Reality Skimming
23Oct/13Off

Interview with Elizabeth Woods

Elizabeth Woods

Forever shaped by sense of place, the first three decades of my life were American, urban and driven. Born in New York City, my family moved to Miami, then Atlanta, back to NYC, then Detroit, then high school in a suburb of Chicago. College was in Pella, Iowa, followed by Minneapolis, and back to Miami for a few years, where my family finally settled. The second half of my life unfolds in a forest tamed from wilderness in Prince George, BC, Canada, where I live with my husband on 16 acres of woods and fields. For the last three decades I have had the privilege and gift of teaching first adolescents and now adults in the public school system. Short story and poetry have been published in the UNBC online anthology, Reflections on Water. Short stories have appeared in three editions of Lynda Williams’ science fiction Okal Rel Universe Anthology.

Interviewed by Sarah Trick

What keeps you coming back to the Okal Rel Universe?

Knowing Lynda has been the greatest boon to my writing life. I met her while I was working on my master's thesis at UNBC. We spent most of our time together talking about the ORU. I love her novels! When she and I founded the short-lived Norspec writing group in PG, she and others (including you) encouraged me to develop a character. Finding the character of Minerva allowed me to take real incidents from my own life and set them in a new context. I found it easier to tell my story in a fictitious universe. When Lynda selected my story for publication in an early ORU anthology, it was the first big break I had received. That she continues to publish my stories is a great honor.

Tell us about the origin of the name of your stories' protagonist, Minerva?

Minerva was one of my first and most cherished cats. I found her as a kitten on a back road in Iowa. She traveled with me to Minneapolis, New York City, Miami, and finally to Prince George, BC. My first story, "Where Passion Rules," is a re-visioned history of an ill-fated trip Minerva took with me to NYC in 1974. When I drafted the story, I made Minerva the protagonist and set the story on Gelion. The cocaine smugglers of my personal narrative became the dealers in illicit Lorel merchandise. Both Minerva and I made it out more or less unscathed.

"Passion Passed" did not have the outcome Minerva hoped for, What inspired you to go in this direction? Where do you see Minerva going next? What would a happy ending look like for her?

I am no longer a young woman. My expectation of free and wanton sexual exploits has diminished to the probability of zero. That Orion would become inaccessible to Minerva was not what I expected when I started the story. The word passion from the title of my first story haunted me. The happy ending did not seem to work at this point. I feel some obligation to write a happier ending for Minerva. I don't think she can go too long without a man in her life. I, too, hope in the next story she will find the right one.

Although our culture is not as restrictive as that of the Demish, do you think there are still restriction on women's desire? Is it respectable, or respected? What kind of guy is the wrong guy, and why do we keep falling for him anyway?

There are restrictions on desire for both men and women. Appropriate partner at the appropriate time is still a hard won victory. Addiction to the wrong partner is still prevalent. Why do we want what we can't have? The one who loves you, the one who will treat you right, maybe that is just too easy? Passion - when it works - is so fleeting. Unrequited passion seems to be more the norm. So when you find passion, enjoy it while it lasts.

What is it about the ORU that appeals to young readers and writers? Do you have any advice for the writer who is just starting out?

ORU is a microcosm of our own society. Heroes, villains, best intentions, failed hopes, Lynda covers all the great themes of literature. How can you go wrong with sex, swords, and spaceships?

I am at a loss to give advice to new writers. The publishing world has changed and is changing rapidly. New writers seem to be exploring blogs and online venues. I am still locked in the world of the typewriter and filing cabinet. I need to look to new writers to see what they do!

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