Sunday, January 11, 2015


On Author's Circle today, we interview 


about her memoir, 

While the Gods Were Sleeping.

Describe your book in 20 words or less without using the blurb:

An anthropologist marries into an unfamiliar culture, encounters sexism and discovers allies among local women eager for change. 

Buy the Book: HERE

Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?

I love a lot of different places, but Ive chosen to live in northeastern Oregon. Weve got rolling grasslands, rocky canyons, snowy peaks, wildflower meadows, forests and working farms and ranches. Our small towns here also have lively scenes in literary and visual arts, music and local foods.

Whats your current guilty pleasure?

I love growing, cooking and eating food. The guilt comes in because Im a good gardener and cook, and I end up eating too much.

When did you begin writing?

I began writing as a child, mostly stories about my pets and other animals. In elementary school, I tried putting out a regular newsletter where I ranted about littering and other social ills and featured profiles on endangered species. It wasnt very popular. In middle school, I dabbled in fantasy but realized I was more attracted to realism. For my high school newspaper in Seattle, I wrote features and editorials on gay rights and oil tankers in Puget Sound, though I also had to cover tennis matches and pep squads. Looking back over my adult life, I see that writing has been the great constant in my meandering path through cultural anthropology, teaching and non-profit administration. But only in the last few years have I dared to call myself Writer.

Are you a plotter or a pantzer?

Im a pantzer by habit. I usually begin a piece by riffing on some idea, image or event. But the possibilities usually take off in conflicting directions. I want to follow them all and do stick with that process for awhile because it usually yields insights and scenes I might otherwise miss. Eventually though, I need to spend some time prioritizing directions and looking for a through line in the story, which leads me to spend more time plotting. For my recently published memoir, I found writing the chapter summaries for the book proposal helpful. It was monotonous work, but it forced me to tighten the story more around the plot.
Did you do any research before start or during of the writing of the books?

Although it is not meant as an academic account, my recent book is based partly on anthropological research I did in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I left out most details of my research, but since I was a researcher, I had to give some flavor of what that work was like for character development. In most of my writing, I tend to weave in some larger theme that requires me to do research. For example, several years ago I wrote an essay about my spider phobia. That required me to do some research on various spiders and their habits, including tarantula sex. That, of course, required me to explore my own phobia more. I found reading such details both terrifying and a little thrilling.

What book is currently on your nightstand?

A lot of books piqued my interest at the Indo-American Arts Festival where I met you, Falguni. One Ive just begun is The Sleeping Dictionary by Sujata Massey.

How important do you find the communication between you and your readers? Do you reply to their messages or read their reviews?

Im a new and relatively unknown author, so I love the steady trickle of fan mail Ive been receiving since October from readers all over the world. That may actually be my favorite part of publishing so far: readers raw and heartfelt expressions of how the book moved them to tears or gave them insights they can use in their work. If the trickle becomes a flood, I may not be able to respond personally, but for now, I do. I dont, however, read reviews on sites like Amazon or Goodreads. I see those as conversations among readers. 

Thats a very interesting way of looking at reviews, Elizabeth. And healthy too :)

What are your thoughts on ebooks? (love them, hate them, wave of the future?)

I love the physicality of books. But as I get older, I find myself drawn to some practical benefits of ebooks, like the ability to enlarge the font size and carry numerous stories with me wherever I travel.

Are you working on any other projects except writing, right now?

My partner and I are finishing a straw bale house on our farm in northeastern Oregon. The house is all sealed up from the weather and stays warm, but we still have to paint and plaster drywall, install more flooring and countertops, oil ceilings and beams. Its overwhelming. Aside from the never-ending tasks, I find the decisions hardest. What color should I paint this closet? What kinds of doorknobs should we get?  

Wow. That's some hands-on project! I'm more of a designer than a do-it-yourselfer and so have a deep, deep respect for DIYers. Although, seeing your vision come to life is another kind of pleasure, as I'm sure you know.

Elizabeth, thanks for doing this interview and letting us get to know you.

ABOUT the author: 
Elizabeth Enslin grew up in Seattle and earned her PhD in cultural anthropology from Stanford University in 1990. Her creative nonfiction and poetry appear in The Gettysburg Review, Crab Orchard Review, The High Desert Journal, The Raven Chronicles, Opium Magazine and In Posse Review. Recognition includes an Individual Artist Fellowship Award from the Oregon Arts Commission and an Honorable Mention for the Pushcart Prize. She currently lives in a strawbale house in the canyon country of northeastern Oregon where she raises garlic, pigs and yaks. Learn more at:
Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @LizEnslin
Buy the Book: HERE

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