Working with Words: Elizabeth Flux
Elizabeth Flux is the editor of Voiceworks. She has been published in Kill Your Darlings, Film Ink, Metro and Junkee – and tweets terrible (and often brilliant) puns @ElizabethFlux. We talk to Liz about the thrill of publication, nurturing new writers, reading much too loudly, and small-talking with fictional anime wizards.
What was the first piece of writing you had published?
I had a column in my university publication On Dit about social awkwardness. The first theme was 'What scares you the most?', and I devoted an uncomfortably large number of words to explaining exactly why supermarkets are one of the worst places you can find yourself in.
What’s the best part of your job?
Working somewhere that is often the first place a writer will get published is pretty unique, and having the opportunity to work so closely with our editorial committee is excellent.
What’s the worst part of your job?
There isn’t a good answer to this. When you work in a field that overlaps so strongly with your personal interests, it’s hard to switch off. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it just means that you’ve found the right job for you.
What’s been the most significant moment in your writing career so far?
The first time I had a freelance pitch accepted and was paid for my work. Being able to walk into a shop and see a copy of a magazine containing your work for sale is an experience I have nothing else to compare to.
[My article] ended up on various Reddit forums, including one where two posters got in a heated argument where they started accusing each other of being me.
What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about writing?
The best advice is to always read your work aloud before sending it off. It allows you to see what does and doesn’t flow, and you pick up a lot of mistakes that otherwise fly under the radar. While it is a valuable technique, it’s also worth being conscious of whether anyone else can hear you – I was well stuck in to my seventh reading when I heard a window pointedly slam shut, and turned to see the face of my disapproving neighbour.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself?
I once wrote an article about Google tracking phones that went viral. It was widely discussed and fought over, and, since it was on a tech issue, it was apparently assumed that a man wrote it, despite my name being both at the top and the bottom of the piece. It ended up on various Reddit forums, including one where two posters got in a heated argument – where they started accusing each other of being me.
If you weren’t writing, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
I actually tried not writing for about four years. It was a pretty dull time in which I watched a lot of Smallville. There is always a way to work writing into your life.
It’s really easy to set yourself a whole checklist of things you need to achieve before you can start thinking of yourself as a 'real' writer but all they do is hold you back.
There’s much debate on whether creative writing can be taught – what’s your view?
I don’t think you can sit someone down for x amount of time and have them come out the other side suddenly able to write creatively. Teaching is complex and creative writing comes from a combination of a lot of factors. There is no one set pathway into writing, and teaching is not simply passing on knowledge from one person to another, so there is no correct answer to this question.
What’s your advice for someone wanting to be a writer?
Start sending your work out there. It’s really easy to set yourself a whole checklist of things you need to achieve before you can start thinking of yourself as a 'real' writer, but all they do is hold you back. Then, as much as you can, don’t internalise rejection. Rejection of your work is not the same as rejection of you as a writer.
Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?
I buy most of my books in a physical bookshop, usually secondhand. I am rapidly running out of space, but at least I have the guilt of an ever-growing reading pile to keep me company.
If you could go out to dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle. Ideally, the dinner would also be in the moving castle, because his stove is also a demon. He’s just such a weird character: a wizard on a rugby team who cares way too much about his appearance – and who, from time to time, has been known to turn into a dog. The small talk would be brilliant.
What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?
In Year 10, I wrote an essay comparing Lord of the Flies with Brave New World, and was allowed to choose my own essay topic. This was the first time I had autonomy over what I wrote in a setting where I would receive formal feedback. I loved every minute. Since then, I’ve re-read Brave New World a few more times, and have always come out of it with a new interpretation. I am also a big fan of Aldous Huxley because he was a writer who showed that he was willing to change his mind completely (and publicly) on topics.