. My second interview is with Elora Ramirez, blogger, author, and fearless leader of the amazing Story Sessions community, of which I am proud to be a part. Her words here are so true to her nature: brave, insightful, inspiring, and deeply relatable. I'm honored to share her wisdom with you here. And if even the tiniest sliver of your heart identifies with the title of writer, I hope you'll continue following along with the series. Each of these women has so much wisdom to offer on the practice of writing.
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When did you know you wanted to write your book Every Shattered ThingHow did you start? 

One day in graduate school, a favorite professor of mine said something about sunrises. The turn of phrase caught my ear and I began writing in my notebook — sunrises make me come alive. Those words ended up being the first in the novel, and I went home that night and gushed out the preface. For a few years, it sat on my computer as a possible novel. It wasn’t until I started NaNoWriMo in 2010 that the characters began to form and Stephanie really began to show herself. I think that’s when I realized “I want to do this forever. This is almost like alchemy. Like magic.” 

What would be your ideal writing environment? How do you make time and space in your life for the practices of writing? 

Quiet. Secluded. My little Harry Potter closet is close to perfection. I have lots of lights and close-knit space and pictures and art from kindreds hanging on the wall. The only thing that would make it perfect is a view of the ocean. (I know. Stereotypical and cliche. But true.)

What authors or works most inspire your writing? 

Flannery O’Connor. John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Rainbow Rowell. Laini Taylor. Sue Monk Kidd. There’s so many. I’ve recently been introduced to Amelie Fisher and her Seven Deadly Sins series. I’m in love. Fisher writes with the belief of redemption and she hits nerves the reader doesn’t anticipate. 

Photo by Jennifer Upton

Every Shattered Thing is a book that bravely confronts some difficult topics, among them the sex industry, modern-day slavery and child abuse. It’s not what you might call a “beach read.” I’m curious if there were ever days that you simply could not sit down to write? Or days when you had to sort of emotionally disengage from your work in order to face it? 

Um. Yes. Ha! Many times my husband had to pull me away from my laptop because I was weeping while writing. I definitely had to detach myself a little during the editing process, but it was still super-difficult. I found myself cringing a lot and seeking lots of time searching for beauty with friends.

How has the writing process changed you? How has your book affected the way you yourself see the world and the issues you address? 

Writing serves as sort of an excavation. There are thoughts and beliefs and experiences that come boiling to the surface when you’re writing a story and sometimes these things can really surprise you. Writing shapes who I am, how I see others, and how I interact with the world around me. I never wanted to be this kitschy writer who focuses on super-difficult topics like an after school TV special. But our writing takes a life of its own, and learning to let go and let the characters reveal themselves is a whole other level of releasing control.

If you could give one piece of advice to budding writers, what would it be? 

Oh gosh. Keep writing. Keep writing, keep dreaming, keep spilling those words. I’m learning more and more that writing is a practice—no matter how many words you’ve placed on paper or screen. It’s relearning what this character is about, what that plot is wanting to say, what this blog post needs to unleash. It’s different. Every thing is different. Every time you sit down at your desk or couch or table in coffee shop the words are waiting to see how serious you are about them. As Stephen King says, don’t come lightly to the blank page. 

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What if your story could change the world? Elora believes it can. The one you've been hiding under your heart's bed, afraid that a little air will make it a monster you can't escape? That's the story she wants to hear. That's the story you've got to tell before it sucks the air right out of your lungs.

It was this belief that prompted Elora to launch Story Unfolding, a respite for tired artists aching to be heard. She also runs, Story Sessions, a community for women who create. She's written a novel and writes out her thoughts and the holy & broken on her blog

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