An interview with Lizzie Ward, author of ‘Fragments – Essays and Philosophies’
Published: Nov 20th, 2018
Tell us about yourself, your interests and what you’re passionate about.
I’m a deaf author, freelance journalist, activist, blogger and editor. I live in London with my husband Daniel, and our cat, Coco (short for Chocolat). My aim is to inspire, and provoke thoughtful discussion about a variety of topics – from feminism, body acceptance, deafness, and introversion, all the way to the writing life, creativity, and modern living. I’m a self-described bookish geek, foodie, and film fan – I love nothing more than curling up on the couch with a cup of tea, book or film, and a cat or two for company! I’ve just released my first book, Fragments: Essays and Philosophies, available to buy from Amazon worldwide.
I’m passionate about many things. I’d like to see a world in which everyone has equal access to what they need to live well – communication access, housing, career, arts and culture, education, food, movement, healthcare, and self-expression. I believe in making the world a better place through making small changes, and supporting initiatives that make a bigger impact. For example, I recently became mostly vegan, for personal reasons but also because I wanted to have a minimal impact on our ecosystem with my food choices.
- Tell us about your new book, Fragments: Essays and Philosophies.
Fragments is a book of essays about life, identity, and thought. It fuses philosophy and what I have learnt over the past thirty-odd years of my life in essays that discuss topics as diverse as body positivity, deaf identity, feminism, living with cats, the writing life, and mental health. It is a search for what it means to live in the world as it is now, to discover meaning, purpose, belonging, and strength.
I wanted this book to be the kind of book that people turn to when they need to be empowered, consoled, or for when they need hope in times of darkness. With the current political climate, and anxiety and depression at an all-time high, my aim is for Fragments to be a small chink of light at an overwhelming time in human history.
It is the first book published under my imprint, Black Typewriter Publications. Being an author-publisher has been hard work but a great learning curve, and I’m looking forward to publishing more books in the near future.
- What (or who) inspired you to start writing and what kind of writing do you enjoy doing?
My parents always encouraged myself and my sister to read when we were children, and when I was 10 years old, I read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for the first time. The TV series was airing on the BBC, and I wanted to know what happened next before the next episode. Austen’s subtle wit, satire, and her characters gave me a new appreciation for the craft of writing. When I was at secondary school, to cope with anxiety and difficult emotions, I started writing lyrics inspired by indie and rock music. There were a couple of English teachers that encouraged me to write too. Reading and writing were my anchors.
It wasn’t until I took up blogging at university that I hit my stride with writing, though. And when I did my MA in Women’s Studies, I realised that this is what I wanted to do – to pursue writing as a career in some way. I did a research project for my dissertation exploring deaf women’s written autobiographies, inspired by reading Emmanuelle Laborit’s autobiography, The Cry of the Gull, and an essay by a feminist writer, Hélène Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa. The way they wrote about writing, and the body as a vehicle of self-expression, gave me the courage to pursue writing.
I enjoy writing poetry, paranormal fiction, philosophical essays, and articles. Blogging, for me, is about community and connecting with people all over the world. Through it, I have ‘met’ people in India, the US, and Europe who I consider some of the loveliest people I know.
- What has been the biggest obstacle for you? Have you come up against any barriers?
Being a deaf writer can be difficult for a number of reasons – making sure you have access to writing events and conventions, having to remind people that you need subtitles or a transcript for podcasts and videos, and not always having the confidence to network in the way that hearing people do. In the past, I have unwittingly limited myself to writing for places that focus on deaf issues, when the issues I write about often have a wider audience.
Though I write about being deaf, the barriers associated with that, and strive to raise awareness, it is not the only issue I’m interested in. Most writers may carve out a niche for themselves, but it can be limiting to only write about one or two topics. This is the great thing about being a writer – you can do research, interview people, read about a topic, and get to know it well before writing about it. Don’t feel limited to writing only about what you know.
My deaf identity has also made it hard for me to know where to direct my energies as a writer. Doctors diagnosed my profound deafness when I was six years old, and I had already acquired English as my first language (BSL my second). I’ve spent most of my life in the middle of a hearing and deaf world, not belonging completely to either. This has meant that although I can get the best of both worlds at times, on the other hand I have also come across prejudice and judgement from both. Much of my writing has focused on the search for belonging and identity.
- What topics get you the most excited about writing?
Writing stories about the mysterious, weird, and unexplained – I love a good modern paranormal fantasy story, and inventing new worlds, whether set in the past or future. I like to create characters that cope with being outsiders, with being different in some way. I also write fiction that examines issues of our time – alienation, climate change, human rights crises, capitalism and corporations.
My poetry and non-fiction are often driven by that same desire – to write about issues we are facing as human beings. My writing is my activism, the way that I seek to inform and create discussion.
- Has your deaf identity helped you with your writing? How?
Being deaf has shaped the direction of my writing by providing me with a different perspective on life. Like many deaf and disabled writers, I am more aware of inequalities and barriers within society. This has informed what I write about, such as access and communication, human rights, activism, and identity, but it also gives me a more visual perspective. For example, I find that when I’m writing fiction, I often rely on visual description as opposed to sound descriptions. Even though I know how to describe sounds, and know what many things sound like, I just tend to find visual description more compelling. I am also a lot more interested in alternative perspectives and philosophies in life, rather than the status-quo.
- What advice would you give to an emerging deaf writer or young writer?
Toni Morrison’s advice to writers: ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’ If you have a story you want to tell, then write it.
I’ve found that it’s only through writing, practicing, editing your work, and learning about craft that you get better at writing. Two of my favourite books about writing are Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, and Sage Cohen’s Fierce On The Page. Seek out other writers, and learn from them. Try to challenge yourself and learn new things. Start a blog and try to write something every day.
Read a lot – not just books that you usually read, but books in different genres and about different topics. Better yet, get a library card. Connect with other writers and readers on social media. Finding your writing voice takes time – it’s the voice that sounds like it comes from you without too much effort. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try different kinds of writing like poetry, flash fiction, fan fiction or essay writing. Support other writers and share their work. Explore your interests and passions, and remember that you don’t just have to write what you know – research new things and ideas, interview or talk to people, and pay attention to the world around you. You never know where new ideas will come from.
And one more thing – you can be any age when you pursue a writing career. Some writers publish their first books when they’re in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and older. Just keep writing!
- What is next for you? What are you looking forward to in the future?
Compiling my first book of poetry, and writing my first novel, which is part of a paranormal dystopian series (and currently features a deaf character). One or both of these should be available to buy next year. In January 2019 I’m taking a short course in writing and pitching for magazines, and will be working on building my portfolio of journalism. I have a lot of plans related to creativity and diversifying my work, but at the moment these are just plans. My future definitely involves writing and publishing more books!
You can buy Fragments: Essays and Philosophies in ebook or paperback from Amazon worldwide.
Elizabeth is a deaf author, writer, blogger and journalist. She is working on various writing projects, including writing her first novel and poetry book. She hopes her work will encourage more people to strive for their dreams and push through the barriers within society. She has a keen interest in the arts and culture, loves to read, and dreams of travelling to far flung places.
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