I’ve been a huge fan of Elizabeth Rosner’s work since we read The Speed of Light for the Titles Over Tea book club at the Greece Barnes & Noble when I lived in Rochester. We had such a great book discussion about the complex relationships and the legacy of trauma, and it’s one of my favorite book memories. When we moved to the Bay Area, I got to see Elizabeth Rosner read from her novel, Electric City, at Book Passage. She talked about the way she collects ideas for her book and it helped me refine my own writing process.
In addition to writing achingly beautiful novels, Elizabeth also writes non-fiction and poetry, and takes gorgeous pictures. Her Instagram account is one of my favorites to follow, because her unique perspective and attention to detail comes through in her photographs the same way it does in her writing.
I’m so happy to have Elizabeth Rosner back for 3 More Ws. You can read her original interview here.
Thank you, Elizabeth!
When did you discover your creative calling(s)?
When I was in kindergarten my mother was working on completing her bachelor’s degree, and she used to bring me over to her best friend’s house for an afternoon of babysitting in the form of art lessons. Saba was a painter. I remember huge pieces of blank white paper stretching out across the table, and our hands working side by side to draw flowers. I think that might have been the seed of it all for me, spending time in the house of an artist, my awareness of her vivid and passionate way of being, the kind of life I wanted for myself. Eventually, I found my own purest and most authentic creative expression was through words.
Where do you do your best work?
Being near water always seems inspiring (especially when I can see the water, and even better when it’s water I can swim in). I think that a flow state (literally!) gets activated inside me. On the other hand, I can also be terribly distracted by too much beauty (is there really such a thing?). So, after I’ve been blessed with immersion in water and beauty for a stretch of time, I might retreat to a very quiet space to reflect and compose. Silence is essential; even if I’m in the company of others, I need to be entirely separate from their sounds.
Who are your great mentors, inspirations, or guides?
Reading Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse was maybe the first time I imagined writing a novel of my own, and I still consider it a perfectly constructed book. Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family and Carole Maso’s Ghost Dance were also early role models for me, books that manage to be gorgeously poetic as well as intimate and revelatory. I feel tremendously moved and sometimes haunted (in a good way) by the dramatic work of Anna Deavere Smith, the music of Joni Mitchell, and the films of Terrence Malick. I’m honored and grateful for my friendship with Susan Griffin, whose books I admire so much and who has been a profoundly supportive mentor.
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