Elizabeth Crane, author
Elizabeth Crane is author most recently of We Only Know So Much which I have been pouring over and LOVE. She’s a featured guest at the upcoming (downtown) omaha lit fest Oct. 19-20 (details below). She shares with LFF about her “cringe-inducing” fiction she wrote growing up, writing her first novel, making people nervous, advice for young writers and more…
I’ve read that you wrote steadily growing up—tell me about what you used to write about?
Well, when I was a kid, I took my cues from Harriet the Spy, and wrote ‘notes’ about kids at my school, or people I saw on the street, etc. Eventually I started writing fiction and poetry… the fiction was sometimes surreal and the poetry was typically cringe-inducing although looking at one I wrote in grade school called “My Doorman Who Watches TV” I think that one still holds up.
How did you finally decide to pursue writing as a career?
As I continued to work (flounder) in various other fields, writing was something I always hoped for as a career, and in the back of my mind I was just sort of waiting to get good. I knew I had something, but I also knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be with it - partly, when I was younger, I was sort of conscious of the fact that I just hadn’t had the perspective that comes with a few more years. But I kept at it, and long story short, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I realized the clock was ticking and I needed to give it a shot.
Do you have any mentors, experiences or specially favorite writers who have made an impact on your work?
Part one: Sometimes true, sometimes not at all and a lot of times I’ll mash up real-life experiences with things that are entirely made up. Part two: Before I was published I really didn’t have that many writer friends - my lifelong best friend is also a writer, but that was about it, but my Dad was super encouraging, and yes, there is a long list of writers who really impacted my work. I recently finished reading the David Foster Wallace bio by D.T. Max, and one of the things that really interested me was that he basically set out to change fiction, and I think he absolutely did and I know reading his work changed mine. I had just never read anything that broke the rules like that, and it really opened up my mind as to what one was allowed to do as a writer.
What about We Only Know So Much; tell me about this book and why it is important to you.
It’s my first novel! So it’s important in that, after three books of short stories, I actually wrote something longer - I really wasn’t sure I could do it - or how much I wanted to - but it was so much fun. And also it’s just about communication, especially between family members, and how difficult that can be.
Does feminism play a role in your work?
Hmmm…. not in a conscious way, or thematically. I have no idea how to answer this question! It’s not that I’m not a feminist, more just that what I really think of first and foremost are individual characters and whatever their struggles are.
You are participating in the panel “Your Guide to Unladylike Demeanor: women writers making people nervous” during the (downtown) omaha lit fest; why do you think you are on this panel and what do you hope to discuss?
That’s funny. Hard for me to say how nervous I make anyone, though I often think my work is a little - different? - and that anything a little different is going to make some people nervous. It’s not something I set out to do, but it tickles me that that’s the title of the panel. Jean, one of the characters in the novel, is so inappropriate in oversharing with her young son, that this has elicited some interesting responses from readers, so that could be interesting to talk about. Should be fun!
Any tips for aspiring writers?
This is what I always tell my students: if you get nothing else from what I give you - if you want to be a better writer, you have to read a lot and you have to write a lot. Really simple but it’s worked for me.
Hear Elizabeth give insight on the (downtown) omaha lit fest panel (LFF is moderating): “Your Guide to Unladylike Demeanor: women writers making people nervous” Saturday Oct. 20, 5pm at the W.Dale Clark Library, 215 S. 15th St. Details omahalitfest.com.