My Author Interviews Series is still very much in business and we have another fantastic guest for you to find out more about today.
May I introduce to you all author Elizabeth Ward, as she talks us through her latest book release, along with other aspects of her writing life.
Thanks for reading folks, keep smiling and as always wherever you are, have a great evening 🙂
Hi there Liz, thank you for joining us here today to discuss your latest book release, along with your own passions, influences and writing experiences.
Let’s start first with your book release itself “Fragments: Essays and Philosophies”, a collection of essays about identity, life, and thought. Please tell us more about the essays of your book and give us a bit more detail regarding the themes that link them all together.
Fragments brings together personal autobiographical essays with life philosophy and think pieces about the nature of our world and humanity. It’s a book that at first look might seem like collection of disparate essays that don’t always seem to have much to do with each other – which is partly why I chose the name ‘Fragments’ – but the essays build upon each other, offer honest glimpses into what it means to be human.
I wrote the book because I wanted to use my experience and knowledge to fan the flames of hope in a world that seems increasingly volatile, with bad news and events being reported 24-7. The book is split into five sections – Living in a Body, Matters of the Heart, Thinking and Dreaming, Writing and Creating, and culminating in Society and Identity. I have written about topics close to my heart – body positivity, social activism, deaf identity, cats, creativity, and even the works of Jane Austen!
You also have a website and blog called “Cats and Chocolate”. Can you tell us more about the nature of your writing and articles that you post over there?
Cats and Chocolate started in 2007 as a personal blog when I moved over from Blogspot to start afresh. I was studying an MA in Women’s Studies and wanted somewhere to record my thoughts and experiences. Over time, the blog has blossomed into a place where I share book and film reviews, philosophical essays, poetry, mental health and lifestyle writing, and even bits of fiction writing. It is essentially a hub for inspiration and creativity – my tagline is ‘A place for cats, creativity, and a dash of philosophy…’ – and this explains my life quite well too!
I love all kinds of creative endeavours, from making art and crafts, to theatre and dance performance, and I want to continue to share that love on my blog. As for cats – well, I’ve had my fair share of feline companions, but our cat Chocolat, or Coco for short, is a beautiful tortoiseshell with a chatty, gentle nature, and she sometimes pops up in photo posts. I’m also a foodie, and I’m on a journey to becoming completely vegan in the next year or so, so I have been blogging about that experience too.
What would you choose as your own personal mascot or spirit animal when it comes to you and your style of writing?
My writing tends to be reflective, so I think I would choose an Owl. They can zoom in on their prey, but also take an overall birds-eye view of the world. In terms of writing, that could relate to going in-depth and being detailed, but also zooming out into an overall look at something. I try to learn as much as I can about an experience, and constantly reflect upon what I’ve learnt, whether from bad or difficult experiences, or positive ones. Owls in folklore are associated with wisdom, knowledge, and helpfulness. I strive for those qualities in my writing.
What do you find the most difficult thing about writing? And what do you find the easiest?
It’s the following through with ideas and actually getting started that can be a struggle. Once I’ve started a project, I either get it done or find that I lose the motivation halfway through. Writing Fragments was the first time I have finished a full-length book – I have a novel in progress that needs attention, and a poetry book that I’m compiling.
Unfortunately, like many writers, my drafts folder is littered with half-finished projects! Writing is often learning how to finish. But I do find that when I put my mind to something, and see it as a marathon and not a sprint, I will get a piece of writing finished. Interestingly, I find editing my writing can be quite fun or at least easier – it’s the first couple of drafts that I find painful, especially with larger projects!
Who are some of the authors, poets and/or historical figures that inspire you?
I’m inspired by quite a lot of different people! Jane Austen has been an inspiration since I first read Pride and Prejudice when I was 10. I enjoy her wittiness, her social satire, and her light touch. Frida Kahlo is another of my inspirations – for the way she used her identity to both cover up and uncover the truth of her pain, the vulnerability and self-documentation in her art, and just the sheer joy of her self-expression through clothes, make-up, and jewellery. She lived her life as art. As a deaf woman too, I find her courage and determination empowering.
In the present day, I’m also inspired by a lot of different creators, authors, poets, and philosophers – and follow many of them on Instagram and Twitter. On Instagram, Laura Jane Williams (who wrote Becoming, and Ice-Cream for Breakfast), inspires me to live in a way that feels good and to stay true to myself.
And Ra Avis (author of Sack Nasty, Dinosaur-hearted, and Flowers and Stars), otherwise known as Rarasaur, is someone I have a lot of respect and admiration for. She showers the world with love and makes me want to be more open, loving, and joyful.
What sort of research do you do to write your books and articles?
Reading, mostly! Reading widely in different genres helps me to consolidate my own experiences, and to learn more about different perspectives in life. Books about philosophy, psychology, nature, self-help, creativity, activism – anything that looks interesting. I think curiosity and a desire for knowledge drives what I choose to read for research.
But I also think trying to experience as much culture as possible also helps. Free exhibitions, going around museums, street art, food, films and TV – it all counts as research especially when you find something interesting, or hit upon an idea that works for you. Life experiences and conversation with other people can also be mined for research.
Do you use any online writing tools or programs to assist with your writing process? (e.g. Scrivener, Evernote, spreadsheets, etc)
I did use Scrivener in the early stages of writing my book, but I found Word to be simpler for me in the later stages. Scrivener is great for fiction and topical non-fiction books, but I found it difficult to use for an essay book with sections and individual essays, which was a lot easier to compile and create a template for in Word.
I also use the Notes app on my phone for on the go ideas, photos, and thoughts. I have even written poetry in the Notes app before! With writing, despite how much I want to love Scrivener, I find simplest is best for me.
Why do you write? What inspired you to become a writer?
This is a tricky question for me, not because I didn’t have an ‘eureka’ realisation, but because I think it was a slow process. My parents read to me and my sister, and I was a voracious bookworm – I was that kid reading in the corner at parties! I wrote private journals as a teenager and wrote lyrics and poetry.
In 2005, I started my first blog in the last year of my BA degree, back when blogs were online diaries and bad poetry. Then when I went back to University to study an MA in Women’s Studies, everything came together for me – I met some wonderful people, and did my dissertation on the autobiographical accounts of deaf women. The process of exploring my own deaf identity and connecting to the accounts of other deaf women really made me feel as if this – writing – was what I wanted to do.
What keeps you motivated during creative slumps? How do you deal with Writers Block?
Another tricky question! I have been through some painful writing slumps over the past six years. They tended to coincide with mental burnout or a need to rest, to go back to basics and fill the creative well again. Sometimes I pressure myself to write when what I really need is to read, think, slow down a little, get inspiration from different sources (theatre, film, TV, art, nature, other people, etc), and look after myself more.
I’ve come to realise that sometimes a slump is a natural way of our minds and bodies telling us that we need a bit of a break, or we need to break out of our routine, or even to create a routine, in the absence of one.
When I experience something that inspires me, I like to make notes about why it was so interesting or beautiful and what it made me feel. Doing this reminds me that even though I’m struggling through a block, I can still write something. Little scraps are better than nothing – I think it’s important to remember that notes and lists are still writing, and that being kind to yourself when you’re experiencing a slump is important. Doing something physical and crafting or making art sometimes helps me work through a block too!
You have access to a time machine. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t give up, and stay true to yourself. Even though you’re struggling, the struggle is character forming, and will help you develop your resilience. And experience is always good for writing and making art. Don’t let people tell you what you can and can’t do, under the guise of ‘being realistic.’ And be kind to yourself, even when you’re frustrated!
How do you spend your free time when you are not writing?
Reading, cross-stitching, watching films and series on Netflix or Amazon, trying new crafts and art, taking photos, and occasionally going to the theatre or cinema (although less often because of the expense!). And of course, spending time with the cat and my husband, friends and family! I also like spending a bit of time each day on Instagram being inspired by other writers and creative people.
Tell us more about your upcoming projects. Are you working on anything specific or have plans in the pipeline?
Yes, I’m currently compiling and writing a book of poems, and I’m getting back into writing my first novel in the new year. I’m in the planning stages of writing more books, so watch this space! I’m also doing a short course in January held by Laura Jane Williams on writing for magazines, so I hope to learn a lot from that and get useful feedback on my journalism. It should be a great way to start the year! I’ll be working more on building up my portfolio in 2019.
Finally, are there any nuggets of wisdom that you can impart to other aspiring writers?
You learn by doing – by writing, editing your work, reading, and researching. I read a lot of writing advice books when I started out, and whilst many of them do have great advice, the best way to find your own writing voice is to write as honestly and naturally as you can. My favourite writing books are by Dani Shapiro’s “Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life“, and Sage Cohen’s “Fierce On The Page”. Blogging helped a lot with finding my own writing voice, so if you want to begin somewhere, start a blog and write about all the topics that interest you, learn how to research and edit your writing, but don’t be afraid to experiment too. Keeping a journal is a good backbone to writing practice too.
Write the stories that you feel are missing, that you want to read but can’t find anywhere. Write things that you want to write, even if they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. The person who needs that writing will find it. Enjoy the process and don’t worry if you have some unfinished things, just aim to finish the next thing you write. And be kind to yourself! Try not to compare yourself with other people – compare yourself with yourself, with your own past writing. Most of all, feeling afraid is a sign that you’re on to something – stay with it, and write it out.
And that’s a wrap! Thank you for joining us Liz, it has been a wonderful experience speaking with you and we look forward to hearing more about your future writing endeavours over the coming months 🙂
Thank you for interviewing me David!
Elizabeth is a deaf writer, activist, and feminist living in London, UK with her husband Daniel and their cat Coco, short for Chocolat. She has been blogging for thirteen years, and an arts and culture journalist since 2011. A self-described bookish geek, foodie, and film fan, she loves nothing more than curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea, book or film and a cat or two for company.
You can connect with Liz via the following social Media channels:-
Facebook:- Cats and Chocolate (FB)
Goodreads:- Elizabeth A. Ward (Goodreads Author)
Instagram:- @destinyischoice (Instagram)
Pinterest:- Lizzie Ward (Pinterest)
Twitter:- @destinyischoice (Twitter)
Here are some selected quotes by the author Elizabeth Ward from her book Fragments: Essays and Philosophies:-
‘Why did I decide to call this book ‘Fragments’? It’s because these essays are fragments that make up a part of a whole. They are broken glass, slips of thought and identity. Identity is a slippery thing—some things remain the same, but we are always changing with time and our experiences. Identity has fascinated me since I was a teenager—first, with all the things I collected around me as signifiers of ‘me’, and most recently with identity politics—what it means to be a woman, to be deaf, and in my generation, to live in a body. I am still only fragments, with pieces of myself appearing in different situations. In this way, writing is a way of looking for that core of self, of trying to recognise it—and yet learning that perhaps, I will never truly know. Identity is both something we can see, and something invisible.’ – From ‘Introduction: Assembling the Jigsaw’.
‘Love is growth. Like a tree that is rooted, reaching for the sky. It encourages us to become the best we can be—to fulfil our potential, grow into our power as compassionate human beings, and to live well, mindful of the effect we have on the world around us. To love others is to also encourage them to reach their fullest potential, to believe they can be their best selves, but also seeing that they are whole, worthy human beings just as they are in this moment.’ – From ‘An Ode to Love’.
‘What is it about cats that captivates human beings? They are often aloof, mysterious, and contrary. People who live with cats, the saying goes, are not cat owners, but cat owned. I’ve been ‘owned’ by cats since I was a baby, and have been lucky enough to get to know six cats so far. I love all kinds of animals, from Aardvarks to Zebras, but cats, of all types, from the most pampered pedigree to the tattiest alley cat, have captured my heart and imagination.’ – From ‘On Being Owned by Cats’.
‘Empathy, compassion, and imaginative leaps are essential for understanding the lives of those around us and for leading to revolutions—big and small. There is a balance to be found, to guard against burnout and loss of hope. At its best, empathy has the possibility to change the world for the better when used and harnessed with intelligence and courage.’ – From ‘The Imaginative Leap of Empathy’.
‘It’s a matter of faith, to step out into a place we don’t know in the dark, where we don’t know what the outcome will be. It’s about getting comfortable with the unknown, with the feeling of no control. In the case of a novel, it is about forgetting about people’s unknown reactions. Fear lies to us—tells us that you’re right to be afraid, because nobody could possibly want to read this. It searches for the negative explanation, and seizes on those thoughts as confirmation for why you are feeling like this. When it is, really, about the way the chemicals in our body react to difficult tasks, and the relationship we have with fear, our own particular inner critic.’ – From ‘On Fear’.
You can buy her book here:-
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